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Refreshing Poolside Landscape Ideas

Refreshing Poolside Landscape Ideas

Photo by Michele Lee Willson

There are as many ways to landscape around the pool as there are styles and shapes of pools possible. Do you want the pool to seamlessly integrate into the surrounding landscape as if it were a natural spring? Or do you favor a more formal style that shows off the pool as part of your home’s architecture? Whatever your style, you’ll want to choose plantings that are low-maintenance and don’t drop leaves or debris into the pool—pay close attention to plant height (both now and future) when selecting trees and shrubs. 

We chose the pool landscapes featured here to inspire your own poolside design. Each of them offers a different approach to plantings and style.

Extend the Pool

blue pool with blue tiled retaining wall with tropical landscaping

What started as an eyesore became a focal point in this ingenious hillside makeover by Judy Kameon.  The owners hated the existing gray concrete wall that completely wrapped around the pool area. Solution: Kameon designed a raised planter from the wall to the pool’s edge, and wrapped it with luminous Heath tile in blue hues to make it feel like part of the pool. It’s now a glamorous planting bed filled with a garden that looks like it could grow underwater. 

She chose strappy plants in vivid blue-greens and purples, punctuated by dracaena, canna, agaves, and asparagus fern. The back wall above a new built-in is a soothing jungle of podocarpus soft enough to look like a living cushion. “I love that the plantings carry your eye up the hill and blend in with the lighter chapparal there,” says Kameon.

Design by Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes

Photo by Erik Otsea

Get the Look with These Plants

Foxtail
Fern

A soft, structural asparagus fern with a unique upright habit that features fine, soft leaves and bright green color. Up to 2' tall by 3' wide. Zones 9-11.

Tropicanna®
Canna

A plant with tropical style and exotic flair that looks great in a poolside setting. Large, bright-orange blooms and dramatic orange, burgundy, and green foliage. Up to 5' tall and 4' wide. Zones 7-11. 

Bauer's
Dracaena Palm

This dramatic palm-like dracaena has rich, dark foliage and an upright habit. Easy care and great in coastal climates. Full to partial sun. Up to 5’ trunk with a 3–5’ wide crown of foliage. Zones 9–11. 

Loosen Up

green lawn around pool with grasses and cosmos flowers in landscape

The best way to conjure the breezy elegance of a natural spring is by keeping the surrounding landscape loose. Nancy King of Seventy Acres Landscape Architecture & Design succeeded in creating an oasis that feels natural when she refreshed an existing swimming pool at this Connecticut farmhouse property.

Here, her plantings of grasses combine with perennials among an artful cropping of rocks that just shoulder the pool area. There’s even a flat-surfaced boulder strategically placed near the pool as a natural springboard. This bouldered landscape helps bridge the expansive lawn to the mature trees and woods just beyond, and changes with seasonal color.

Photo and Design by Nancy King of Seventy Acres Landscape Architecture & Design

Get the Look with These Plants

Blonde Ambition
Blue Grama Grass

A cold-hardy, native grass with flag-like, golden flowers and blue-green foliage. Tolerant of drought and many soil types. Up to 3' tall and wide. Zones 4-9.

Dwarf
Maiden Grass

Compact form of maiden grass that flowers at an early age with silvery white blooms in summer. Foliage turns golden bronze in fall. Up to 4' tall and 3' wide. Zones 5-9.

Morello
Agastache

Large burgundy-rose flower clusters pop against dark green foliage and attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Up to 33" tall and 22" wide. Zones 5-10. 

Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries

If You Have a View, Stop Talking

pool landscaping with purple penstemon, lavender, and grasses
pool landscaping with fire pit seating area

This poolside setting is actually a series of terraces meant to celebrate the large native oak trees and agrarian hillside with its panoramic views just beyond. The hushed colors of soft grasses and perennials that Gretchen Whittier of Arterra Landscape Architects chose around the pool area create a contemplative landscape that’s both drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

Lavender, salvia, and penstemon echo the blue of the pool and provide other places for the eye to rest alongside flax and erigeron. By using muted colors and a limited palette, the design draws the eye outward toward other vistas.

