Pool shade ideas: 10 ways to shelter your swimming pool from the hot sun

Keep cool with our pool shade ideas – from beautiful planting to chic covers

swim spa in Kate Gould's Chelsea Flower Show 2022 garden
(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs)

When summer weather hits, pool shade ideas can become tempting for those who have one of these backyard features. Taking a swim is the ultimate way to cool down, but on seriously hot days, a bit of extra shelter from the sun can be welcome.

Just as there are plenty of shade ideas for gardens to elevate your seating space, there are options for cooling your pool, too. Implement some of these looks and you'll ensure ultimate comfort and UV protection while you take a dip – and the best part is, they look super stylish, too.

Elevate your pool patio or deck this summer with these 10 pool shade ideas

Get your backyard pool summer-ready with these looks – there are all sorts of styles to choose from.

1. Install a shade sail over your pool

shade sail over swimming pool

Shade sails are affordable and effective

(Image credit: Anna Stowe Travel/Alamy Stock Photo)

One of our favorite ways to create shade anywhere on a plot is with a shade sail. They're affordable, easy to install, and add a sculptural, modern aesthetic. 

As Managing Director at Caribbean Blinds, Stuart Dantzic, says, 'Fabric shades add a splash of color and that Mediterranean feel to a poolside and are available in an extensive range of materials, designs, and colorways.'

In this luxurious pool, they've been suspended from the trunks of nearby trees to create a spot of respite from the sun. The neutral tone works well with the classic surroundings, but you could pick a brighter shade to make more of a statement with your pool canopy ideas.

What's more, a waterproof fabric shade will keep off any summer showers, adds Stuart.

2. Keep off the heat with a pergola nearby

pool with olive tree and nearby pergola

This contemporary setup has everything needed for entertaining alfresco in style

(Image credit: MediaWorldImages/Alamy Stock Photo)

Pergolas are a classic way to create shade in a garden. Position one close enough to your pool and it will shelter an area of the water from the sun, as well as provide a lovely place to lounge after your swim. For smaller pools, you could go one step further and build your pergola over the pool completely, or above a section of it.

Modern aluminum pergolas that feature rotating louvered roofs offer a contemporary alternative to fabric shades, explains Stuart, while allowing you to play with light and shade.

By investing in a shading product constructed from a corrosion-resistant material, such as aluminum, that's treated with a water repellent and self-clean coating, it won't be damaged by splashes from the pool. Plus, it will be able to withstand all types of weather, Stuart adds – even rain and snow.

We love the central olive tree as part of the pool landscaping ideas in this setup, too – what a way to make a statement (and provide even more shade).

3. Cover your pool deck with an awning

pool in deck

A canvas awning will provide shelter from sun and showers

(Image credit: Martin Harvey/Photodisc/Getty Images)

If you've got a small plunge pool, hot tub, or swim spa on your patio or deck, then a fabric garden awning will keep it sheltered from the sun's rays.

On this rustic cabin's deck, the canvas awning simply extends as part of the roof to shelter the seating and above ground pool. But there are lots of designs that can be installed on an exterior wall that open and retract to create shade easily when needed. It's an effective (and generally, quite affordable) option for a sunny pool deck.

4. Create shade with tropical plants

swim spa in Kate Gould's Chelsea Flower Show 2022 garden

The swim spa in Kate Gould's 'Out of the Shadows' Chelsea Flower Show 2022 garden was surrounded by beautiful plants

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs)

Planting lots of greenery around your pool will create a jungle-like vibe as well as keep the area cool. There are lots of lovely tropical plants to choose from – but ferns with their feathery fronds have to be one of our favorites.

This beautiful show garden, featuring a swim spa, is the perfect example. And there are lots of other stunning pool design ideas to get inspired by here, too, including the sleek deck and the outdoor shower installed on a statement backdrop of overlapping, metallic discs.

5. Position a parasol to the side of your swimming pool

outdoor pool with parasol and inflatable

Patio umbrellas are a go-to way to create shade outdoors

(Image credit: Thanyakan Thanapanprasert/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

If you haven't invested in one of the best garden parasols yet, summer is the perfect time to do so. 

They're easy to put up or down whenever you need a bit of shelter and less of a commitment (and more affordable) than permanent shade structures. Plus, there are lots of designs available, from simple, colored styles to chic oversized cantilever umbrellas that can be adjusted as the sun moves.

Position one or two near your pool's edge – perhaps near the steps, shallow end, or if you have one, the baja shelf. That way, you can lounge in the cool while enjoying the water.

6. Build up a sloped landscape with boulders and plants

natural pool amongst rockery with sun loungers and parasol

Create shade with organic surroundings

(Image credit: Andrew Twort/Alamy Stock Photo)

A subtle way to create a bit more shade for your pool is to build up a rugged landscape around it that resembles the great outdoors.

Try landscaping with boulders around the edges as well as adding plenty of plants. For larger pools, you could take the look a step further and build a cooling grotto for sheltering from the sun.

This approach complements natural pools beautifully, but is a great way to soften more classic styles, too.

7. Opt for a covered seating area in your pool

modern tropical pool with gazebo

A private paradise for relaxing on hot days

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

For the ultimate in luxury outdoor living, consider adding a shaded seating area that extends out over your pool.

This gorgeous daybed, surrounded by gently lapping water, is the perfect place to lounge. The tiled roof will keep the sun's glare away, and will cast shade over areas of the water throughout the day, too.

The use of levels, sleek paving, and a baja shelf with sun loungers complete this setup's chic look. Throw a pool party in a space like this and your guests will never want to leave.

8. Screen one side of your pool to block the sun

narrow pool with daybed and planting

Add a smart garden wall to keep off the sun

(Image credit: martin berry/Alamy Stock Photo)

Garden walls aren't just for providing privacy and defining boundaries – when positioned with careful consideration of how the sun moves throughout the day, they can also create shade.

In this exotic scheme, a neutral-toned wall lines one side of the narrow infinity pool, as well as the covered daybed. As demonstrated, it opens the opportunity to add a soothing water feature, too – another stylish way to cool down a pool. And for extra greenery, you could also add wall-hung planters to create a stylish living wall.

Avoid enclosing all sides of your pool, however, otherwise you'll prevent a cooling breeze from passing through.

9. Install your pool on a lower level

US backyard with pool and boulders

A chic setup from Maestri Studio

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Photography: Jenifer McNeil Baker)

Pool shade ideas call for shelter in one way or another, and one way to do this is to work with the levels in your plot.

For instance, building a raised pool patio in the most exposed area of your yard means there won't be much nearby to create shade throughout the day. But install it on a lower tier of your plot and, depending on the aspect, it's more likely that you'll benefit from the shade of the house, or the trees, plants, and other garden features positioned higher up. 

This layout, with its natural-style rockery, is a great example, and those boulders soften the slope pleasingly, too.

10. Extend your patio cover to the edge of your pool

pool with patio cover

This backyard is ready for outdoor living all summer long

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

Whatever patio cover you go for, extending it out to the edge of your pool means it should – for at least some of the day – shelter you while you're swimming as well as relaxing poolside.

Notice how the structure creates shade on a large area of this pool, for instance. Add some stylish garden furniture and maybe one of the best BBQs nearby and you'll have the perfect base for summer outdoor living.

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.