18 Best Plants for Swimming Pool Landscaping

illustration of best plants for pool landscaping

The Spruce

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. Also, keep in mind that plants will likely get splashed with chlorine and other pool and spa chemicals. These 18 plants are all good choices for pool landscaping; check carefully, though, to be sure they are right for your climate and soil conditions.

Warning

All parts of the Angel's Trumpet plant are toxic and poisoning can occur from ingestion and even touching the plant. Gloves should be worn for everyday care of the angel's trumpet. Avoid this plant if you have children or animals and seek medical attention immediately if you suspect exposure or poisoning.

  • 01 of 18

    Banana Tree (Musa)

    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 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10 (though some varieties thrive from zones 5 to 10)
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil. 
  • 02 of 18

    Hawaiian Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

    hibiscus next to pool
    Fotosearch/Getty Images

    If you are able 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.' Want to use Hawaiian Hibiscus in a floral arrangement? Pick one during the day while it is in full bloom, then put it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh and open in a vase long enough to enjoy for the evening.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White, red, pink, orange, yellow, peach, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part sun, full shade, part shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy
  • 03 of 18

    Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)

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

    If you are thinking of going the tropical-oasis route, a bird of paradise 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 is an excellent choice for poolscaping—it does not shed and is strong enough to tolerate splashing (in moderation, of course).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 11
    • Color Varieties: White, orange, blue
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun
    • Soil Needs:  Rich, well-drained potting mix
  • 04 of 18

    Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus')

    zebra grass near pool
    Orchidpoet/Getty Images

    Ornamental grasses in general 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,' commonly called zebra grass or sometimes called porcupine grass. Its horizontal stripes give it an exotic look that goes well with tropical landscaping.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 11
    • Color Varieties: White, orange, blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs:  Chalk, clay, loam, sand
    Continue to 5 of 18 below.
  • 05 of 18

    Egyptian Papyrus (Cyperus 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. Papyrus likes water and can live in bogs and shallow ponds. It also does fairly well in a clay soil that has been amended—the clay helps it retain dampness, which it loves. Pair it with tall and skinny Equisetum "Horsetail," which also likes water and has an exotic feel.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 and above
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, wet soil
  • 06 of 18

    Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia)

    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. It's important to know that angel's trumpet is a toxic plant and not suitable for children or pets.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White, peach, pink, orange, or yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs:  Acid soil
  • 07 of 18

    Echeveria (Crassulaceae)

    echeveria succulent
    J Brew/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Echeverias are succulent perennials from Mexico that feel to the touch like a cross between felt and velvet. These plants are wonderful for rock gardens and are drought tolerant. They would 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Greens, pinks, reds and yellows
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs:  A well-drained succulent mix, with an ideal pH around 6.0
  • 08 of 18

    Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavida)

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

    Its common name—kangaroo paw—gives a big hint as to where this popular perennial hails from: Australia. This plant and its hybrids are a slim and graceful looking plant, but it is the flowers that are the real appeal to kangaroo paws. Striking and curved like kangaroo paws, the perennials comes in many varieties and lovely colors, including 'Bush Gold,' 'Bush Emerald,' and 'Bush Lantern' (bright yellow).

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Red, yellow, or orange; white and pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs:  Sandy soil
    Continue to 9 of 18 below.
  • 09 of 18

    Martha Washington Geranium (Regal pelargonium)

    martha washington geraniums
    Pamla J. Eisenberg/Flickr/CC by 2.0
    • For vibrant, beautiful color that lasts from spring to fall,nothing beats the hybrids called Martha Washington or Lady Washington geraniums. Martha Washington geraniums are usually only available for about six weeks or so in late spring. Marthas, aka regal pelargoniums, sometimes look like exotic tropical flowers and orchids. They can be found in shades of . Like many flower hybrids, Lady Washington pelargoniums have great cultivar names such as 'Raspberry Swirl," 'Imperial,' and 'Excaliber.'
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Pink, magenta, fuschia, red, white, violet and lavender
    • Sun Exposure: Indirect sun
    • Soil Needs:  Well-drained soil
  • 10 of 18

    Proteas (Banksia)

    Banksias

     

    Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images

    These orange tropical beauties are proteas (Banksia.) 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8
    • Color Varieties: White, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green
    • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
    • Soil Needs:  Acidic, nutrient-poor soil
  • 11 of 18

    Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine (I. batatas )

    sweet potato vine
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Sweet potato vines come in many beautiful colors and variegations, but this bright chartreuse 'Marguerite' (also called 'Margarita' or '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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 11
    • Color Varieties: Chartreuse, gold, bronze, brown, red, purple and nearly black
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Well-drained enriched soil
  • 12 of 18

    Agave Attenuata (Agave attenuata i)

    agave attenuata
    Alejandro Bayer Tamayo/CC by 2.0

    Not to be confused with blue agave or Agave tequilana, an important cash crop for the Mexican state of Jalisco for making tequila, 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 8 and up
    • Color Varieties: White, yellow and green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Any well-draining soil is acceptable, but their preference is rocky or sandy soil
    Continue to 13 of 18 below.
  • 13 of 18

    Hebe (Hebe)

    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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Blue, purple, white, pink foliage
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Loose, well-draining soil
  • 14 of 18

    Aeonium (Aeonium)

    aenonium
    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 do not all have spines.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11
    • Color Varieties: Solid colors or variegated in white, yellow, red and green
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Sandy loam or regular potting mix 
  • 15 of 18

    Jade (Crassula ovata)

    jade plant
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Sandy or even rocky soil is fine if well drained
  • 16 of 18

    Staghorn Fern (Platycerium superbum)

    staghorn fern
    Lisa Hallett Taylor

    In the tropical regions from which they come, staghorn ferns can be found growing on trees. If you do not live in the tropics but are able to grow it in your zone, 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indirect sunlight
    • Soil Needs:  Pot young plants in rich, well-drained compost. Mature plants should be mounted.
    Continue to 17 of 18 below.
  • 17 of 18

    Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia)

    creeping jenny
    daryl_mitchell/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    This vigorous perennial is a European native that has been naturalized in eastern North America. Creeping Jenny acclimates quite well in many settings, including woodlands and partial shade gardens, or even the dry climate of southern California, (pictured). 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 it is so pretty, color-loving gardeners are foregiving.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs:  Moist, well-draining soil
  • 18 of 18

    Schefflera (Schefflera)

    shefflera
    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. Near a swimming pool, 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.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, or red
    • Sun Exposure: Bright indirect light
    • Soil Needs:  Rich and moist

Tip

Most of the plants in this list grow best in warmer climates (USDA Zones 9 to 11).