Your backyard pool serves as an oasis on hot summer days, a gathering place where friends and family can relax and enjoy themselves. Of course, you want your landscaping choices to create a lush setting, but pools and decks tend to reflect light and heat, creating a hot, dry microclimate. Plus, there's that chemically laden water splashing everywhere, so you've got to choose salt-tolerant, chlorine-tolerant shrubs, as well as shrubs that don't drop leaves everywhere. Choose adaptable evergreens for a stunning pool setting.
1. Tall Evergreens
Tall evergreens screen your pool area for increased privacy. A pool-friendly shrub, the varnish-leaf or hop bush (Carissa grandiflora) grows to 15 feet tall and has lustrous foliage. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11, this fast-growing evergreen tolerates drought, salt, wind and rocky soil. It produces flowers in spring and fall, followed by green fruits that age to pink, red and brown. In large spaces, plant a Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis). This slow-growing evergreen tree reaches heights to 60 feet and has a canopy of 15-foot-long fronds. It's hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 and tolerates sites without much soil.
2. Medium Evergreens
Medium evergreens screen the pool area without overwhelming the space. The highly salt-tolerant natal plum (Carissa grandiflora) grows well in poolside settings, reaching 10 feet in height with dark, evergreen foliage. Hardy in USDA zones 9b to 11, this rounded shrub blooms with aromatic white flowers and produces edible red fruits. The natal plum grows in full sun to partial shade and tolerates a variety of soil types. Reaching heights to 8 feet, the Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) grows beside pools and is a good filler plant for shaded sites. This Asian native has dark foliage on ascending, curved stems. It blooms with white fall flowers and is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11.
3. Small Evergreens
Small evergreens delineate spaces around your pool. For fragrant foliage and butterfly-attracting flowers, plant rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). This evergreen is prized for its edible, aromatic leaves and grows to 4 feet tall. Rosemary is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10 and thrives in sunny, dry sites. For a low-growing evergreen that thrives poolside, plant a "Harbor Dwarf" nandina (Nandina domestica "Harbor Dwarf"). This tiny shrub grows to just 18 inches tall and has colorful, copper-pink leaves that turn red and gold in fall. It's hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 10, where it prefers well-draining soils and full sun to partial shade.
4. Spreading Evergreens
Ground covers fill in those empty spaces around your pool. Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) grows to 30 inches tall but spreads to 5 feet. This evergreen blooms with scented, multi-colored flowers in shades of pink, purple and yellow year-round. Lantana is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10 and thrives in dry, sandy sites. For scent and color, plant lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus). This broad-leaved evergreen grows to 2 feet tall and spreads to 3 feet wide. Hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9, lavender cotton blooms with yellow flowers in summer and has aromatic, gray-green foliage. Plant lavender cotton in sunny, dry sites.
- University of Arizona Cooperative Extension: Plants for Poolside Landscapes
- Landscaping Network: Swimming Pool Plants
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: 680 Tree Fact Sheets
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: 514 Shrub Fact Sheets
- Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center: Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Lantana Montevidensis
- Sunset: Rosemary (Romarinus Officinalis)
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Santolina Chamaecyparissus
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