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Pool Landscaping: Pretty and Practical

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: May 22, 2019

Take a look at your pool area. Is it as pretty as it could be? Or could it use a few plants and flowers to spruce it up?

Maybe you’re thinking pretty isn’t practical. It doesn’t matter what the area around the pool looks like, as long as the pool is clean and swimmable, right? If that’s your stance, you may want to reconsider because pool landscaping can conserve water, reduce chemical use, and save you money, among other benefits.

Pool Landscaping Benefits

Before you run out to the nursery and pick out a bunch of plants, think about what you want to accomplish with your pool landscaping.


Nosy neighbors? Want to be able to skinny dip in the middle of the day? Hey, we’re not judging. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to have a little privacy around your pool. You can get it with shrubs, hedges, small trees, tall flowering plants, or vines.

Pool Landscaping Vines

Less Debris in the Pool

The less often you have to skim and vacuum the pool, the more time you can spend swimming in it.

If you choose plants that lose their flowers often, give off a lot of pollen, or lose all their leaves in the winter, you’re going to have more clean-up to do. And if you think cleaning up leaves is a hassle, just wait until you have pollen in your pool.

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Reduced Evaporation

Replacing water and chemicals lost due to evaporation is a part of regular pool maintenance. Pool water evaporates no matter what you do. You can’t stop it, but you can reduce it.

Wind accelerates evaporation. By placing plants, shrubs, or other barriers around your pool, you can reduce the amount of wind that skims across the surface of your pool, thereby slowing the rate of evaporation. You’ll save water, chemicals, and money.

Low Maintenance

Let’s just establish right now that rose bushes probably aren’t the best option for your pool landscaping. Not that they aren’t beautiful, and they do smell wonderful. But roses are high maintenance flowers, and without constant care, they can quickly look unkempt and, well, ugly.

Keep maintenance requirements low by choosing plants that:

Increased Resale Value

If you don’t plan to live in your home for the rest of your life, well-executed pool landscaping may add some value to your home. And if not actual value, then at least visual appeal, which can go a long way to making a sale.

Check with your real estate agent to see whether buyers are looking for any particular trends in backyard pools and landscapes, and try to incorporate them if you can.


Well, of course. You want your home to look nice, and that extends to your back yard and pool area, right? Sometimes, pools are surrounded by nothing more than a few feet of concrete, and then grass. That can make any pool look barren and desolate.

Putting some effort into pool landscaping can turn a concrete wasteland into a gorgeous back yard paradise. And if you have a large concrete deck that prevents you from bringing that landscaping inward, you can always use planters and colorful containers to bring the beauty a little closer to the pool.

OK, so you’ve identified your pool landscaping goals. Now come the fun parts!

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Choose a Pool Landscaping Theme

This is completely optional, and depends on your preferences. But if you do decide to create a theme with your pool landscaping, you can go with tropical, desert, jungle, Mediterranean, or whatever appeals to you.

The theme you choose will inform the plants and other garden materials you use. For example, a desert theme will have lots of cacti and succulents and maybe landscaping rocks instead of mulch around them.

Take a look around online to get your creative juices flowing.

Design Before You Start

You don’t want to choose a bunch of plants and flowers just because they look nice, then plant them all next to each other. You may find the ones you plants in front are taller than the ones planted in the rear, and one plant spreads out so far, it crowds out everything around it. You need a plan.

This can be as easy as grabbing some graph paper and colored pencils, and drawing a landscape design. Or you can use an online garden planner.

To build a solid plan, you’ll need to do a couple of other things as well.

Take Measurements

How much space do you have to work with? This is essential information before you start choosing plants.

Choose the Right Plants

Aside from their being native and low maintenance, you also need to know how tall and how far outward they’ll grow. This will allow you to structure the landscaping so you get benefit from all the plants, and get to enjoy their beauty without obstruction.

Important: Avoid plants designated invasive. This means it’s a pest plant, growing aggressively and overtaking or even killing the plants around it. It will also mean a lot of work for you to keep it under control.

Pool Landscaping Supplies

Depending on the specific choices you make, and whether you have an inground or above ground pool, you may not need all of these supplies.

Inground Pool Landscaping

Whether you have a large yard or just one strip of grass next to your pool, you can add colors, beauty, and pragmatism to your pool area.

Prepare the Area

Start by cleaning the area around your pool. Remove all plant pots, debris, trash, metal, and anything else that doesn’t belong there. Check for any rocks in the soil and remove them.

Pull all the weeds from the area where you’re going to plant. It’s best to do this after a good rain because the weeds will come up more easily. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you can soak the ground the night before. Remember, you want to pull out the entire root, or the weed will just grow back.

Prepare the Plants

If you bought live plants, remove them from their pots, and gently massage the roots to loosen them up. Also remove any dead leaves or flowers from the plants.

Now you’re ready to really start rockin’ it! Except not really, because you removed all the rocks. But you know what we mean.


Either close to the pool or in front of your fences, hedges can be a foundation for your pool landscaping. Thicker varieties will offer lots of privacy, and may even become home to birds, butterflies, and other flying friends.

If you live in a warmer climate and swim year-round, consider evergreen hedges so you won’t lose that privacy in the winter. Just be aware that you may need to prune them regularly to keep them looking neat.

Pool Landscaping Hedges

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Small trees may do the job depending on the type you choose, how leafy they are, how high your fence is, and how much higher your neighbors’ houses are than yours.

If you have the space for them, consider planting one or two large trees for shade, privacy, and cleaner air. Again, evergreens are a good choice due to their fullness and year-round aesthetic. But if you choose deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter), don’t plant them too close to the pool, or you’ll be skimming leaves out like it’s your job.

