Five Tips for Planting Around Pools

A swimming pool in the summer heat can be so refreshing. So that it stays refreshing and fun – and does not turn into constant clean-up chore, some proper planning and planting is needed.

If your pool is already in place but anything you plant dies – look over these “poolscaping” planning factors and maybe you can troubleshoot the issue. Either way, plan for these five factors.

Dermatophyllum secondiflorum is a low maitaninece tree
The evergreen Texas mountain laurel is a lovely and low litter tree. Image courtesy R. Spellenberg.

One. Plan for low maintenance.

Select plants that are relatively free of leaf drop and other debris. Life is messy. Living beings will shed bits and pieces. (Yep – humans too! That’s what those dust bunnies in the house are.) The only “plants” entirely free of debris are made by humans and not nature – but even those will break down over time and create debris.

But some plants are more messy than others though, so look for “low litter” plants. Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina) is high litter, while Texas mountain laurel (Dermatophyllum secondiflorum) is low litter.

swimming-poolTwo. Plan for a super bright site.

The water in the pool will reflected light. Lots of light. This can actually be too much light for some species of plants. When I write about plants I do share if they can tolerate reflected light or not.

Chocolate flower (Berlanderia lyrata) can’t take reflected light,but damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) can.

Three. Plan for dramatic plants.

A pool makes a strong statement in the landscape. A strong statement like a pool looks well with some dramatic accents to reinforce the statement. This calls for some bold plants to help enhance the setting. A saguaro or palm tree make accent statements, while a vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is more of a backdrop plant.

plants for relaxing near a swimming pool
This poolscape has some palms (small still – but they will grow) and also some charming groundcovers to make it feel less desolate.

Four. Plan for both plant and human needs.

Plant roots need space and water. The pool-side cool decking can be hard for plants to deal with. That said – you want to have a charming space around the pool.
The nice compromise solution is to fill in around the your accent plant(s) with some low groundcovering plants that help the space feel lush and inviting.

plants for relaxing near a swimming pool
The palms offer accents, but there are no softening groundcovers. This poolscape is a tad desolate.

Creeping germander, creeping or prostrate rosemary, creeping oregano, and even garlic chives are all evergreen, can take reflected light and are herbs that can be used in cooking. I do appreciate dual use plants!

Five. Plan for the splash factor.

Pool chemicals including salts and chlorine can burn many plants. Lantana (Lantana species) burn easily, as do cannas (Canna species). Some of our native desert species are more tolerant of chemicals – including trailing dalea (Dalea greggii), and golden dalea (Dalea capitata).

mexican grass tree copyright image
Mexican grass tree is softer and less sharp than yucca. Photo courtesy W.Anderson.

Don’t Forget Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses and grass-like plants are excellent around pools. They fit in this list because they are virtually litter free, some can be accents – like the Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion quadrangulatum).  The point is that grasses and grass-like plants can provide something often lacking in rigid desert landscapes – the sound and feeling of motion with even a mild breeze.

sideoats grama grass flowers copyright image
Grass flowers can be pretty – like these side oats grama! Image courtesy W. Anderson.

One grass I like is the sideoats grama grass (Bouteloua curtipendula) with charming blue-green foliage, and striking purple flowers. The flowers develop into oat-like seeds that the lesser goldfinch will flock in to feed on – and clean them up for you.

Ornamental grasses are beautiful when cared for correctly, which most landscaping companies do not know how to do. I shall have to repost my article on the topic (yes, the hackers got that too). Proper care of ornamental grasses is covered in my Month by Month Gardening Book.

Plan Ahead

Take a look around as you relax by your pool and think about how you might redo the space once it cools off a little. With these five factors guiding your planning, your poolside oasis can truly be a place to relax in, because there is little care, muss, or fuss involved with your pool scape.

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I am here ,,, “to help you succeed with your garden goals.”

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More About Landscape Planning in my Book:

May I recommend my book?  The Month By Month Guide offers tips for your landscape (yes even lawns and roses) in every month of the year.  I have a few copies left and am offering them to you – my loyal readers. Price is what you would pay on Amazon – only when you buy from me you get a signed copy!soule-books-buy

From the review:

“A great reference book is key to successful gardening in the region where you live. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening takes the guesswork out of gardening for anyone residing in the Southwest. With this book, you’ll know what to do each month to enjoy a thriving garden all year, from January to December. Chronologically organized, this guide is full of critical gardening when-to and how-to advice, along with illustrated step-by-step instructions.

The book’s author is Jacqueline Soule, a Tucson-based gardening expert. She knows this arid region inside and out, and she’s written several articles and books packed with her gardening advice. Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico Month-by-Month Gardening showcases Soule’s expertise in one easy-to-read guide.”

Profits from the sale of this book go to the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute. 

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