The Best Plants for Swimming Pool Landscaping

pots surrounding backyard pool
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  • 01 of 19

    The Best Plants for Poolside Landscaping

    illustration of best plants for pool landscaping
    Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

    The key to smart poolside garden design is to find strong plants that can withstand your pool's microclimate, are easy to maintain, and still look good. The plants you choose to surround your pool should be carefully researched before any buying or digging happens. A heated pool can raise humidity levels, and intense sunlight can fry nearby landscaping. Plants can get splashed with chlorine and other pool and spa chemicals. 

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  • 02 of 19

    Banana Tree

    banana tree near pool
    Banana tree beside a pool. Em/Getty Images

    If you desire a tropical look for your pool area and live in a mild, frost-free climate, banana trees (Musa) instantly create the mood you may be looking for. Bananas are fast-growing herbaceous perennials or trees with tropical-looking long, broad leaves. Plant them in a spot safe from winds, because those great-looking leaves can get ripped-up easily if not near a wall, fence, or protected by neighboring plants.

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  • 03 of 19

    Hawaiian Hibiscus

    hibiscus next to pool
    Fotosearch/Getty Images

    Put on your hula skirt and tuck a heavenly hibiscus behind your ear: it's luau time! If you're lucky enough to grow Hawaii's state flower in your zone, then go for it—you have many species to choose from, with dreamy names like 'White Wings,' 'Crown of Bohemia,' 'Kona Princess,' and 'Flamenco Flame.'

    While hibiscus traditionally isn't used in floral arrangements, there is a trick to using one in an arrangement or alone in a vase for a few hours in the evening. Pick one during the day while it's in full bloom, then put it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh and open, ready for you to pop into a vase for a short time period, like at a dinner party.

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  • 04 of 19

    Bird of Paradise

    bird of paradise
    Hans-Edmund Glomme / EyeEm / Getty Images

    If you're thinking of going the tropical-oasis route, a bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) will get you there quickly. It looks similar to a banana plant, has an upright growth habit and 2=foot-long leaves. Like the banana, Strelitzia reginae needs shelter from strong winds, or its leaves can rip.

    Bird of paradise makes an excellent choice for poolscaping—it doesn't shed and is strong enough to tolerate splashing (in moderation, of course).

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  • 05 of 19

    Ornamental Grasses

    zebra grass near pool
    Orchidpoet/Getty Images

    Ornamental grasses are excellent choices for poolside landscaping: they are easy to care for, not too messy, grow quickly, blend nicely with other plants, and create a striking form, day or night. This particular ornamental grass is Miscanthus sinensis 'Strictus,' zebra grass or sometimes called porcupine grass. Its horizontal stripes give it an exotic look that goes well with tropical landscaping.

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  • 06 of 19

    Egyptian Papyrus

    egyptian papyrus
    PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

    In the right conditions, Cyperus papyrus (Egyptian papyrus, papyrus sedge or papyrus grass) can create a mood—lush, tropical and exotic. So what are the "right" conditions? Papyrus likes water and can live in bogs and shallow ponds. They also do fairly well in a clay soil that has been amended—the clay helps them retain that dampness, which they love. Pair them with tall and skinny Equisetum 'Horsetail,' which also like water and have an exotic feel.

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  • 07 of 19

    Angel's Trumpet

    angel's trumpet
    Forest and Kim Starr/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    The name alone could have you ordering one of these heavenly looking plants sight unseen. Brugmansia, commonly known as Angel's trumpet, also has a heavenly scent, making it a stunning pool-area shrub or tree. In cool-summer climates, like near the coast, Brugmansia can be planted in full or partial sun.

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  • 08 of 19


    echeveria succulent
    J Brew/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Some of these Mexican natives feel to the touch like a cross between felt and velvet. What's not to love? Echeverias are succulent perennials; come in lovely greens, pinks, reds and yellows; are wonderful for rock gardens and are drought tolerant. They'd also be a nice addition to planters near your pool or spa, mixed in with other succulents and some ornamental grasses for an attractive, low-maintenance display. In the right zones (mostly southwestern) they can be grown as shrubs, reaching a height of up to 2 feet (60 cm), with 4-inch-long leaves.

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  • 09 of 19

    Kangaroo Paw

    red and yellow kangaroo paws
    miheco/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Their common name—kangaroo paw—gives a big hint as to where this popular perennial is from: Australia. Anigozanthos flavida and its hybrids are a slim and graceful looking plant, but it's the flowers that are the real appeal to kangaroo paws. Striking and curved like kangaroo paws, the perennials come in lovely colors, including:

    • 'Bush Gold': lemon yellow
    • 'Bush Lantern': bright yellow
    • 'Bush Pearl': bubblegum pink
    • 'Bush Baby': a blend of red, orange and yellow
    • 'Bush Emerald': green flowers with yellow and orange
    • 'Bush Ranger': clear red blooms
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  • 10 of 19

    Martha Washington Geraniums

    martha washington geraniums
    Pamla J. Eisenberg/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Mention geraniums as a striking poolside plant and you might get a blank stare or a big yawn. But for vibrant, beautiful color that lasts from spring to fall—the time you'll be using your pool—nothing beats the hybrids called Martha Washington or Lady Washington geraniums.