Pool Landscaping Trees


Hedges and trees too much trouble? Don’t have the space for them? Stick with plants! They come in all shapes and sizes, and in green, red, purple, yellow, and every shade in between. You can also choose plants with variegated leaves for visual interest.

Flowering Plants

They’d probably be a lot of work around the entire perimeter, but tall flowering plants might work on one or two sides of your pool. They also wouldn’t be as solid as shrubs, or as full as trees, so they wouldn’t provide as much privacy.

Still, if this is your preference, consider a variety such as giant sunflowers to get the most height.

Note: Remember that many flowers attract bees and wasps, so choose carefully.


This may not be feasible around the entire pool either, but you could put trellises up on one or two sides, and train some type of vine to climb them. If you don’t have privacy fencing, you can also allow vines to climb your fence as well.

Most vines grow pretty quickly, but it may still take a while to achieve the level of privacy you’re looking for. Also, some types of vines can be invasive, so choose your plants carefully.

If you want to go super low maintenance and have immediate privacy, you could cover trellises with artificial ivy. Or maybe just until the real stuff gets growing.


After all this work, you want to be able to see your pool landscaping at night! Having lights around your pool is also just a good idea for safety. Nice, warm lighting can also create a cozy ambience.

For energy efficiency and to keep your electric bill low, choose solar landscape lights. They’ll charge during the day, and then brighten up your pool area from dusk ’til dawn.

Pool Landscaping Lighting

Inground Pool Landscaping Alternative

If you’d rather not do all this work to install pool landscaping, or you don’t want to add garden maintenance to your already full schedule, consider putting up a pool enclosure.

Depending on the type, you may not get the privacy, but you’ll definitely see less debris, reduced evaporation, and less maintenance. And they can be pretty, too.

Pool Landscaping Enclosure

Above Ground Pool Landscaping

If you already have a full above ground pool deck, you can add color and greenery to the pool area with containers.

But if you have a partial or no deck at all, you may want to improve the space around the pool.

All of the inground pool landscaping suggestions also apply to above ground pools. But you have a few additional above ground pool landscaping options.

Ground Cover

The ground surrounding your above ground pool can become saturated and muddy, especially if the kids like to splash around a lot.

The pool chemicals may not be so friendly to sod, either, and things can start to look mucky. Not only that, but that mud and muck will get tracked into the pool if you’re not careful.

Ground cover to the rescue! Some varieties of ground cover are hardier than grass, and can stand up to a lot more water and traffic. Clover is one good choice, and so is frog fruit. Yes, you read that correctly. You might want to plant frog fruit just so you can say you have frog fruit in your yard. It’s fun to say!


It’s not just for gardens. Laying mulch around your above ground pool can also help keep the mud at bay, and make the area look neat and tidy.

Another option is rubber mulch. From a distance, it looks like regular mulch, and it discourages weeds, the same way regular mulch does.

But rubber mulch doesn’t attract insects, and it’s touted as a safer surface. In fact, it’s often used to cover playground areas. If you have kids climbing in and out of your above ground pool, rubber mulch may offer a little peace of mind as well as aesthetic appeal.

Note: We’re talking about using rubber mulch specifically around the base of your above ground pool. We don’t recommend it for gardens and flower beds because it doesn’t break down and add nutrients to the soil.

Important: Some rubber mulch is made from shredded tires, and concerns have been raised about whether this is healthy material to use in gardens and on playgrounds. Do your due diligence and research it before you buy it so you can make an informed decision.

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Gravel or Landscape Rocks

It keeps the mud at bay, it doesn’t attract insects, and it’s definitely not a health hazard. Gravel doesn’t do much to prevent weeds, though, but that’s what landscape fabric is for.

Laying gravel or landscape rocks around the bottom of your pool can create a beautiful perimeter that requires no maintenance other than picking up the occasional stray pebble.

Some types of rock are more expensive than others. While you can find it at home improvement stores, you may get a better deal at a landscape supply company.

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09/19/2023 03:01 am GMT

Consider Xeriscaping

If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s likely you don’t live in an area that experiences drought and water restrictions. Xeriscape (the X is pronounced like a Z) means dry landscape, but don’t let the name fool you.

We’re not talking about turning your pool area into a dry, dusty desert with no plant life at all. You could leave the ground bare if you wanted to, but many xeriscapes use gravel or landscape rocks both to keep the dust under control, and to add color and brightness.

And while a xeriscape does often include cacti and succulents, you can also add green and flowering plants that simply don’t need much water to thrive. There’s no reason you couldn’t do this with your pool landscaping.

You’d also get a few extra benefits.

Water Conservation

Landscape rocks and plants that don’t need a lot of water means you won’t have to turn the sprinklers on for hours to soak them. Just be aware that some of the plants you use may need some water.

Water Utility Rebates and Coupons

Some cities offer rebates to residents who create xeriscapes. They may even offer coupons for you to buy some of the supplies to help you get started with xeriscaping. Check with your local water utility.

The Lowest of Low Maintenance

If you decide to go all out with your xeriscaping and completely replace your water-hogging lawn with gravel or landscape rocks, guess what? You’ll save a lot of water, sure, but even better—no more mowing!

You may still have to pull the random weed here and there, but that can be remediated by putting landscape fabric under the surface.

Get Growing!

Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Then roll up those sleeves and get to it! Before long, your nosy neighbors will be complimenting you on your gorgeous pool area.

One last thing. Don’t start anything until you’ve taken a “before” picture. Then take lots of “after” photos when you’re done. You’ll marvel at the difference smart pool landscaping can make!

Happy Landscaping!

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.

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Save Time and Money with Our FREE Pool Care Cheat Sheet
Download this FREE printable cheat sheet to keep your pool clean and clear without any fuss. You’ll never worry about your pool again with this easy-to-use guide.
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