There’s so much to think about when you’re planning a new pool. Not just the design and materials, but the general aesthetic appeal. Plants and vegetation can have a huge effect. But which plants are best for creating a beautiful pool-side paradise? It all depends on factors such as climate, chlorine and overall design: do you want a lush, secret oasis or a Mediterranean sun-trap? To help you create the perfect backdrop for a new pool, we take a look at the ins and outs of poolside planting.
Poolside plants: a growing trend
Today’s pool customers want more than a pool. They’re envisioning a lifestyle – and the pool is just the start. Many are seeking to create an entire living area, complete with furniture and surroundings that reflect a particular style. The visual impact is of utmost importance: the pool must be integrated into its natural setting.
That choice of flora can transform the entire pool space – which is why it’s so important to pick the right greenery. Think about the effect you’re hoping to achieve. Do you want to create privacy by cultivating a natural screen? Maybe you need to add shade or an ecological windbreak. Or maybe it’s more a case of growing attractive natural scenery.
5 ways to approach poolside plants
1/ Happy with heat
Is your pool in a hot climate where it will be drenched with sun? If so, you need plants that can stand high temperatures and won’t need lots of water.
For heat-resistant plants, think Mediterranean: Aloes (for example, aloe vera), Lavendula (lavender) and certain types of palms (e.g Cordyline australis). To add a splash of colour, look for warmth-loving Pelargoniums. For a more formal look, what about ornamental grasses in containers? The evergreen Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Woodside’ (Chinese fountain grass ‘Woodside’) is a striking option. Because of climate change, the demand for drought-tolerant plants has grown – resulting in a greater variety and abundance.
2/ Effective evergreens
Near pools, it’s a good idea to stick with plants that keep their foliage. That way, no one has to spend hours picking leaves out of the water. Hardy evergreens are a good choice if you’re looking for low‑maintenance. Many require very little upkeep and attention. All this makes them perfect for busy public pools.
Good evergreen options include Agapanthus africanus ‘Albus’ (or white African lily) and certain types of hibiscus (for example, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis or Chinese Hibiscus). For ground cover, you could try Euonymous fortunei (often known as spindle).
3/ Make insects buzz off
No one wants to be plagued by creepy-crawlies when they’re in the pool. So make sure your plants repel the bugs instead of attracting them. While a swathe of beautiful flowers can look absolutely stunning, be aware that they’re going to attract all kinds of insects that are on the look-out for pollen.
If you want to discourage these uninvited guests, plant Pelargonium citrosum (citronella), Calendula (marigolds), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) or Mentha (mint). Ocimum basilicum (basil) and Nepeta cataria (commonly known as catnip) are both very effective at discouraging flies and mosquitoes.
4/ Chlorine-resistant plants
Most pools contain chlorine which is used to kill bacteria and control the growth of algae. While all plants need a little chlorine, too much can damage or even kill them. Make sure you choose species that can cope with splashes of pool water.
Most trees from the Palmae family (palms) will manage, as will Nerium oleander (oleander). Shrubs in the Crataegus genus (hawthorn) should be safe along with ornamental grasses. Zoysia is known to be particularly tough as it’s not affected by the salt (chloride) that chlorine can form. Smaller chlorine-resistant plants include many types of Lonicera (honeysuckle) and Hedera (ivy). Again, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Chinese Hibiscus) are both good pool-side survivors.
5/ Other planting considerations
Pool water can harm plants – but plants can also do damage to pools: some trees can grow large root systems that can crack pool walls. To safeguard your pool’s structural integrity, pay attention to the positioning of any large shrubs or trees. Choose those with smaller, ball-shaped roots, such as Palmae (palms).
You also need to think about growth above ground. Will a fully-grown tree create unwanted shade? Remember that you may need to cut back branches that extend over the water. Left unpruned, your tree could drop debris all over your pool. Plants that shed thorns or needles are another thing to watch. Make sure your pool-side plants won’t injure bare, sensitive feet.
The wonderful world of nature means you can create all kinds of natural pool‑scapes. This article only touches on a fraction of the many options available. Once you’ve considered the practicalities for poolside plants, there’s still plenty of scope for creativity!
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