How to Landscape Around Your In-Ground Pool

Landscaped desert pool

It’s an idyllic summer afternoon. Your family just moved into a new house with an in-ground pool, and you’re ready to enjoy it. There’s just one problem: Instead of having fun, you’re stumped thinking about how to landscape around your in-ground pool so it doesn’t look dingy surrounded by dead grass and empty space.

You can save yourself from this fate by making your new pool area fun and fabulous with these effective techniques for landscaping around your in-ground pool.

A swimming pool with a deck, fence, and lots of plants
Privacy
Palm trees planted near a swimming pool
Trees
Trees around pool
Shrubs and Flowers
Small succulent garden beside a swimming pool
Succulent Garden and Other Plant Options
Natural-looking rocks with a fountain feeding into a pool
Hardscapes
Lighting near a pole
Lighting

Privacy

A swimming pool with a deck, fence, and lots of plants
This pool landscape uses a wooden lattice fence and vegetation for privacy
Photo credit: Pikrepo

Maybe you have nosy neighbors, or maybe you want a few moments’ refuge in the pool without the kids noticing. Whatever your reasons for wanting privacy while you swim, here are some suggestions on how to landscape for privacy in your backyard.

  • Install a fence: The most obvious solution is a privacy fence around your backyard. Before you put up a fence, make sure it meets your state’s regulations for swimming pool barriers. You’ll also want to check your city and homeowners association’s fence height rules. 

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has laid out thorough guidelines for keeping your pool as safe as possible with fencing. Aside from fencing, there are more creative and natural ways to create a private swimming pool environment, as well.
  • Plant for privacy: You could plant boxwood shrubs around your pool or set up a trellis with vines growing through it. If you live in a tropical climate, you can grow a grove of palm trees around your property. These will give your pool the feel of a tranquil island resort while blocking the view of prying eyes.
  • Build a terrace: For an even more aesthetically pleasing privacy screen, adventurous homeowners can build a terraced landscape around their pool area with retaining walls and colorful plant beds.
A terraced pools cape with wood patio beside pool and couches on another level
A terraced poolscape.
Photo Credit: alexandre zveiger / Shutterstock

Trees

Strategically planting trees around your in-ground pool can make it feel and look like an integral part of your backyard’s landscape. You don’t want to plant just any tree near your pool, though. Many trees shed leaves, flowers, and fruit that can litter your pool and clog cleaning equipment.

To save yourself the trouble of cleaning up after messy trees every time you want to use your pool, look for species that won’t shed during the swimming season.

You also have to be careful about the size of trees you plant near your in-ground pool. If the tree’s roots expand too much, they could damage the pool’s plumbing or concrete structure. If they aren’t rooted enough, they could topple over onto your screened-in pool (or even your home).

Palm trees planted near a swimming pool
Palm trees are a simple way to accent this otherwise barren pool patio
Photo Credit: Pxhere / CC0 1.0

Here are a few examples of trees that are good for in-ground pool landscaping:

  • Palm tree (Arecaceae)
  • Citrus trees
  • Fruitless olive tree (Olea europaea ‘Wilsonii’)
  • Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
  • Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

And a few trees that’ll have you skimming more often than swimming:

  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
  • Flowering cherry tree (Prunus)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Tulip tree (Liriodendron)
  • Pine tree (Pinus)

Shrubs and Flowers

Trees around pool
A diverse selection of flowering shrubs and colorful leaves makes this pool landscape stand out
Photo Credit: Peggy Marco / Pixabay

When adding bushes or flowering plants to your in-ground pool area, it’s always a good idea to look for vibrant, colorful plants that will complement the bright blue of the pool water. Choose plants of several different colors and textures to take your pool’s landscape from monotonous to audacious.

Some common favorites for a poolside pop of color include: 

  • Hydrangeas
  • Hibiscus
  • The bird of paradise

For a natural look that’s easy to care for, try lining your pool with a “bed head”-style garden, a garden that grows wildly and randomly, just like a scenic field of wildflowers and evergreens.

Plants in containers around a pool
Since this pool is surrounded by concrete pavers on all sides, its landscape uses a scattered container garden for a natural touch and pops of color / Image Credit: LesleyBradshaw / Needpix

A container garden (potted plants arranged in a cohesive design) might be a good layout choice if your pool is surrounded by hardscapes that make planting in the ground difficult or impossible.

Succulent Garden and Other Plant Options

Small succulent garden beside a swimming pool
This low-maintenance succulent garden is a poolside landscaping solution suitable for even a novice gardener
Photo Credit: Laura Eubanks, Design for Serenity / Youtube

There are even more great plants to complement your in-ground pool that don’t fall under the category of trees or shrubs. 

  • Try out grasses and succulents: Ornamental grasses and succulents are relatively low-maintenance options that can make a statement when used effectively with the rest of your landscape.
  • Discover ground cover: Creeping plants (also known as ground cover), such as vines, are an easy way to add greenery without drawing focus away from the more fascinating plants.
  • Add some herbs: If you want to turn your pool into a spa-like backyard oasis, you might consider planting fragrant herbs. For instance, lavender, jasmine, or sage can enhance your pool area’s visual appeal while simultaneously releasing a soothing musk into the air.

