Above-Ground Pool Landscaping Ideas


Your above-ground pool is more than just a place to cool off; it’s the focal point of your backyard. When thoughtfully aligned with complementary plantings and other landscaping elements, it becomes a peaceful sanctuary and entertainment area with a coherent theme or design. As a bonus, your pool-turned-oasis adds value to your home.

Design Elements to Consider

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to landscaping around an above-ground pool. Careful plant selection and placement are important to create a balanced look, however. In addition:

  • Avoid plants that produce a lot of “litter” or that have sharp thorns. Also avoid high-water plants, such as turf grasses.
  • Choose low-care perennials so you can spend more time in your pool and less on plant maintenance.
  • Plant in groups. Several of the same species of flowers, for example, provide greater color contrast than only one.
  • Add height, scale and textural interest with a mixed planting of low-growing perennial flowers and broadleaf evergreen shrubs. The latter also contribute to privacy.
  • Generally, select plants that are between 6 and 48 inches in height and plant within 6 to 8 feet of the pool. This maximizes display while reducing the risk of litter.

The integration of greenery of any kind is what turns a pool yard into a gorgeous landscape, particularly when foliage and flower colors are coordinated with the overall site palette.

Hardy Evergreen Shrubs

Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub that is native to China and Japan and suitable to grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. It is so-named because its foliage and canelike stems are reminiscent of bamboo. Although it may look delicate, the plant is care-free and disease-resistant. Young leaves start out bronzed but turn soft green in spring and bright red by fall. Small white flowers emerge in midsummer that yield to clusters of red fruits in winter. With a preference for full sun and an average height of 4 to 6 feet, it works well as a pool plant and is especially popular in Asian-themed landscapes.

Yellow Bird of Paradise

Yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) is a semi-evergreen shrub in the bean family (Fabaceae spp.) and commonly known as “desert bird” because its flowers resemble a bird in flight. Although this sun-loving plant is original to Argentina and cultivated in USDA zones 9 through 11, it is also naturalized throughout the southwestern United States. With bright yellow, lipped flowers and frilly, red stamens, and a potential height and spread of 8 to 10 feet, this exotic plant makes a colorful impact as a poolside specimen.


  • The seeds are mildly toxic and may produce gastrointestinal upset if ingested.

Colorful Carefree Perennials


As the name implies, the daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) produces large, lilylike blooms that last for a single day. Fortunately, this clumping perennial features multiple 4- to 6-foot stalks with several flower buds each and blooms continuously for up to a month. Although native to Asia, the modern daylily was actually developed at the New York Botanical Garden more than 100 years ago. Today there are more than 13,000 cultivars available, with flower colors ranging from orange, red, yellow and purple to multicolored blooms. The daylily will grow just about anywhere in the United States but does best in USDA zones 4 through 9.

Firecracker Penstemon

Also known as Eaton’s beardtongue and scarlet-bugler penstemon, firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) is a North American wildflower in the figwort family (Scrophulariaceae spp.) that occurs naturally in Colorado, California, Arizona and New Mexico and is cultivated in USDA zones 4a through 8b. This eye-catching perennial produces 2- to 3-foot-tall flower stalks lined with fire-engine-red flowers that sway with the breeze.


Hardscaping is defined as landscaping with hard materials, like natural bluestone or stone pavers. For an above-ground pool, hardscaping generally refers to decking. The type of decking used is generally dictated by budget and preference. Tropical hardwoods are durable and develop a desirable patina when weathered, but they are expensive and, unless certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council, contribute to deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest. Composite decking is cheaper, low-maintenance and usually scratch- and slip-resistant, making it pet- and child-friendly.

Additional ideas to explore:

  • Tile or stone deck surrounds for above-ground pools are decorative and long-lasting.
  • Fencing around the pool or lattice panels on the deck railing add privacy.
  • A pergola positioned on the pool deck provides shade and space for outdoor dining.
  • The strategic use of statuary and lighting creates a spalike atmosphere.


  • Storage benches on the deck offer poolside seating and a convenient place to stash unsightly filters, pool chemicals and other items.

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