By Stefanie Waldek published
Our pool landscaping ideas are just what you need if you’ve recently decided to install a pool in your backyard or if you’re thinking of giving your existing one an upgrade. Once you’ve picked out all the details about the pool itself – the size, shape, materials – it’s time to look beyond the water to the landscaping surrounding it.
There’s definitely no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to designing your backyard pool ideas, but there are two main components to consider: landscaping and hardscaping. Landscaping, or softscaping, refers to the living elements of outdoor design – that is, plants! Hardscaping, on the other hand, refers to the non-living elements, which are typically hard surfaces.
‘Personally, I like to see a mix of landscaping and hardscaping around the pool. In most circumstances, I tend to avoid all of one or another,' says landscape architect Joseph Richardson.
To help you start contemplating what kind of pool landscaping ideas you want for your backyard pool, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
1. Include areas for entertaining
Pool areas aren’t just for swimming and sunbathing – they’re also for entertaining. Design areas to host guests, whether that’s an outdoor dining room or an inviting fire pit surrounded by comfy outdoor seating ideas.
‘When my clients don't have a proper pool house, I love to dress up the patio as an extension of the living spaces,’ says designer Isabella Ladd. ‘You can always create a space for lounging and entertaining as long as you zone the patio to flow easily and naturally and add plenty of seating and tables for drinks and bites.
'Choose materials graded for outdoor use and use melamine or plastic when it comes to plates and cups as there are plenty of fantastic options in the marketplace today.’
2. Create boundaries with decorative walls
If you have a bigger yard – and a bigger budget for your backyard ideas – you can create distinct sectioning with artfully designed garden wall ideas, like the ones seen here in this West Palm Beach home by Pembrooke & Ives. The intriguing circular doorway is a really clever use of pool landscaping ideas as it beckons you to explore, while providing a striking backdrop to the pool.
Opting for a sleek, white rendered finish on the wall allows the cool blue tones of the water to stand out against the backdrop, while a mixture of trees helps to soften the overall look of the space and create areas of shade around the edge of the pool – perfect for those hot summer days.
Want more inspiration on how to surround your pool in style? Our pool fence ideas are a great place to start.
3. Use softscaping to create privacy
Want to incorporate some clever garden privacy ideas into your pool landscaping? By growing hedges and planting trees around the perimeter of the pool, you can prevent your neighbors from peering into your outdoor entertaining area.
Greenery provides a much softer, more natural looking backdrop to your pool than a solid garden wall, although don’t forget that you’ll need to maintain it with regular pruning to keep it it looking good.
Make sure you opt for evergreen plants for year-round privacy, and choose one of the best fast growing hedges if you want to create a new garden boundary, fast.
4. Have fun with recreation areas
It’s not just about the overall visual look of your pool landscaping ideas, it’s about how you plan to use the space too. If you’re looking to create a place for fun and games in your backyard pool area, why not consider installing some sort of recreational zone, like the fun putting green in this project.
While you might not have the space or budget for something like this, incorporating some fun garden activities for kids (and adults) into your set-up can be a smart move. Other easy-to-build backyard sport options include bocce or a mini volleyball or basketball court.
5. Go for a natural vibe
Don’t like the idea of an overly manicured yard? Don’t sweat it – you can keep your pool landscaping ideas looking a little more natural, as in the case of this pool area by designer Kendall Wilkinson.
‘With this Atherton home, we wanted the pool to feel like it was an oasis in the middle of the planting,’ says Wilkinson. ‘We kept the perimeter stone narrow and allowed flora and fauna to grow freely with just a little cultivation and grooming. It is a bit of extra maintenance, but the trees and plants give us fresh oxygen and keep the area naturally cooler in the hot summer sun.’
Modern paving ideas connect the pool to the rest of the backyard, with individual slabs inset in the lawn to create a more naturalistic vibe. Planting the far edge of the pool with grasses softens the outlook and helps to screen the pool from view.
If you want to create a similar look, our guide on how to grow ornamental grasses is packed with useful tips.
6. Opt for manicured pool landscaping ideas
Prefer your pool landscaping ideas to be more formal and manicured? In this project by design firm Olivia O’Bryan, a well-thought-out combination of hardscaping and softscaping creates the perfect manicured pool area, complete with freshly cut lawns and lounge areas.
