Plants for the Pool Perimeter

Keeping a pool clean can be a chore. Don’t make it more labor intensive by surrounding it with mess-making vegetation.

Over the last forty years in South Texas, I have seen my share of pool landscapes. One thing that baffles me are the types of plants placed around the pool area.

Pool maintenance is challenging enough (especially if you’re doing it yourself). There’s no need to add to the labor by surrounding it with mess-making vegetation.

Live oaks create chaos over a pool at least three times a year with pollen from the males, catkins from the females and annual leave defoliation. Crape myrtles bloom at least six months out of the year, constantly covering pools and cleaning devices with small blooms. To a lesser extent, but nearly as prolific are experanza, Pride of Barbados and cenizo, which provide a continuous carpet of lovely flowers throughout the summer.

So, how do you know which plants are appropriate for pools, low maintenance, and tolerant of increasingly frequent freezes and drought?

Here’s my list of low maintenance, freeze tolerant, low water use, verdant and tropical-looking plants for your pool landscape.

Perennials: Permanent groundcovers and flowering small plants that provide color and fill-in between grasses and shrubs.

Silver ponyfoot (sun)

Purple heart (sun)

Iris bearded and butterfly (sun and shade)

Firecracker fern (sun and shade)

Rock rose (sun and shade)

Crinum (sun and shade)

Liriope (shade)

Flax lily (shade)

Spider lily (shade)

Turk’s cap native, pink and tropical (shade)

Ornamental grasses: Upright grasses with different blade textures and colors. Ornamental grasses range in height from one to four feet. All grasses should receive eight or more hours of sunlight.


Fountain grass purple and dwarf

Muhly Lindheimer, bamboo and gulf

Silver bluestem

Evergreen shrubs: Provide visual barriers and architectural support to pool areas.

Split Leaf Philodendron





Sweet olive

Palms: Large, bundled grasses that lend a tropical feel. They’re drought tolerant and can survive on natural rainfall alone. This list survives both cold temperatures and drought.

Sago Palm

Mediterranean fan

Windmill fan

Sabal minor and Mexicana


Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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