What to Consider Before Landscaping by a Swimming Pool

pool with beautiful garden

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Choosing plants to go near a swimming pool should take a certain amount of time, research, and consideration. It's not just a matter of simply planting what you think will look good next to a pool. Some plants, especially trees, 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.

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. Follow these 8 tips and advice for making the smartest choices.

1. Buy Plants Based on Research, Not Look

Before making an impulsive trip to the nursery for whatever strikes your fancy and fits into your greater vision of how your swimming pool area should do, do some research. For example, beware of 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 equal extra work for the pool cleaner—either you or the person you hire.

2. Avoid Thorny Plants

You don't want to be playing a game of thorns, especially with swimmers and their exposed flesh near the pool. Lovely roses have thorns or stickers, as do colorful bougainvillea, barberry, pyracantha, and luscious blackberry bushes. Add cactus and succulents to the list. Can you imagine your child accidentally sliding into a rose bush?

3. Choose Low-Maintenance Plants

The landscaping near your pool should enhance its surroundings and set a mood, such as an tranquil island or hidden 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.

4. Deciduous vs. Evergreen

tropical landscaping by pool

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Would you want the striking liquid-amber tree that changes colors and sheds, or the evergreen Italian Cypress next to your pool? The first option will involve lots of sweeping and pool cleaning, and the second option won't.

Consult your local nursery, arboretum, or master gardener program to become familiar with plants that are deciduous (will shed its leaves annually) or evergreen (keeps its leaves) for your region.

5. Avoid Invasive Root Systems

Over the years, trees and plants with invasive roots can damage the pool’s structure, its surrounding area, and its plumbing system. This list includes ficus, elm, and oak trees. Do your research now to avoid more problems later.

6. Keep Bees at Bay

While the whole bee-hummingbird-ecosystem thing can be an amazing when happening in your garden, you don’t want any pollinators mistaking your pool guests for an enticing honeysuckle or bottlebrush. Other bee-loving plants include:

7. Know the Growth

If you want to save some money and enjoying raising plants, try this trick: when buying plants, go by the “smaller is better” philosophy, and try to find specimens in one-gallon, four-ounce, or six-pack containers. Just because a plant starts out in a four-ounce pot doesn’t mean it will stay relatively small. Check the label to learn what the mature size will be. With the right care, the "little guys" catch up quickly to their bigger and often more root-bound siblings.

If you're fine spending more money on your plants and would prefer to not have to raise them, go for larger, more mature plants. You should still check the label though, to make sure you know what the full-grown size will be.

8. Natives vs. Exotics

native landscape near pool

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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. Nearby nurseries or botanical gardens usually feature plants that are indigenous to your area or will adapt well to your climate. Shopping local will therefore be much safer than ordering off the internet. If in doubt, consult regional charts or your local nursery for plants that will survive and thrive in your yard and near the pool or spa.