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The Best Plants To Use Around Swimming Pools

by Mary Barnhill

Creating a beautiful garden oasis around a swimming pool has several interesting challenges. You want plantings to be colorful and lush, reflecting the ambience of the water they surround, but you don’t want litter to blow into the swimming pool, causing frequent maintenance that requires a lot of hand skimming and filter cleaning. For these reasons, The Green Scene selects varieties of plants that satisfy the need for cleanliness and are also luxuriant, colorful and look great around a swimming pool.

swimming pool with Plantings

There are many varieties of plants that satisfy the need for cleanliness and are also luxuriant, colorful and look great around a swimming pool. A tropical plant pallet is ideal for e enhancing the relaxed feel of the swimming pool area and decking. Palm trees like the Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffianum) gently sway in the breeze and create a light, filtered shade below. The shorter Pigmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) and the Sago Palm (Cycas revolute) are perfect specimens for adding interest. With its ultra long stems with hairy green pom-poms, the Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) also provides interest and a good background to other tropical plants like Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae), Fortnight Lily (Dietes vegeta) and the classic plant associated with Hawaii, the Hibiscus (Hibiscus chinensis).

Pederson swimming pool with fire hearth

Not only perfect for a tropical setting, the following plants can readily cross over into other design schemes, adding foundation and clean, brilliant color with their foliage instead of their flowers. Red Tip Photinia (Photinia fraseri) and Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), which is not a real bamboo nor invasive, both add a rusty red to the garden and both make a good background or screen. A dwarf variety (N. domestica ‘Nana Compacta’) can be used as a border plant or even as a groundcover. Golden Euonymus (Euonymus japonica ‘Aureo-variegata’) and Gold Dust Plant  (Acuba japonica) brighten up the planting with yellow variegated foliage. The strappy leaves of New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax) comes in a variety of colors, as do many types of grasses.


There are lots of smaller perennials (plants that do not die after flowering) that can add plenty of continuous color without creating a mess. As the flowers die off, they stay on the plant until clipped off, keeping them out of the swimming pool. Day Lily (Hemerocalis hybrid), Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus Africanas) and the dwarf version ‘Peter Pan’, Alstroemaria and Sea Lavender (Limonium perezii) will all perform well with minimum maintenance. Seasonal color annuals get the job done too. Pansy, Lobelia, Marigold, Blue Salvia and many others can liven up a space with fast growing, bright color without dropping their petals, allowing you to spend your time relaxing by the swimming pool instead of cleaning it!

This article was published in the July/August 2008 issue of Southwest Trees and Turf.

SW Tress and Turf
SW Trees and Turf

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