—Make the right choices for the microclimate around your pool and patio
Guest Author: Tony Steine
When homeowners build a swimming pool, they often add landscaping to complete the project with style and beauty. A common approach is to pick your favorite plant varieties. However, this could be a mistake.
Later, when the pool is completed and time goes by, some homeowners discover that their selections were not a great fit for a pool and patio area. They did not know that conditions around the pool, spa, and patio area pose growing challenges to certain kinds of plants. Among these variables is temperature.
How pools, spas, and patios can create “ultra-microclimates”
While pools provide a place to cool off, that doesn’t mean that the patio or hardscape around them is necessarily a cool area.
For example, in small, walled-in outdoor spaces, several factors may converge to create a kind of tiny weather zone. A tight backyard with a pool, spa, and heat-absorbing deck and little breeze can produce a unique microclimate.
The patio hardscape is one reason this microclimate forms. Darker colors of decking and certain kinds of hardscape materials will absorb and retain more heat. This makes the pool area hotter for plants.
In this kind of sheltered yard, if the pool is heated, another condition may occur: As warm, moist air floats up from the surface of the heated water, the overall humidity can increase in the immediate area. Ditto if a heated spa is throwing off steam. The resulting microclimate with extra warmth and humidity can affect nearby plants.
With that in mind, if backyard conditions are likely to alter the immediate environment, you want to take extra care with plant choices. The best ones to use around a pool are those that can withstand higher temperatures and humidity. Let’s take a look at five great plant options to landscape your aquatic resort.
Deciding to plant evergreen bushes around a pool area is pure genius for several reasons. Evergreens live up to their name; they are perennials that remain green all year long. That makes them a beautiful element of your outdoor living space—even when the weather turns cooler and many other shrubs lose their color.
The creeping varieties of evergreens, such as Purple Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei var. 'Coloratus'), Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis), and Blue Rug Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), provide excellent ground cover. They are also free of pollen or shedding leaves, so you don’t have to worry about the debris mucking up your swimming environment.
Evergreen trees are also a smart pick near the pool and patio area. When they grow tall and wide, they provide shade on a sunny afternoon in your backyard resort.
2. Ornamental Grass
Ornamental grasses are decorative plants that can be either short or tall. And because the grass comes in multiple varieties, it’s easy to choose one that is popular in your growing zone. This grass blends well with other backyard plants, and it brings an attractive textural element to your outdoor space.
Ornamental grasses grow quickly with minimal maintenance. For example, some varieties mature to a certain height and then stop growing any taller—so no mowing is required. Better yet, that means no pesky grass clippings to blow into your pool water.
These grasses are also hardy: They don’t mind the excess water that splashes out from a nearby pool or any micro-climate humidity that a heated pool or spa may create.
Many varieties will not suffer in a warm microclimate by the pool and deck. Among them: Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'), Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'), Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), and Morning Light (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).
3. Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
This gorgeous lime green perennial is a superb option for ground cover or landscape around a pool. It also flourishes in large pots or landscape boxes around a pool.
Creeping Jenny is vigorous in its growth, which provides a great jumpstart for pool areas where existing plants are scarce. However, because it grows so ambitiously, Creeping Jenny makes a poor neighbor: Be sure to position it away from other plants so it won’t impede their growth.
Many homeowners plant Creeping Jenny in a large container or over a trellis. That allows the plant to drape over the edge nicely. With its small, lovely yellow flowers, the blooms give your patio area an extra punch of color during pool season.
4. Plantain lilies / Hostas
Known for their ability to grow quickly, as well as their variegated coloring, Hostas are a favorite to plant poolside. They also produce large leaves that give a lot of coverage for any sparse ground near a pool. With their tropical appearance, they are a particularly good choice to complement a lagoon-style pool and setting.
Another reason for their popularity: a reputation as ultra-easy to grow with minimal maintenance. Keep in mind that varieties differ in their ability to endure heat. Some prefer shade, such as Hosta ‘Halcyon’. Therefore, be sure to seek sun-tolerant varieties, such as those with lighter-colored leaves so that they will fare better in direct sunlight. In particular, August Lily (Hosta plantaginea) can handle high temperatures.
5. Daylilies (Hemerocallis)
Daylilies are beautiful, and they come in a range of colors with plenty of hybrid options to satisfy the taste of any homeowner. They have a tropical look, making them an attractive accent around a pool and patio area.
Daylilies come in numerous varieties. Many enjoy plenty of morning sun, and some can handle six or more hours a day of it. So choose a variety that can accept heat well, and plant them in an area where they can get maximum sun exposure during the early part of the day.
A particular attribute is their tolerance to salt water. If you have a salt-chlorine sanitizer on your pool, the splash out can harm nearby landscaping. So daylilies are a great option for those imminent splashes of salt-filled water.
Determining which plants to use around a pool is an important part of creating a backyard oasis that you’ll enjoy each day in sunny weather.
Not only do plants add beauty and color to the area, but they will also bring depth and texture—helping round out your outdoor living space. Consider these plant choices for landscaping around your pool for a colorful backyard escape.
Tony Steine is a garden and landscape writer. He takes pride in finding the easiest way to do anything, and you can bet he’s tried to make his entire garden self-watering. Of course, he isn’t just about convenience—he likes to add unique design flair to everything he does.