Worried that the view from your diving board leaves something to be desired? Before you send out invites for your 4th of July bash, take a little time to consider your poolside landscaping. We’ve got nine tips on how to make the landscape around your in-ground pool more functional, safe, and beautiful for you and your guests.
In this article, we will cover:
9 tips for poolside landscaping
- Fencing for an in-ground pool
- Turfgrass vs. artificial grass
- Consider mulch and rocks
- Plants for poolscapes
- Hardscape features
- Lighting options
- Shade and seating around the pool
- Banish mosquitoes around your poolscape
- Safety considerations for in-ground pools
1. Fencing for an in-ground pool
Whether you inherit a swimming pool with a new house or install a new pool yourself, let safety be your first priority. A good place to start is with a fence.
Don’t automatically assume that a pool fence will be an unattractive addition to your landscape. Since pool fencing is almost a sub-industry in itself, you may be surprised at the number of color and style options you can choose from today that will complement your overall backyard landscape design.
Some homeowners, especially in Florida, opt for a screened-in pool instead of a fence. Make sure you know your local regulations to make sure you’re in compliance whether you choose a fence or a screen.
Safety is the most important element of your landscaping, especially when you have a pool. Once this important element is in place, you can rest easy and enjoy designing the rest of your poolscape.
Pro Tip: The International Swimming Pool and Spa Code lays out minimum guidelines for residential and commercial pools and water facilities, but specific guidelines vary by city, county, and state. If you have someone else install your pool fence, they should know and follow these local regulations. If you install it yourself, know the guidelines before you begin.
2. Turfgrass vs. artificial grass
Pool surrounds are often made of stone or concrete. Also, hardscapes can be hot on the feet in the summer heat, so consider adding grass to soften an otherwise hard poolside aesthetic. Synthetic turf is making a splash around poolscapes these days, so let’s consider the pros and cons of both real and artificial grass:
|Softens the look of hard pool surrounds||✓||✓|
|Requires water, fertilizer, and mowing||✓||✗|
|Looks great (with appropriate maintenance) all year||✗||✓|
|Higher upfront cost||✗||✓|
|Works well in shade or sun||✗||✓|
Although it has many advantages, synthetic turf isn’t necessarily the right choice for every pool surrounding. If you’d like to learn more about the pros, cons, and (yes) maintenance needs of artificial turf, check out our detailed article, “Artificial Grass as a Grass Alternative” to learn more.
3. Consider mulch and rocks
Another “con” of grass next to your pool surround is that you’ll have to edge it, which is tricky since you don’t want to get grass blades in the pool. You can have a friend shield your weed eater with a flat cardboard box or face you with a leaf blower while you weed eat. Many homeowners avoid this problem altogether and use mulch or rocks instead.
Mulch and rocks are a low-maintenance grass alternative (as long as you weed periodically), and you can avoid the weed eater conundrum to boot. If you’re going to do all of that work, you might as well add pretty shrubs, trees, or flowering perennials while you’re at it.
4. Plants for poolscapes
Which plants work best for those pretty mulched areas you plan to install? Here are a few ideas that will add to the character and beauty of your poolscape.
Is your pool in the sun or shade?
Most of the time, you’ll need plants that can handle full sun because most pools are in the middle of a sunny area. However, sometimes there are trees in close proximity to the pool that create a shaded area. Make sure you choose the right type of plant for either situation. (Look on plant tags for this and other helpful planting information.)
What should you plant around an in-ground pool?
Swimming pool landscaping is very dependent on where you live. What’s great for a pool in the Northeast just won’t float down in balmy Miami. Look in your area. What do others plant poolside? Imitation is the best form of flattery.
Here are a few plant ideas:
- Arborvitae, cypress, yew (or other evergreen shrubs/trees for backyard privacy and minimal leaf litter)
- Liriope and other ornamental grasses
- Small trees, such as various types of palm trees
- Vining flowering plants, such as a climbing rose, for flowering, privacy, and growing over a trellis, pergola, or other tall structure
Whether you have a chlorine or a salt pool shouldn’t be an issue. Pool surrounds are usually wide enough that most of the splash will stay out of your planting beds.
5. Hardscape features
Landscaping idea sessions should include the softscapes (plants) and hardscapes (built objects) around your backyard pool. So, what is hardscaping? Here are a few examples that would work well in a backyard poolscape:
- Outdoor kitchen
- Fire pit
- Pool deck (more popular with above-ground pools)
- Walkways (pavers, stone, brick, concrete)
Gazebos, pergolas, and kitchens extend your outdoor living space with room to relax or prepare a meal. Fire pits mean marshmallows, heat, and more light into the evening hours. Wooden pool decks offer an aesthetic alternative to stone and concrete around your pool, and walkways help to keep feet and the pool clean.
In a backyard poolscape, your imagination (and budget) are your only constraints. Hardscaping elements are one more tool to help create the aesthetic and function you desire around your pool.
6. Lighting options
Another aspect of swimming pool design and landscaping is landscape lighting. Lighting is an area you can DIY or leave to the experts. Simple, solar-powered walkway lights are easy enough for the weekend warrior, but an entire landscape and pool lighting project is best left to an expert.
