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Pool Landscaping Tips

What to Consider Before Planting Near the Swimming Pool

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Choosing plants that will go near a swimming pool should take some time, research and consideration. It's not just a matter of what you like and simply planting what you think will look good next to a pool. Some plants can shed into the pool, making a big mess. Others may have thorns or spines that can hurt swimmers. Certain plants may have invasive roots or fast growth -- which may not be a good thing next to your pool.

The owner of a new in-ground swimming pool being built in his Southern California backyard has a challenge: what to plant in the new built-in planter sandwiched between the pool and a fence. Other than a sago palm being donated by a friend, homeowner David Cornella is up in the air on what will join it. “Something tropical – I guess."

Then there’s the narrow but long strip of dirt where a Creeping Fig was unearthed, leaving its trademark wear and tear on the wall where it once crept. “My wife wants something with flowers,” Cornella adds, sounding a bit skeptical about what to do next.

Things to Think About

Mature man watering plants with garden hose, hand in pocket, side view
Justin Pumfrey/Iconica/Getty Images
While living in a warm climate offers a wider variety of plant choices than many areas, those faced with the job of landscaping near a swimming pool still have the basic considerations pool owners in any region must confront.

Before making an impulsive trip to the nursery for whatever strikes your fancy, do some research.

Plants That Shed

Those fruit and flower-bearing trees and shrubs may be beauties, but they make a big mess when their leaves, needles, fruits, flowers, nuts or catkins fall in and around your pool. Fruit and flowers = extra work for the pool cleaner -- either you or the person you hire.

The Ouch Factor

Wordless Wednesday - Photo of Tree with Thorns
Photo © Chloe Taylor
Lovely roses have thorns, as do colorful bougainvillea, barberry, pyracantha and luscious blackberry bushes. Add cacti and some succulents to the list. Can you imagine your child accidentally sliding into a rose bush?

Invasive Roots

Photo of Green Pool With Crack in Concrete Sidewalk
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Over the years, trees and plants with invasive roots can damage the pool’s structure, its surrounding area, (like the concrete pool surround, pictured) and its plumbing system. This list includes ficus, elm and oak trees. Do your research!

Deciduous vs. Evergreen

cypress trees
Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Let’s see – would you want the striking Liquidamber tree that changes colors and sheds or the evergreen Italian Cypress next to your pool? That means lots of pool sweeping vs. not so much. Hmmm -- that's a tough one.

Bee Magnets

Photo © David Beaulieu
While the whole bee / hummingbird / ecosystem thing can be an amazing happening in your garden, you don’t want any pollinators mistaking your pool guests for an enticing honeysuckle or bottlebrush. Other bee-lovin' plants include Wisteria, Sweet Clovers, Delphinium, Larkspur, Queen Anne's Lace, Cosmos and many Salvias.

Ultimate Size

I go by the “smaller is better” philosophy when buying plants, and try to find plants in one-gallon, 4-ounce or 6-pack containers. Be forewarned: just because a plant starts out in a 4-ounce pot doesn’t mean it will stay relatively small. Check the label – I’ve bought plants in 4-ounce containers that can reach a height and width of 10 feet. By knowing what I'm getting, I also have gotten some great deals on plants that often are only sold in 5-gallon-or-larger containers. With the right care, the "little guys" catch up quickly to their bigger and often more root-bound siblings.

Natives vs. Exotics

Nearby nurseries or botanical gardens usually feature plants that are indigenous to your area or will adapt well to your climate. You may be tempted by the idyllic images and order an exotic banana tree off some website, but you might be wasting your dollars if it’s not suitable for your neck of the woods. If in doubt, consult regional charts or your local nursery.

Low-Maintenance Plants Mean Less Work for You

The landscaping near your pool should enhance its surroundings and often sets a mood, like an island or oasis. You don’t want to be spending the bulk of your free time trimming and fertilizing your poolscaping, especially if it’s hard to access. Keep it simple. With the right plant selections, you can relax in your swimming pool and enjoy the scenery.

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