Design by Gretchen Whittier of Arterra Landscape Architects

Photograph by Michele Lee Willson, courtesy of Arterra Landscape Architects 

Get the Look with These Plants

Harlequin™
Purple Beardtongue

This long-blooming, compact beardtongue features abundant spikes of large purple flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Up to 22" tall and 16" wide. Zones 5-9.

Phenomenal
French Lavender

Fragrant purple-blue flower spikes bloom on this heat- and humidity-tolerant, disease-resistant, and cold-hardy variety. Up to 3' tall and wide. Zones 5-8.

Purple
Fountain Grass

A drought-tolerant grass with maroon blades and rosy plumes. This spectacular grass looks great through the heat of the summer. Up to 4' tall and 3' wide. Zones 8-11 (grow as an annual in all zones). 

Feast for the Senses

edible pool landscaping with strawberries in foreground

Who says you can’t turn your pool area into an edible landscape? Christian Douglas integrates edibles into his stylish landscapes, like the one shown here. The secret to creating an edible poolside is to use edible perennials, so the plants need less maintenance and provide greenery during off-seasons. Christian recommends growing seasonal vegetables in raised beds that are far enough away from the pool to avoid splashes and rogue pool toys. He also says he "wouldn't put anything that drops fruit too near a pool" to avoid yellow jackets, and fruit dropping on walkways and the pool. In this poolside design, he balances fruit trees (espaliered apple or fig for example), with shrubs like blueberry and artichoke, and adds strawberries and herbs in smaller spaces, all set far enough away from the pool to be practical and beautiful.

While he does use raised beds around the pool, it’s also easy to tuck in edible perennials within other perennials and vines, such as mixing wisteria and grapes.  By layering these elements, the landscape mimics nature, creating a lushness and feeling of abundance that’s as mentally soothing as the refreshing pool.

Design by Christian Douglas

Photo by Adam Potts

Get the Look with These Plants

Seascape
Strawberry

A highly productive variety with a long season and large, delicious berries. Ever-bearing with good disease resistance and a wide climate range. Up to 12" tall and 24" wide. Zones 4-9.

Corky's Honey
Delight® Fig

A semi-dwarf variety perfect for small gardens or large containers. This bountiful tree yields two crops of succulent green figs with flavorful, sweet flesh. Zones 7-10 (can be hardy down to Zone 5 if sheltered for winter).

Honeycrisp™
Apple

Showy pink-white flowers light up this tree in spring, followed by large red fruit in late summer or fall. The delicious apples are crisp and perfect for eating fresh or making cider. Up to 25' tall and 15' wide. Zones 4-9. 

Re-Use and Reduce

pathway leading to pool with palms, grasses, and perennials

When Stefani Bittner of Homestead Design Collective started designing this poolside landscape in Northern California, she had a few unexpected clients to consider: the owners’ free-range chickens. Their coop isn’t far from the pool. The owners wanted to keep them happy, and also reduce an expansive green lawn area.  Bittner reduced the lawn by half and used gravel as a permeable hardscape near the pool, and low-water plantings with texture to bring the space together.

Re-using wherever and whenever possible is a guideline of Bittner’s, and she placed existing stone pavers in a more dynamic pattern to complement the casual railroad ties near the chicken coop. Alongside the pool, Bittner re-used dianella and phormium planted elsewhere on the property, relocating it to the poolside to create punctuated moments in an easy-care border. 

800x500_FentonNAPA-343

She used blue succulents to echo the pool color, and added in fiery oranges and other touches of surprise. The resulting landscape is a vibrant, easy-care solution perfectly suited to the personality and lifestyle of its owners.

Design by Stefani Bittner of Homestead Design Collective

Photo by David Fenton

Get the Look with These Plants

Elijah
Blue Fescue

A clumping ornamental grass with an icy-blue color. It's heat- and drought-tolerant and perfect for using as a low-growing border plant or foreground layer. Up to 12" tall and wide. Zones 4-11.

St. Elmo's Fire
Firecracker Plant

A hybrid selection that's larger and showier than common species. With occasional deadheading, the deep-red flowers bloom from spring to fall. Up to 6' tall and 8' wide. Zones 8-11.

Mediterranean
Fan Palm

A hardy palm with a compact crown of blue-green, deeply cut, fan-shaped foliage. The multi-trunked habit forms rounded clumps and is perfect for use as a mass or barrier planting. Up to 15' tall and wide. Zones 8-11.