Above ground pool ideas: 9 refreshing backyard features

Our stylish above ground pool ideas are perfect for those with smaller plots or budgets

above ground pool in garden
(Image credit: All Canada Photos/Alamy Stock Photo)

When the weather warms, you might start thinking about above ground pool ideas for your garden. It's a wise consideration – these semi-permanent features are perfect for cooling off from the heat and will certainly up the fun factor of your yard come summer.

If you love the thought of a backyard pool, then there are plenty of reasons why choosing an above ground design over an inground one is a good move. They're much quicker to install, for one. But also, their cost tends to be dramatically lower – ideal if you're working with a smaller budget. And speaking of smaller, these designs are often more compact, meaning they're a good solution for petite plots.

And if you think above ground pools are a bit of an eyesore, think again. We've rounded up some of our favorite looks to show how these features can make stylish additions to a plot in their own right.

9 gorgeous above ground pool ideas to inspire a garden update

These setups will inspire you to invest in one of the best above ground pools in no time for the most memorable summer yet.

1. Merge your above ground pool with a sleek deck

above ground pool integrated in deck

Provide an easy access point to your pool

(Image credit: Chiyacat/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

A pool deck is super practical, whether you're opting for an inground pool or above ground. This is particularly the case if you go for non-slip composite (and nowadays, there are plenty of timber-effect designs available for that natural look).

If you're going for an above ground design, we love the idea of integrating it with raised decking as seen here. It really helps to blend the pool into the backyard, while providing an easy access point. And, of course, it also means you'll have a sturdy base to put your best sun loungers for a post-swim nap.

2. Soften the sides with pretty annual plants

above ground pool with plants

Extra flowers in a garden never go amiss

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Another quicker and cheaper way to integrate your above ground pool into your garden is to surround it with pretty flower bed ideas or planted containers.

Opting for low-maintenance annuals is a good choice here. They'll grow quickly, surrounding your pool in beautiful summertime color and, if you opt for fragranced picks, scent. Then, you can switch up the scheme the following year. 

Try jolly nasturtiums and marigolds with their fiery hues, or how about sweet peas for cottage garden charm?

3. Opt for a stylish stock tank design

Salt Shack stock tank pool in garden

(Image credit: Salt Shack)

If you're just looking for a chic way to cool off in the summer heat rather than an energetic swim, then a small stock tank pool might be the winning solution for your yard.

There's a reason they've had such a boost in popularity recently. 'Stock tank pools are stylish, easy to maintain, affordable, and the best for small city backyards,' says Jackie Kelly, Founder of Salt Shack in Toronto.

'They offer a place for adults to float and de-stress, and they offer hours upon hours of water fun for the kids, without the price tag or commitment of an inground pool.'

This one fits in with the rest of the plot beautifully – we're loving the greenery dotted around the scene, the garden mirror, and the string lights for upping the ambiance when dusk falls.

4. Work your above ground pool into a tropical scheme

Kate Gould’s ‘Out of The Shadows’ Chelsea garden

‘Out of The Shadows’ garden, at Chelsea Flower Show 2022, designed by Kate Gould

(Image credit: Kate Gould/Photography: Helen Fickling)

You can still apply stunning pool landscaping ideas around an above ground pool. Take this beautiful design, for instance, created by Kate Gould.

The above ground swim spa – a type of pool that includes a water current setting for swimming against – is a fabulous feature for any smaller plot. And, cladded in metallic discs and surrounded by decking, it doesn't dominate the space. Nearby Corten steel planters and coppery seating and a fire pit reinforce the warm-toned color scheme and ensure the space ties together well. And overhead, the pergola offers a spot of respite from the midday sun.

'There should always be a harmonious balance between hard and soft landscaping in a garden,' says Kate. Here, this tip is demonstrated with the plethora of tropical-style plants, which offset the scheme beautifully.

