The plants you choose to surround your pool should be carefully considered before any buying or digging takes place. Once your pool is in place, you may find that it creates a sort of microclimate. A heated pool can raise humidity levels, and intense sunlight can fry nearby landscaping. Plants can get splashed with chlorine and other pool and spa chemicals. The trick is to find strong plants that can withstand your pool’s microclimate, are easy to maintain and still look great.
If you desire a tropical look for your pool area and live in a mild, frost-free climate, Banana trees (Musa) instantly create the mood you may be looking for. Bananas are fast-growing herbaceous perennials or trees with tropical-looking long, broad leaves. Plant them in a spot safe from winds, because those great-looking leaves can get ripped-up easily if not near a wall, fence, or protected by neighboring plants.
Put on your hula skirt and tuck a heavenly hibiscus behind your ear: it’s luau time! If you’re lucky enough to grow Hawaii’s state flower in your zone, then go for it—you have many species to choose from, with dreamy names like ‘White Wings,’ ‘Crown of Bohemia,’ ‘Kona Princess,’ and ‘Flamenco Flame.’
While hibiscus traditionally isn’t used in floral arrangements, there is a trick to using one in an arrangement or alone in a vase for a few hours in the evening. Pick one during the day while it’s in full bloom, then put it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh and open, ready for you to pop into a vase for a short time period, like at a dinner party.
If you’re thinking of going the tropical-oasis route, a giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) will get you there quickly. It looks similar to a banana plant, has an upright growth habit and 5 to 10-foot-long leaves. Like the banana, Strelitzia nicolai needs shelter from strong winds, or its leaves will get ripped and not look as good as it could.
Both giant bird of paradise and the smaller bird of paradise make excellent choices for poolscaping—neither shed and are strong enough to tolerate splashing (in moderation, of course).
Ornamental grasses are excellent choices for poolside landscaping: they are easy to care for, not too messy, grow quickly, blend nicely with other plants, and create a striking form, day or night. This particular ornamental grass is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus,’ zebra grass or sometimes called porcupine grass. Its horizontal stripes give it an exotic look that goes well with tropical landscaping.