Poolside Planting – A Plethora of Possibilities
A swimming pool is a major investment and, likely, the center of summer life. It can be a playground, a retreat, a relaxing spa, and a gathering place for friends and families, both young and young-at-heart.
One feature of the poolscape that can give yours a signature look is the landscaping -- the flowers and greenery. Yet, let’s face it, you have enough work to do keeping your piece of paradise in order. You don’t need a mess to clean up or something that could cause problems. And with all that heat, sunlight, and the pool water, which plants are most likely to thrive?
The good news is that, unless your pool water contains inordinately high levels of chlorine or other chemicals, most plants can handle it without too much wear and tear. But there are a number of them that can give you trouble.
Pick and Choose
Before you make any new purchases, be clear on your specific climate and your region’s hardiness zone. The National Gardening Association can help with that. Just go to their and plug in your zip code!
Tropical plants such as the large-and-in-charge Elephant Ear can offer a dramatic backdrop. Visualize colorful cannas, with their large, banana-like leaves reaching up in front of all that green. Make sure you choose your variety wisely, though, as some cannas grow quite tall. And, depending on your climate, both of the above-mentioned may need to be dug up and kept safe for replanting next spring.
And how about grass? Ornamental grasses can add texture, movement and an overall sense of calm. The miscanthus family offers several fine possibilities. Envision lounging poolside, lulled by the Zebra Grass as it sways in the breeze, its horizontal bands of yellow catching the sun’s rays. Or perhaps you’ll take a much-needed break to watch the sun set behind the Morning Light variety that changes color with the seasons.
Problems and Pain
Plants that shed their leaves and flowers can be bad news – clogging the pool pump and forcing you to work overtime with the strainer. Russian sage, for example, may sound lovely and carefree, but you’ll quickly regret that purchase when you’re forced into the daily chore of collecting the build-up of cast-off blooms. (Oh, and it’s a bee-magnet to boot!)
Thorny, spikey, or prickly plants get a resounding “No!” for obvious reasons. They just don’t mix with bare skin, tender feet, or water balloons! It’s no fun diving into a rosebush or cactus to find the missing beach ball. And while it does come down to personal preference, surrounding your pool with flowers that offer a smorgasbord for bees and other stinging or biting insects may not be the way to go. To that end, steer clear of daisies and nasturtium.
Root systems must also be considered, as some trees and shrubs have aggressive roots that grow deep and spread far. Imagine the horror of roots pushing up patios or sidewalks or even causing a crack in the pool! For this reason, tree lilacs are a poor choice, as are mulberry, willow, and cottonwood. And while mint has a lovely aroma, steer clear of it and other invasive plants – unless you want them staging a hostile takeover of the entire yard.
Play with Positioning
There are countless annuals and perennials that offer a quick-change and loads of variety, particularly if planted in containers. Move them around until you find the best spot. Perhaps you want to conceal a not-so-lovely piece of pool equipment. Containers can be small or large, designed for the purpose or repurposed to create a unique display. Try sand pails brimming with geraniums, pots of salvia seated in old deck chairs, or rain boots filled with coleus! Watering cans can hold hibiscus, and wash tubs can be a great place for coneflower or lamb’s ear. Try planting succulents such as hens-and-chicks in a bird bath, a bucket, or the bed of a disused toy dump truck. The possibilities are endless.
Have some fun. And get growing!