5. Surround your petite pool with smart paving

above ground pool on circular paving with lawn

A neat circle of paving zones this space

(Image credit: Serhiy Stakhnyk/Alamy Stock Photo)

Creating a dedicated pool patio for your above ground design is a great way to zone the space and protect your lawn from excess water splashes. 

There are lots of styles of paving to choose from – from sleek porcelain to rustic natural stone. Of course, as well as opting for a style that complements the rest of your garden's hard landscaping, it's best to go with one that provides grip underfoot when wet. A winding pathway of stepping stones leading to the zone will add a sense of fun.

In terms of the materials directly underneath the pool, most manufacturers recommend a layer of masonry sand. On top of this, you can add a pool floor pad to protect your pool's liner. A layer of pebbles or gravel directly around the perimeter of your pool is a good idea too, as it will assist with drainage.

6. Opt for timber styles for a natural look

wooden above ground pool

The perfect above ground pool for a family garden

(Image credit: Wahavi/Alamy Stock Photo)

Here's another example of landscaping with gravel around an above ground pool – this time making up a wider border. But it's the structure itself that's caught our eye.

The rich tone of the timber sides and platform has plenty of traditional charm that would work well in all sorts of garden schemes. Note the railings, too – a must for upping the safety factor.

With a design like this, there's also room for storage space – perfect for putting away pool toys after use.

7. Turn up the fun factor with pool inflatables

children playing in above ground pool

Keep kids entertained outdoors

(Image credit: Dejan Marjanovic/E+/Getty Images)

The best pool floats and other fun swimming pool accessories aren't just for large, inground designs. For bigger above ground pools, they're a great way to keep energetic kids and adults alike entertained – whether that's with a mini inflatable volleyball set like this or a floating basketball hoop.

And if you're throwing a pool party, they're a must-have.

8. Set up an outdoor living zone near your above ground pool

above ground pool with plants

This plant-surrounded pool has a covered dining setup nearby

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When considering above ground pool ideas for your plot, don't forget about creating a space nearby for relaxation. That way, you can turn the zone into a real social hub – perfect for entertaining alfresco.

Think comfy loungers, an outdoor dining set, and of course, a BBQ for cooking up delicious treats once everyone's had a swim. Adding some of the best outdoor lights will help to extend the use of the zone into the evening.

Finish the scene with a patio cover to provide welcome shade – a pergola is a classic choice and these days, there are lots of high-tech, louvered options that can be adjusted easily.

9. Make a statement with a stone pool surround

pool surrounded by decorative garden folly wall by redwood stone

This Gothic stone surrounding, designed by Redwood Stone, takes this pool design up a level

(Image credit: Redwood Stone – Folly & Garden)

Want to make a statement with your above ground pool? This Gothic-style stone screen is a fabulous approach. And as well as adding serious style points, it will boost the privacy levels too. 

You could also introduce some climbing plants, with the help of a trellis, for a softer, leafier look. A scrambling rose or jasmine would definitely up the sense of romance.

You can find more stylish ways to surround your pool in our pool fence ideas feature.

How big can above ground pools be?

Classic above ground pools come in a range of sizes and are usually circular or oval, meaning there's a perfect choice for most plots. 

The smallest tend to be around 12ft in diameter, but oval ones can be up to around 40ft in length and 20ft in width, according to Clearwaterpools.com. If choosing the best size to fit your space, remember that measurements usually relate to the inside of the pool, not the perimeter.

Depths generally range from 48in to 54in, although you can get some designs that are deeper.

above ground pool

Above ground pools come in different sizes and shapes

(Image credit: All Canada Photos/Alamy Stock Photo)

Can you bury an above ground pool?

With most above ground pools, simply burying them, as you would an inground pool, tends to be a no-go. 

This is because the walls are not designed to hold back the pressure of the surrounding earth, meaning you risk it collapsing inwards. A better option is to build a raised deck around your pool, which will instantly help it blend into your garden scheme.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.