Tips on Integrating Greenery into Your Swimming Pool Landscape Design

Perhaps it is deeply embedded in our instinctive psyche to associate water and greenery with relaxation and safety. These things subconsciously remind us of our distant past when we were still in deep communion with our natural environment.

It was the time when our survival and comfort were directly dependent on the presence of vegetation and natural sources of water. However, there is nothing “natural” about the way swimming pools and gardens are created. Instead, our positive responses to these things is what has been deeply ingrained in us and is quite natural.

So if you happen to desire a touch of flora in your property, especially if you are planning to have a pool, it’s a natural human inclination.

Integrating greenery with your swimming pool design is not that easy, however. You need to consider some important factors such as the types of plants and where to place them. Swimming pools also require careful planning and skillful construction.

Here’s a list of things you need to consider if you want both water and vegetation:

  1. Create a central theme or motif

Even if you are not a landscape artist or a swimming pool contractor, you probably know a few basic things about gardening and/or landscape design.

Gardens and swimming pools are a perfect combination not only in terms of aesthetics but also in terms of practicality. It has something to do with imitating the natural environment. Nothing could be more appropriate than plants growing near or around a body of water.

If you want to have the right combination of plants, you should have a design motif. Here are a few design ideas that include plants.

  • Tropical island motif

You can apply a Hawaiian or tropical island theme. The swimming pool can be designed like a lagoon with palm trees around the pool. The pool ceramic tiles should be blue to imitate the look of the ocean reflecting the sky. You can also include beach sand and pebbles in the landscape design.

  • Mountain forest motif

You can include deciduous trees to provide shade around the swimming pool. Ferns can also be included in the design. You may use stones or metamorphic rocks as paving around the swimming pool. You may add an artificial waterfall and slide as well. Darker tiles resembling the color and texture of mountain rocks can be used for the pool.

  • Tall hedges motif

If you want some privacy, you may imitate the tall hedges used in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. You can plant evergreen hedges to surround the swimming pool. You may even integrate a maze design if you have a large property. You may include replicas of classical European sculptures to top it all.

  • Flower garden motif

You can use various flowering ornamental plants in different colors. Flowering shrubs and vines can be planted around the swimming pool. You may include trellises, pergolas and a gazebo to support the flowering vines as well.

  1. Use the appropriate types of plants

Choosing the plants that you will include in your landscape of the area surrounding your swimming pool should be based on three main criteria, namely, low maintenance, safety and aesthetic appeal.

  • Low-maintenance plants

You should choose plants that do not require too much maintenance. The ideal plants in this category are evergreen plants that are grass-like. These include lomandra, phormium, and liriope. You should avoid plants that regularly shed off leaves, fruits, or nuts.

You would not want to be bothered cleaning plant debris daily unless you have a gardener to maintain it.

Also avoid plants that produce hard-to-remove stains like berries.

  • Safe plants

Choose plants that do not produce toxic byproducts or cause allergies. Avoid growing thorny plants for the poolside area. These include miscanthus, yucca, and cactus.

You must choose garden plants that naturally repel mosquitoes and other potentially harmful insects. Some of these plants include the following:

  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Citronella Grass
  • Catnip
  • Rosemary
  • Scented geraniums

  • Aesthetically appealing plants

You may choose to include scented flowers such as roses and jasmine for poolside plants. They are not merely attractive to look at but they are also appealing to the sense of smell. You may use plant pots and jars for these flowering plants.

  1. Take good care of the plants

Although you should choose low-maintenance plants, you must not neglect them. You must know what to avoid as well.

  • Too much chlorine

The pool water should be disinfected with chlorine to prevent insect larvae, protist, bacteria and fungus from proliferating in the water. However, the chlorine disinfectant can also potentially kill the plants. Avoid over-exposing poolside plants to the concentrated chlorine solution.

  • Too much heat

Avoid overexposing the plants to the heat from the pool overhead spotlights. Plants need light for photosynthesis but if they are too close to high-intensity artificial lighting, their tissues might be damaged or they could potentially catch fire. Instead of using halogen lamps or bright CFLs, use LED lights.

  • Too much human impact

Keep sensitive plants away from the main pathways and social gathering areas. They may be trampled upon or picked. This is particularly true for ornamental flowers. Even lawn grass needs to be protected by installing solid path walks. Human impact on plants can be minimized in this manner. You may also use pots to protect young plants.

The bottom line

Integrating greenery with your swimming pool landscape design will require creativity, some technical knowledge and dedication. You should not treat plants as mere ornaments but as an essential component in your design.

Plants can help in regulating the mini climate around your swimming pool. They can also help repel harmful insects. If you take good care of the plants, they will take good care of you.


Rachel Hennessey manages the Pools and Landscaping Division of Hennessey LLC. She also works on Tender and Pre-Qualification and brings in new business to the company’s Construction, Interiors and Civils Division.