Here are some simple tips to get you started:
Plan for adequate lighting in areas where you’ll hang out at night. Tiki torches are a cheap and easy DIY way to bring light to your pool surround — no electricians or daisy-chaining required.
If you want something a little less tropical, try using commercial outdoor LED string lights in the bushes and trees that border your pool. These lights will not only turn these landscape features into focal points but also will provide lots of extra light by which to swim and entertain at night.
Small solar lights are a doable DIY project for many homeowners and work great as path lights from the house to the pool. Or, you can purchase lights that will hook into a transformer at your home. Match the style of your light to your home’s aesthetic to light up the night and add to your home’s curb appeal.
Stairs and decks
If pathway lights aren’t enough, consider LED strip lights underneath stair steps or along the railings of a deck or patio. Traditional recessed stair lights also do the job. The last thing you want is for someone to trip and fall to or from the pool due to insufficient lighting. And, that extra light helps you enjoy your patio or deck year-round, not only during the swimming season.
If you’re still using clunky incandescents, work with your pool installer or pool repair company to design or update your in-pool lighting.
Today’s LEDs (light-emitting diodes) provide many advantages when compared with older incandescents. LED lights:
- Use less energy (up to 90% less)
- Last longer (up to 25 times longer)
- Have a lower cost to operate (although the upfront cost is higher)
- Produce more brightness per watt than standard incandescent lights
- Come in different color options (How about red, white, and blue for the 4th of July?)
- Some can be controlled with a remote control or via your smartphone
Adequate in-pool lighting means that swimmers can still see where they’re swimming and get in a few more sets of pool volleyball before packing it in for the day.
Some pool owners even use above-pool lighting to light up the night. Attaching string lights across the pool or across the outdoor seating areas provides a starry night effect even on a cloudy evening.
Final Tip: Remember, electricity and water don’t mix. If you’re at all unsure how to manage your in-pool or landscape lighting, consult with a professional to get the job done safely.
7. Shade and seating around the pool
Swimming pools are ideal gathering places for friends and family. Since not everyone will want to swim, it’s important to provide a nice place for your other guests to sit and relax.
Shade and seating can be as simple as a sun umbrella and lounge chair. A more complex setup might include a vine-covered pergola or another type of sheltered seating area. Some guests will want to sit in the full sun, so shade isn’t necessary for every chair.
Fire pits are another place to gather ‘round, especially in the evening hours when the sun has set. Many houses have decks that overlook the pool, which, if roofed, offer a shaded spot to relax and keep an eye on swimmers below.
Finally, if you are so fortunate to have a shade tree in your backyard, this may be the perfect place to sit under and relax on days when you’d like to stay high and dry.
8. Banish mosquitoes around your poolscape
Landscaping around your in-ground pool is as much about what you do want around your pool as what you don’t. One thing you don’t want? Mosquitoes.
A clean, ready-to-use pool shouldn’t be a mosquito magnet. The chemicals and filter system should keep the pool mosquito-free. A dirty pool, on the other hand, will attract mosquitoes.
To avoid mosquitoes in the off-season, cover the pool with a tight cover that doesn’t have gaps to allow bugs inside. Also, use a pool cover pump to remove standing water on top of the cover at least once per week. A mesh leaf net will help to keep leaves and debris off of the cover in fall.
Mosquitoes lay eggs in water, so the most important thing you can do around your home is to eliminate their breeding grounds.
To prevent or get rid of mosquitoes in the yard, follow these simple tips:
- Remove all standing water to eliminate larvae (and use mosquito larvicides to kill larvae in rain barrels, fountains, or ponds)
- Use an adulticide to kill adult mosquitoes
Disrupting this breeding cycle will greatly reduce the mosquito population in your landscape and keep your pool guests swat and itch-free.
9. Safety considerations for in-ground pools
Even though this is a piece about landscaping, safety considerations play a big part in how the entire backyard poolscape will come together. Here are a few other safety pointers to consider:
Consider a pool cover
Certain pool covers may provide protection against drowning for young children, pets, and small wildlife. Other pool covers are rated only to provide protection against debris.
While some pool owners are interested first in the safety of children or pets, others simply want to keep the pool water clean and make pool care a little easier. If your goal is only to protect the pool from leaves and evaporation, a lower-tier pool cover may still be a good investment.
Whatever your goals, know that not all pool covers are rated for safety, so buy the right pool cover for your needs.
Install drain covers
Ask your pool installer about an anti-entrapment safety cover for your pool drain. Anti-entrapment covers protect swimmers from becoming stuck to a suction fitting or drain while in the pool. These drain covers are required in public pools, spas, and hot tubs, and some local codes require them for residential pools, as well.
Pool safety equipment
When you’re planning your pool landscaping, don’t forget to plan for a place to house safety equipment, such as a reaching pole, rescue tube, ring buoy, backboard, and first aid kit. Having these items in an accessible, yet protected, location is important for the safety of all of your swimmers.
If you’ve maxed out your free time lounging in the pool, call one of our local lawn care pros to take care of mowing, weed eating, and blowing off debris around your pool.
Main Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures | Pixabay