Hardscapes

Small statue of a woman beside a pool
The focal point of this pool’s landscape is its statuary
Photo Credit: Shesmax / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

From gazebos to rustic stone pathways, hardscapes can improve your pool landscape just as much as plants can:

  • Add an outdoor patio: If you entertain guests often, you may want to build an outdoor living space, such as a pool deck or patio.
  • Try your hand at sculptures: You might also center your in-ground pool landscaping around a conversation-starting piece such as a sculpture or water feature.
Natural-looking rocks with a fountain feeding into a pool
A waterfall with natural stone turns this backyard pool into a grotto in the wild
Photo Credit: islandworks / Pixabay
  • Go natural: For a more natural look, surround your pool with boulders and river rocks. Complement them with a bubbling fountain or simple waterfall to give your pool the peaceful feel of a mountain spring.
  • Get creative with pavers: If you have a geometric-shaped pool, pavers could be the perfect accessory to create a modern landscape design with clean lines and a minimalist look.

Lighting

Especially if you live in a hotter climate, pool owners may want to enjoy your pool even after the sun goes down. Don’t worry, lighting your pool doesn’t mean sacrificing the artful scenery you’ve built.

  • Try out tropical: The best lighting for your pool depends on the theme of your landscape. If your design features tropical plants, you might accent them with tiki torches.
  • Make it romantic: Going for a softer, more romantic look? Try hanging a string of lights across your poolside patio or through the overhanging trees.
  • Space out with solar lights: For something less noticeable during the day, you could install small solar-powered pool lighting around the perimeter.
Lighting near a pole
Hanging lights over this pool and seating area create a cozy nighttime hangout spot
Photo Credit: thanhhoa tran / Pexels

FAQ: Landscaping Around an In-Ground Pool

How Much Does it Cost to Landscape Around a Pool?

The price tag of a swimming pool landscape is highly customizable. If you’re working on a budget, you can choose cheaper features and building materials.

For example, if you want a pool fence, you can save money by using wood or aluminum instead of glass. It all depends on the look you want and the amount of money you’re willing to spend.

The overall landscaping cost also depends on whether you plan to DIY your landscape or hire a professional. Obviously, you’ll save money by installing it yourself, but a professional landscaper’s work will probably be more reliable.

Installing a new in-ground pool typically costs between $32,408 and $60,873, with an average national cost of $45,583. For the surrounding landscape, prices vary on what you want to get installed.

• For sod installations, you’re looking at around $0.87 to $1.76 per square foot.

• The average for a professional to install a pathway is around $8 to $22 per square foot.

• Retaining walls costs range from $4,025 to $8,711 on average.

• If you wanted to add trees and shrubs the cost ranges widely from $25 to $3,000. Flower beds costs are similar, ranging from $650 to $3,000.

• For pergola installations, the average cost ranges from $2,216 to $8,959.

If the price of the full in-ground pool and landscaping seems too steep, consider an above-ground pool, and check out these helpful tips and landscaping ideas!

Can I Put Sand Around my Pool?

Contractors often use sand to backfill swimming pools, but in certain conditions, it can cause issues such as wall bulges if it gets too wet. If you have soil that retains a lot of water, you might want to consider gravel or another alternative for backfilling.

If you want to use sand around your pool for decoration, just keep in mind that adding sand to your soil can make it uninhabitable for some plants. It can also get messy inside the pool and out. Unless you really have your heart set on a beach-like pool setting, using sand probably isn’t worth the trouble.

How to Landscape an In-Ground Pool on a Budget

Landscaping your in-ground pool on a budget can be easy when you choose cheaper features, building materials, and less intricate designs. Usually, it comes down to being smart with the resources you choose to purchase. That said, your pool doesn’t have to be boring just because you’re on a budget:

Decorate with LED lights: Having light fixtures or string lights around the pool can bring an inviting and cozy ambiance while also saving you some big bucks in the process. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and searching to find which lights work best for your budget.

Try out a rock garden: Try adding a small rock garden around your poolside landscape. A small rock garden can offer a cheap, creative landscape without the cost or hassle of a full garden. You can use larger rocks in your garden, but typically, the bigger the rocks, the higher the cost.

Plant ornamental grass: Ornamental grass is a cheaper, easier alternative to a full jungle of plants. Sure the bright greens and colors of vibrant flower beds can be attractive, but they’re also more expensive. Ornamental grasses offer less maintenance while providing your boring poolscape with that extra touch of nature.

When to Call a Landscaping Professional

Some pool landscaping projects might be DIY, but calling a professional is a good idea if you have a more complicated pool design in mind, such as a terraced landscape or a new patio. After all, if you already have professionals handling your lawn care, pool care, and pest control, why not add a professional landscaper to the list?

Landscaping pros have construction capabilities and botanical knowledge that you probably don’t have on your own. They can take your wildest dreams for your backyard pool landscape and make them a reality.

With these landscape design ideas and tips, you can take your in-ground pool from drab to dramatic. The next time you go swimming, you’ll enjoy the view.

Main Image Credit: zachstradling / Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer, editor, and classical literature student based in Colorado. When she isn't reading or writing, she enjoys goofing off with her cats and spending time in nature.