Creating a series of lounge areas at different levels around the pool is a stylish way to add interest to the space and is a brilliant option if you’re looking for tiered garden ideas to make the most of a sloping plot. Plus, what kid wouldn’t love jumping in the pool from the upper patio given half the chance…
7. Make your pool part of the landscape
Some of our favorite pool landscaping ideas are when the pool becomes part of the overall landscape, seamlessly blending into the surrounding area. In this design by Surfacedesign, the infinity pool and its retaining wall become part of the wider space.
This large-scale project also includes a big entertainment area next to the pool, with bocce and a small vineyard. ‘The local code limited grading, so hardscape terraces were created to shape the natural slopes on the property,’ says the design team at Surfacedesign.
Recreating this look is definitely for those with a bigger budget, but there are plenty of smaller ideas to take from this space and adapt to your own backyard. The mix of materials is very striking, with the use of Corten steel for the stepped terraces. We particularly love how the pool’s overflow will add soothing babbling sounds to the landscape, turning a practical design element into a stunning design that we’d happily put straight to the top of our water feature ideas wish list.
8. Create a resort-like sanctuary
Ever wish your home felt more like a chic boutique hotel? Well, extend that notion to your backyard too! Take inspiration for your pool landscaping ideas from this plunge pool at a Balinese villa and you’ll be on the right track.
Build a visually intriguing lounge area (combined with our patio cover ideas for some essential shade, of course), plant some lush greenery, and place luxe furnishing throughout for the finishing touches.
Adding one or two of the best trees for small gardens will lift the planting scheme but their limited size will ensure they don't grow too big to take over the space.
9. Build terraces for an elevated seating spot
Create dynamic pool landscaping ideas by building a terraced patio using hardscaping. Adding height helps to divide up your pool area into different zones, and ensures there’s less chance of you getting a soaking from overzealous swimmers while you’re relaxing on your choice of outdoor sofa ideas.
In this Los Angeles backyard, brick is the hardscaping of choice for the terraced patio ideas. It's a smart solution that will suit both classic and modern garden ideas.
10. Combine nature and design
Not all hardscaping is made equal. If you don’t like the severe look of concrete and want to go for more rustic garden ideas, you could choose natural-looking stone to add a more traditional touch and create the right balance between nature and design.
In this backyard, the curves of the plunge pool are echoed in the simple garden steps ideas to soften the overall effect of the hardscaping and create a look that’s in keeping with the architecture of the property.
What should you consider when it comes to planting for your pool landscaping ideas?
It’s important to design your pool landscaping ideas to suit your climate. If you live in the desert, lush greenery might be difficult to maintain. Live up north? Tropical plants might not appreciate a cold winter. And don’t forget to consider whether the plants shed their leaves – if they do, you might end up spending more time scooping debris out of your pool than actually swimming in it.
Something else you’ll want to consider is how hardy your plants are. ‘Most pools have a high level of chlorine or salt, which can negatively impact plantings around a pool,’ says landscape architect Joseph Richardson.
What are the best hardscaping materials for pool areas?
‘Stone, concrete, porcelain, and wood are all durable materials but there are several points to consider when deciding which to use for your pool landscaping ideas,' says Joseph Richardson.
'These include aesthetics, durability and the temperature of the material when exposed to sun. As an example, stone is attractive, but depending on the color can absorb a lot of heat. Porcelain, concrete, and wood on the other hand tend to stay much cooler, making them a great option for family garden ideas.’
If you're including the latest pool house ideas in your set-up too, you'll also need to consider how the materials you chose for your landscaping will work with the architecture and style of your pool building.
How much should you budget for pool landscaping ideas?
There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to setting a budget for your pool landscaping ideas, as it depends on the size of your property, the climate, and what exactly you want to do with it.
If budget is an issue and you need to consider cheap garden ideas for your space, the most cost-effective approach is to simply leave your yard as it is and stick to simple lawn ideas to surround your pool. Providing you take care of it, it will look good and be soft underfoot too – ideal when there are barefoot kids running around.
At the other end of the spectrum, you could go all out with your pool and backyard landscaping ideas. ‘We tend to find that clients that are undertaking a pool with associated hardscaping and landscaping tend to spend upwards of $250,000 or more for the entire project, pool included,’ says Joseph Richardson.
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