Five Factors For Planning your Pool-scaping

Many folks dream of a pool of their own. To relax by the water, daydream, sip luscious drinks…. So the dream does not become a nightmare – you need some planning – plus the proper plants.

Plan For These Five Factors

Plan for low maintenance. Select plants that are relatively free of leaf drop and other debris. The only plants entirely free of debris are made of silk, so expect some maintenance.


Plan for dramatic plants. A pool is a very strong accent in the landscape. This calls for some bold plants to help enhance the setting.

Plan for a super hot site. Pools reflected light – lots of light. Pool spaces full of reflected light are too bright for many plants.

Plan for plant needs. Roots need space and water. The pool-side cool decking can be hard to deal with if you’re a plant.

Plan for the splash factor. Chlorine burns many species.

The Mediterranean fan palms on either side of this waterfall are planted MUCH too close. Once they start growing there will be problems. ALWAYS consider mature size of plants when placing them in the landscape.

Think Native for Around the Pool

All this planning is not as hard as it sounds! We live in the desert. In the wilderness around us there are any number of plants already able to take reflected light bouncing off canyon walls. Plants that can deal with soil chemicals. Plants that don’t shed much because they are thrifty with their resources. Bold, dramatic plants that look charming beside the pool.

Palm trees are almost de rigor for a poolside. Many palm species become very large however, so select carefully. The ones that get so tall that all you see is a “telephone pole” are to be avoided. The Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) grows to around 8 to 12 feet wide and tall, with multiple trunks, and more pups forming around the base.

Plams need litte care, as I discussed – Palm Care.

This Mediterranean palm (background right) was well planted – with ample room to grow.

Kids in the Pool?

The play toys will go astray so plan for some low-water groundcovers that make it easy to find thoe toys. Also durable groundcovers that can take a little bit of trampling.

No kids?

Still – use these low-water groundcovers to fill in around the pool. This will help the area look lush and inviting. Creeping germander, protrate rosemary and even garlic chives are all evergreen, can take reflected light and can be used in cooking. I do appreciate dual use plants! For flowering groundcovers select from yellow dot (Wedelia trilobata), damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), Saltillo primrose (Oenotheria stubbei), bush morning glory (Convovulus cneorum), trailing dalea (Dalea greggii), or golden dalea (Dalea capitata).

Justicia spicigera. Photo courtesy S. Shebs

A flowering perennial that looks quite nice poolside is Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). This and others were discussed last week in Perennial Plants for Pollinators. The Mexican honeysuckle and does ok if shaded – under the palms for example. It would be a nice addition because hummingbirds adore it – like in my YouTube video – here.

Some Plants Dont Appreciate Pools

Note that some common landscape plants are not on this list. Chocolate flower can’t take reflected light, and lantana is not happy with chlorine. Plant them somewhere that isn’t too near the pool.

Ornamental grasses and grass-like plants are also excellent around pools. They are low maintenance, virtually litter free, plus versatile and beautiful. Grasses also provide something often lacking in rigid desert landscapes – the sound and feeling of motion with even a mild breeze.

With these five factors guiding your planning, and the right plants, your poolside oasis can truly be a place to relax in, plus a dream to care for.



soule-southwest-gardenMore about overall care of your land and landscape in this book: Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

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