Pool landscaping ideas – the best materials, plants and lighting to use

These smart pool landscaping ideas will help you make the hardworking elements of your garden pool a visual feast by combining a range of materials, flowers, lights and more

pool with putting green
(Image credit: Breegan Jane)

Good pool landscaping ideas need careful thought, planning and preparation. 

But worry not. We break down all you need to know about the different types of pool landscaping, from pool landscaping with rocks to pool ideas for privacy and shade.

The materials used – from paving, aggregates and decking, to decorative edging and the hard materials employed for in-ground pools – add texture and character to a backyard pool garden, marking out the structure and leading the eye through to the swimming pool and beyond.

The best time to undertake a pool landscape redesign is in winter, when the backyard is dormant. But the summer months are the time to analyze the ways in which you use the space and to understand what you need from your future design. 

These backyard ideas will help you find the best ways to landscape around a pool and explain what you need to consider before you begin.

Pool landscaping ideas

From putting greens to privacy, these landscaping ideas add major value (and fun) to your pool area.

1. Plant on an island

modern covered outdoor patio

(Image credit: Brittany Farinas, House of One / Lifestyle Production Group)

Your pool landscaping ideas don't have to be relegated to the sides of the pool. For an original idea that evokes a tropical resort, bring the vegetation into the pool by stationing it on an island structure right in the middle of water, like at this Florida home by Brittany Farinas of House of One Interiors. Want to go full paradise vibes? Use palms. 

2. Use lighting to enhance the landscape

Pool with sunloungers and hosue

(Image credit: Designer: The Fox Group Photographer: Lindsay Salazar)

Lighting is the perfect complement to pool landscaping. It can emphasize certain features (try uplighting shrubs and trees) and enhance the overall ambience of a newly landscaped space.

String lights are a pool lighting idea that's more about form than function, but the ambience a set of bistro lights will add to your pool area is second to none. 

If you're lucky enough to have a pool house, use it as an anchor point for your string lights, and stretch them above the length of the pool, like The Fox Group did, above. No pool house? Try filling the bottom of whisky barrel planters with cement, then inserting a wooden post to create a semi-permanent anchor point for lights. Don't forget to finish off the planters with soil and your favorite annuals. 

3. Use planters to add personal style

pool with pool deck

(Image credit: Thomas Guy Interiors / Haylei Smith)

Both your planters and the plants you put in them are a chance to add your personal style to your pool patio ideas.

'We like to include banana leaf trees and orchids to add a touch of nature, and high-design planters can be a creative way to show off one’s own personal style,' says Lance Thomas of Louisiana-based Thomas Guy Interiors. Above, Thomas chose organic planters and unstructured ferns to complement the contemporary, minimalist pool design. 

4. Include a putting green

pool with putting green

(Image credit: Breegan Jane)

Your pool landscaping ideas can offer more than just beauty and a bit of shade. Add recreation to the list by installing a putting green adjacent to your pool patio, like interior designer Breegan Jane did at her client's Southern California home, where the goal of the outdoor space was to 'surprise and delight.'

5.  Use landscaping for privacy

pool with cabanas

(Image credit: Brittany Farinas, House of One Interiors / Lifestyle Production Group)

Looking for a pool fence idea that adds privacy and beauty? Your landscaping can do the job if you plant high trees or bushy shrubs around the perimeter of your pool or property, a la this Florida property. 

Another idea we love from this photo? The cabana. When you're brainstorming your landscaping and pool area ideas, don't forget to include a shady spot to retreat to when you're tired of sunbathing. 

6. Invest in LED lighting around a pool

An example of pool landscaping ideas showing a pool with LED lights at night

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

When considering pool landscaping, smart pool lighting ideas certainly have their part to play. A well-planned lighting scheme can do wonders for your backyard pool and shouldn't be an afterthought.

'For small cascades and fountains, direct underwater spotlights onto the plinth of flowing water, or run a color-changing LED strip along the rill from which the water emerges,' suggests Sally Storey, lighting director at John Cullen. 

An impressive backyard pool is hugely enhanced when illuminated at night. Underwater lights can be halogen, LED or fiber optic, but they must be encased in waterproof, IP-rated fixtures. 

Alternatively, solar garden lighting ideas, such as bulbs hidden in between evergreens or in containers create a soft glow.

7. Pick the perfect pool deck landscaping

The view of a pool surrounded by trees from under a pergola with decking

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton Photography)

Poolside deck ideas provide versatile and cost-effective ways to extend your living area into the outdoors. What's more, decking creates the perfect focal point for a low-maintenance yard, and is cheaper and easier to use than paving.

At its best, a sturdy, water-resistant timber deck is a handsome, hard-wearing pool area idea that complements most backyard pool settings.

But decks don’t only look good: other advantages include being relatively lightweight in comparison to stone, quick and easy to install and forgiving. Plus, timber can be cut to size to fit perfectly round awkward corners – perfect if you don't have a rectangular pool.

8. Add shade and privacy with ivy

An example of pool landscaping ideas showing a small pool with a boundary wall covered in foliage

(Image credit: Future / Armelle Habib)

In an ideal world our pool areas would be private sanctuaries where we could swim, entertain and relax away from prying eyes. 

Yet, for many pool owners, the reality is quite different. Spending time outdoors can be like living in a goldfish bowl because there is nothing to screen their backyard pool from neighboring windows. 

Smart garden shade ideas are great if you want to shield your pool area from the neighborhood and create shady coverage at the same time. A good place to start is with your pool fence or property boundary.

If you have an existing fence or trellis, plant ivy near the base to create a living privacy wall. No fence? Plant a deciduous hedge, or trail ivy up a wall using a trellis.

