Landscaping is no small feat. It’s easy to get caught up in the process of deciding what plantings will look best in your backyard space. So we don’t blame you if you sometimes find functionality taking a back seat to aesthetics. There are some areas of your home, however, where planting should be exceptionally strategic. Namely, planting around a swimming pool.
Even for landscapers with a notable amount of experience, planting around a swimming pool can be a challenge. There’s simply more to consider than in other areas of your outdoor space. You want it to look great, but not interfere with functionality. You love the idea of shade, but deciduous trees can create more problems than they solve.
At the end of the day, making the right choices about plants by the pool comes down to keeping key things in mind. While not all of these factors may apply to your own space, knowing which are important in your backyard will save you the hassle of ongoing cleaning, pool filter failure, and planting and replanting to fix issues that crop up with time.
Looks Aren’t Everything
More than anything else, you want your backyard living space to look great. A beautiful space is what drives homeowners to spend the extra time, money, and care on quality contractors and materials. So when aesthetics take a backseat to function, it’s hard for some to understand. Planting by a pool, however, requires more practically than planting nearly anywhere else on your property.
Some plants that look great may turn out to be a nightmare to keep near your swimming pool. Deciduous trees offer stunning displays of fall color and exceptional shade in summer months. But after a week or two, that striking autumn display will become brown leaves floating on the surface of your pool, just waiting to clog your filter. The same principle goes for plants like flowering and fruiting trees.
At the end of the day, all of these options are beautiful. And most of them can be put to use in other places in your yard. But prioritizing functionality when planting poolside will help you to prevent unexpected complications later on down the road.
Avoid Invasive Roots
Invasive plants are a constant conversation in other areas of your space. When invasive plants such as bamboo are planted in garden beds they can choke out other plantings. If you’re not planting a whole garden bed near your pool, it’s tempting to think that just a single invasive planting may be alright. But while invasive plants may only be bullies in other garden areas, they can cause serious structural damage near the pool.
Anyone who has dealt with invasive roots knows that they are an unstoppable force. They will push through nearly any material as they expand. This includes most common pool deck hardscaping options including poured concrete and pavers. Over time, trees and plants with invasive roots can create shifting, cracking, unevenness, and rolling fractures in outdoor hardscaping.
Invasive Roots Grow Stronger With Time
Additionally, the more mature these roots become, the stronger they grow. The stronger a root system is, the more established it becomes. And the more established a root system is, the harder it will be to remove. Avoid this problem altogether by firmly avoiding plants with invasive root systems.
Even if the problem does not show up for many years, it will show up eventually. If you’re designing a space that will serve you for years or decades to come, longevity in design is as important as how the space looks to the eye.
Opt for Evergreens
So, if deciduous, flowering, and fruiting trees are all a no, and homeowners must be wary about invasive rooting, what options does this leave you with? Much of this depends on your areas, but most landscapers will point you in the tropical or evergreen direction. Why? There are a few reasons.
As indicated by their name, evergreens provide you with color in your space all year long. Unlike trees which drop their leaves and clog your filter, evergreens maintain their needles and create minimal strain on your pool system.
What about Palms?
Most tropical plants such as palms boast similar poolside benefits to evergreens. Additionally, if you are in the right geographical area to support tropical plants, they bring an oasis feel to your pool without abandoning practicality.
If you’re not in a great area to consider tropicals all year long, there are solutions. Container planting may create a bit more work as you pull the plants in and out of your home each year, but for some, it could be worth the work.
Poolside Plants Must Love Sun
No matter where you are, most pools have one thing in common- they’re installed in full sun. There are a lot of reasons for this, including maintaining the temperature of your water, and creating a comfortable environment for swimmers. In fact, air feels up to 10 to 15 degrees warmer in full sunlight. Combine this with a boost from common poolside materials such as concrete, and reflection off the water, and your swimming pool is a sunbathers dream.
That being said, not all plants are natural born sunbathers. When landscaping around the pool, sun tolerance needs to be central to the conversation. Pick durable plant species that thrive in direct sunlight. Ornamental grasses are tough, drought resistant, and can stand the heat. Other fun options include aloe or even fruitless olive trees.
Understand Maintenance Levels
All landscaping requires upkeep. But unlike the rest of the yard, maintaining poolside plants can quickly turn from casually trimming and watering into a much bigger headache. Imagine spending hours pulling leaves, pinecones, and fruit and debris from the surface and bottom of your pool. No fun, huh?
Left unmanaged, this problem can worsen with time. In worst case scenarios, pool filters and pumps can become clogged, damaged, or broken. What was once a small annoyance is now an expensive problem that demands fixing.
Avoid this nightmare by planting low maintenance plants around your pool. Slow growing options with no fruit, no seasonal shed, and no fuss will help keep the situation firmly in check.
Avoid a Pollinator Garden
Pollinator gardens are great for the environment, and offer beautiful garden options for front or backyards. However, they are not great for poolside planting. While many pollinator plants are native, durable, and colorful, they are also designed to attract insects. More specifically, they are meant to attract bees.
While bees are not aggressive and do not sting unprovoked, they still aren’t meant to be your poolside guests. Between splashing, yelling at kids, and a whole lot of running around in bare feets, more bees is not better around your swimming pool.
For this reason, some families may consider using flowering plants sparingly. If you have a child or individual with severe allergies to bees, you may even consider skipping the pollinator plants altogether.
Breaking ground to plant around your pool can be an ordeal. Not only that, but plants that go in the ground are limited by year round weather. If you’re in the midwest dreaming of a California palm tree paradise, winter likely has other plans for you. If this sounds like a familiar predicament, it could be worth looking into container planting.
Container planting around the pool comes with a lot of benefits. Suddenly, plants become mobile. Heat loving tropicals like palms and hibiscus can be placed outside and enjoyed during summer months, and then kept alive indoors when colder weather comes. If you’re avoiding flowering plants, inject color back into the space with colorful pots.
Container planting also eliminates invasive plantings from taking hold or disrupting hardscaping. And best of all, any container planting can be removed without hassle, damage, or any extra money spent.
Work With A Professional
At the end of the day, planting around a pool is a careful dance between functionality that doesn’t abandon style. Good landscape designers will know what plants will thrive by your pool without causing more problems. Avoid working with designers who have little experience landscaping around water features, and do your own research.
While some plants do great in some climates, others will quickly become a waste of money in colder climates. Keeping the above points in mind, you’ll spend more time splashing around and less time stressing over your once-beautiful poolside landscape becoming a point of chaos in your outdoor living space.