    The geraniums sold in most big-box stores and garden centers are actually Pelargoniums. If you happen to see some of the more unusual Martha Washington colors—all variegated—go ahead and buy them. They're usually only available for about six weeks or less in late spring. Since they grow quickly, there's no point in buying a quart-size container or larger - the ones in 4-inch are all you need and are easier to plant in the ground.

    Marthas, aka regal pelargoniums, sometimes look like exotic tropical flowers and orchids. They can be found in shades of pink, magenta, fuschia, red, white, violet and lavender. Like many flower hybrids, Lady Washington pelargoniums have great names, like:

    • 'Raspberry Swirl'
    • 'Imperial'
    • 'Excalibur'
    • 'Baroness'
    • 'Elegance Lavender'
    • 'Elegance Purple Bi-Color'
    • 'Fascination'
    • 'First Blush'
    • 'Cherry Orchard'
    • 'Bold Candy'
    • 'All My Love'
    • 'Hazel Masterpiece'
    • 'Lilac Elaine'
    • 'Oriental Delight'
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  • 11 of 19


    protea flowers
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    These orange tropical beauties are proteas, and look like a cross between orange pincushion (Leucospermum) 'Hawaiian Sunburst' and Banksia intergrifolia. Banksias hail originally from Australia. Proteas are usually stiff and prickly to the touch, but also hardy and long-lasting.

    Add other tropicals—like hibiscus, cannas and low-growing palms—with proteas for a tropical paradise.

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  • 12 of 19

    Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine

    sweet potato vine
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Sweet potato vines (Ipomoea batatas) come in many beautiful colors and variegations, but this bright chartreuse 'Marguerite' (aka 'Margarita,' 'Margarite') is one of the most striking and hardy. Hailing from tropical and subtropical locales, I. batatas are fast-growing, easy-to-care-for trailing vines that are suited for hanging containers, planters, walls, trellises and as a ground cover. If you're into light green or chartreuse and plum or purple foliage combinations, 'Marguerite' is a standout.

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  • 13 of 19

    Agave Attenuata

    agave attenuata
    Alejandro Bayer Tamayo/CC by 2.0

    Let's get things clear: you can't make tequila from all agaves. That talent lies solely with blue agave, or Agave tequilana, an important cash crop for the Mexican state of Jalisco. Not surprisingly, the main ingredient in tequila comes from the blue​-green, spikier Blue Agave. Agave attenuata is also a native of Mexico and grows well in the southwestern United States. It requires little water, and performs well near the ocean or a swimming pool. Attenuata is also easy to propagate from cuttings or pups—a few large plants can multiply and become quite prolific in just a few years.

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  • 14 of 19


    Hebe (Hebe syn. Hebe albicans) 'Red Edge'
    Anne Green-Armytage/Getty Images

    This New Zealand native is sometimes sold under the name Veronica. The shrubbier hebes are exotic, striking plants that enhance poolside border landscaping. They prefer mild-winter zones and need regular water with good drainage.

    For some varieties, the flowering season extends from early summer until the first frost. Dead-head flowers regularly for constant bloom. Hebes require shade in warmer climates.

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  • 15 of 19


    Akos Kokai/CC by 2.0

    Succulents are some of the least-understood plants, but in the western United States, they have been enjoying a surge in popularity. These green beauties are Aeonium. Succulents come in all sizes and shapes, and are the rising stars of drought-tolerant landscaping because they store water in their fleshy leaves, stems, and roots. Technically, the more-familiar cactus are succulents, although they require a desert habitat and have prickly spines. Not so with succulents, which don't all have spines and may not survived.

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  • 16 of 19


    jade plant
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    In some regions, jade (Crassula ovata) is a popular houseplant; in others, it can grow almost like a weed and is extremely unfussy, just needing a little watering now and then. Like all succulents, its foliage is packed with water; when it shrivels, you know it's asking for a drink. Jade is attractive, sturdy, and a hands-down trouble-free plant for your pool area landscaping.

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  • 17 of 19

    Staghorn Fern

    staghorn fern
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    In the tropical regions from which they come, staghorn ferns (Platycerium)can be found growing on trees. For those of us who don't live in the tropics but are able to grow them in our zones, Staghorns do great mounted on wood slabs or bark, hanging baskets, or attached to trees. If you have a garden wall or pool house that gets filtered sunlight, this might be the scene-stealing plant for your pool area. This particular plant is a P. superbum.

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  • 18 of 19

    Creeping Jenny

    creeping jenny
    daryl_mitchell/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    This vigorous perennial is a European native, naturalized in eastern North America. But creeping Jenny acclimates quite well in many settings, including woodlands and partial shade gardens, or even the dry climate of Southern California, where this one was photographed. Lysimachia is a beautiful chartreuse color and grows well as a ground cover, climbing trellises or spilling out of containers near the pool. Jenny can become a bit invasive, but since she's so pretty, color-loving gardeners forgive her.

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  • 19 of 19


    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    While scheffleras are natives to Australia, New Caledonia, southern Asia, Hawaii, and Taiwan, they have also adapted well to other regions, especially California and Florida. Smaller varieties are sold in nurseries and by florists as indoor plants in most regions.

    It's near a swimming pool, however, that the schefflera performs really well, especially in moist, well-drained soil. Schefflera also goes by the name of Queensland Umbrella Tree and Octopus Tree. Combine it with other tropicals like hibiscus, cannas, and bromeliads.