How to Landscape Around a Pool in Phoenix

Landscaped desert pool

Fly over Phoenix into Sky Harbor Airport, and you get a bird’s-eye view of how popular private swimming pools are in the metro area. Yours is not the only one on the block. But a backyard pool can be so much more than just liquid refreshment on a hot summer day. It can be part of an eye-catching oasis — if you landscape it right.

Here are some ideas on how to landscape around a pool in Phoenix.

Pool Deck

Hardscape and patio furniture around a pool
Hardscape around a pool. Credit: Ethan, CC 2.0

Let’s begin with the basics. For one, Maricopa County has rules for pools. And secondly, the Valley of the Sun is a delicate desert environment that can be impacted by your pool water. That’s where a pool deck comes in. It provides you with a safe walkway and place to lounge and buffers the pool from the soil. This protects your grass or desert-scaping from the effects of pool water that splashes out or stormwater runoff that includes pool water.

The county requires a walkway 4 feet wide that goes all the way around the pool — aka a deck.

Concrete is not your only choice, but there are specific rules for building your deck with pavers or flagstone:

  • The pavers have to be slip-resistant.
  • Pavers can’t have jagged edges.
  • They must be filled in with mortar or something else equally solid. Sand is a no-no because it washes out, leaving the pavers unstable.

Privacy

The last thing you want when you’re lounging in your backyard pool is a feeling of being watched. Nor do you want to gaze at your neighbors, or the street or, whatever butts up to your backyard. Privacy screens, walls, and hedges are all aesthetically pleasing ways to block the view. Vines are another gorgeous way to afford yourself some privacy. Imagine cape honeysuckle with its scarlet trumpet-shaped blooms climbing up a wall or fence, or the bougainvillea, which doesn’t need much support to block prying eyes from your backyard pool.  

Shade

Shady area around pool
Phoenix pools benefit from shade. Credit: Alan Light, CC 2.0.

A shade structure over your pool, or at least a shady place for swimmers to take shelter on the pool deck, will protect you and your guests from the harsh Arizona sun. It may also slow down evaporation (although not as much as a pool cover). The right shade from the sun will also give your pool a resort-like feeling. Think the Biltmore Hotel pool, where Marilyn Monroe famously dipped her toes.

Casey Wichman
Casey Wichman

Rising temperatures are affecting leisure activities across the U.S., according to Casey Wichman, research director in the Energy & Environment Lab at the University of Chicago. He found outdoor leisure actually drops in warm-weather cities when the temperature rises.

“The strong negative response for hotter cities makes sense, as they will experience an increasing number of extremely hot days that dampen outdoor activity,” he says. There is little you can do to control the temperature in your backyard, but installing a shade feature will make those hot summer days more bearable.

Maricopa County pool shade rules

Maricopa County’s rules cover shade too:

  • The shade structure shall have a maintenance schedule and be cleaned at least weekly.
  • The shade structure shall slope to the deck drains and away from draining into the pool.
  • The overhead clearance of the shade structure shall be a minimum of 8ft over the deck.
  • The shade fabric shall allow water to pass through and not pond on the shade.
  • If the shade structure drainage affects the water quality, it shall be removed.
  • The supporting posts or columns shall be located at least 4 feet from the pool edge.
  • If there is a bird problem, some method shall be used to discourage birds from landing on the shade structure.

You can construct a sunshade over the water, in keeping with the rules listed above. Other options include heavy-duty shade umbrellas on the pool deck or a pergola that at least breaks up the sun’s rays. A trend that’s gaining in popularity is private cabanas. Not just for hotels and resorts, a cabana can offer you a private place to lounge, sheltered from the sun in your own backyard.

Living Space

Chiminea at poolside
A chiminea at poolside helps keep the outdoor party going. Credit: LDA Media Director, CC by ND 2.0

Turn your backyard into an outdoor living space, and you will spend even more time enjoying your pool — yes, even in the heat of summer. Outdoor kitchens are trending right now, and you can build a simple one DIY for a few hundred dollars. Or you can splurge and spend thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars and have a contractor install an outdoor kitchen with all the gadgets you can think of.

Fire pits and chimineas never go out of style and can add beauty and value to your outdoor living space. Now imagine your outdoor kitchen or firepit area complete with outdoor furniture, and it’s like having a resort at home.

Proud pool owners can take a dip most months out of the year in Phoenix (although some say it’s too cold once the temperatures dip into the 70s). It’s a worthy investment of your time and money to turn your backyard pool into a beautiful, serene outdoor living space where you and your family will make lots of memories.

Brenda Ryan

Brenda Ryan

Brenda Ryan is a former radio newscaster and journalist who writes for LawnStarter’s blog pages. In her free time she enjoys traveling, gardening, visiting wineries, and running 5K and 10K races in her home state of Colorado.