9. Landscape with rocks, trees and overgrown grasses

A large lake surrounded by trees with a rock garden and overgrown grass

(Image credit: Future / © Roy Westwood)

If you are not one for a traditional pool area, then consider a more natural landscape for your outdoor swim. 

Today’s natural pools – or swimming ponds as they are often known – are welcomed into the border garden, whether in a formal setting of lawns, surrounded by flowers and grasses, or even made to look like a natural garden pond. 

For a rugged appearance, take inspiration from creative rock garden ideas and lay down plenty of misshapen rocks, pebbles and limestone. The main highlight of a rock garden is the quiet, zen-like aesthetic they add to your backyard. 

10. Highlight a rectangular pool with flower beds and borders

A pool area at the back of a house with a patio, sun loungers and flower beds with small trees with flower beds and borders

(Image credit: Future / Alistair Nicholls)

Whether you like raised garden bed ideas or you prefer planting straight into the ground, flower beds can make exceptional dividers for a garden path around a backyard pool. 

This is especially the case when you bring tall, architectural plants into the mix. This smart garden path idea is a beautiful way to establish the boundary of a walkway and to zone off your pool area from the rest of the garden. 

What's more, it will continue to offer color and structure throughout the seasons, even when the pool is not in use.

11. Set up a seating area around the pool

A Mediterranean style garden room surrounded by plants next to a pool area with sun loungers

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

When considering pool patio ideas and other hard landscaping materials for a pool, your first priority will be to establish the functional spaces, from terraces and patios, to paths and borders around the swimming pool. 

The expanse of an area and its use will dictate which materials are most suitable.

For instance, a hard standing for a table and chairs needs to be flat and stable, and you might want to keep granular aggregates, such as gravel or bark, away from the pool so they are not carried into the water. 

12. Install a non-slip surface 

An example of pool landscaping ideas showing an indoor pool with wooden beams and a non-slip floor

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

While a pebble-dashed floor isn't entirely non-slip, it is certainly a less slippery option in comparison to stone slabs, pavers and decking. 

Opt for an entirely smooth surface to avoid any nasty cuts on the feet and if your pool is indoors, be sure to include a professional drainage system. 

Proper drainage will ensure that the water in your in-ground pool remains clean and protects your surrounding yard, deck, patio, landscaping, and home from possible water damage, erosion, and debris. 

Plus, no one wants to be constantly mopping up water. 

13. Landscape around a pool with grass

An example of pool landscaping ideas showing a pool surrounded by fields and hills

(Image credit: Kimberley Harrison / Kathryn MacDonald)

Your lawn serves as a huge source of air conditioning for your garden and also releases oxygen and simultaneously captures dust, keeping you and your family healthy, so it's a perfect option for near a pool area. 

To reap the many benefits to the full, keep your lawn as healthy as possible and your lawn pays you back for all the work you put into it.  

What’s more, your lawn needs plenty of water to encourage the roots to grow deep into the ground, and the best way to achieve this is to water deep. Try to water heavily, on an infrequent basis. 

Plus, you’ll want to make sure the chlorine from the pool doesn’t sit on top for too long. 

14. Use concrete as a modern alternative to stone slabs

A smal pool area next to glass french doors and exterior walls with wood slats and concrete

(Image credit: Future / Matthew Williams)

Lusting after a modern industrial landscape? Durable, easy to clean and heat-retaining, there’s a lot to love about concrete flooring in a modern backyard. 

Perfect for nailing the urban trend, it works best in contemporary spaces, but can also be mixed with plenty of greenery and colored foliage for a striking contrast.   

While the use of concrete has become commonplace, it was once seen as an inferior material in comparison to stone. But if we can forget about it as a cheap substitute we discover that it has its own intrinsic qualities, as interesting as natural materials and very much more versatile.  

Concrete is quite simply a blend of aggregates – sand and gravel or crushed stone – bonded together in a dense, stone-like mass by hardened cement. 

This material has made possible incredible structures and surfaces. It is the cement that gives concrete its dull-gray appearance, and so the secret with in-situ garden paving is to remove the cement from the surface before it sets. 

15. Mix materials around a pool

A pool area with pavers sunk into the lawn and green and white sun loungers to one side

(Image credit: Belgard)

Large patio pavers have been gaining popularity in California in recent years, and it is easy to see why. 

If you're wondering how to make your garden feel more modern without embarking on an overly expensive redesign, then you should seriously consider employing oversized patio pavers for the landscaping around your pool. 

As far as backyard landscaping ideas go, large pavers are the opposite of discreet and that's exactly why we're seeing more of them in outdoor paving designs. 

Bold and immediately noticeable, oversized paving slabs create an instant indoor-outdoor effect, because they emit the luxury look of indoor tiles – just outdoors.

What is best to put around a pool?

An example of pool landscaping ideas showing a traditional garden room with glass panels, pavers and a small pool

(Image credit: Future / Jody Stewart)

Paving slabs are one of the most common garden materials for landscaping around a pool. Paving or pavers are readily available as individual blocks, in a wide range of shapes, colors and sizes that can be laid in several pattern configurations. You can also buy specialist kits, such as circles, for patios. 

Mostly made from pre-cast concrete or reconstituted stone, pavers can also be used for garden paths, terraces, steps and patios. They are also ideal for adding a large expanse in the same color/material. A matching path and patio area can be used to lead the eye through the garden or to an adjacent pool house

What's more, pavers are mostly affordable, readily available and fairly straightforward to lay. Small pavers can be teased into curves, tight corners and organic shapes, and there are a good selection of edgings and borders available to complete the look. 

Be aware that large pavers will need cutting. Tailor your design to limit the number of cuts at planning stage, and hire a slab and walling block splitter to ensure a neat job.

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.

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