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Plants for Poolside Landscapes
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, The University of Arizona

Written by
Lucy Bradley, Agent Urban Horticulture

Landscaping is the finishing touch to your backyard oasis. Your pool will be even more inviting when surrounded by the right plants. Create a landscape that frames your pool and makes it the focal point of your yard. At the same time, you will want to choose plants that work well with your watering regimen and, especially, that will work well with your pool.

1. Your pool and deck reflect a tremendous amount of the already intense Arizona sun. Choose plants that can take it.

2. Pick plants with a minimum of litter or that drop all their leaves at one time so you only have to clean up once a year. Constant leaf drop will necessitate constant cleaning and, if you get behind, will dirty your pool and possibly clog its equipment.

3. Plan for year round color and interest. Avoid landscapes that bloom only seasonably — you have to live with it the whole year!

4. Choose low-water-use plants that will not require heavy irrigation around the pool. Too much water can damage your pool decking or equipment.

5. Choose plants with showy flowers. These are generally pollinated by an animal (as opposed to the wind) and are much cleaner and less likely to cause allergies.

6. Cacti and succulents are excellent choices. They thrive in the high light, require minimal irrigation, produce almost no litter, are attractive year round, and many have fabulous blooms.

7. Plant cacti far enough away from the path to prevent accidental injury to people or damage to beach balls.

8. Any plants that do have a small amount of seasonal litter (the bloom on the Texas Ebony Tree, for example) should be planted down wind from the pool.

9. To minimize the amount of litter from palm trees, keep the fronds pruned and remove the flowers before seeds are set.

10. “Desert Landscaping — Plants for a water scarce environment,” a CD-ROM by The University of Arizona, is an excellent tool for helping you to select the appropriate plant. Search by plant name, browse award-winning landscapes, compare groups of similar plants, or use the plant selector to precisely describe the plants you seek. The rich multimedia database includes plant size and growth rate, soil and sun requirements, irrigation needs, place of origin, allergens, wildlife interactions, and dozens of other useful factors.

“Desert Landscaping” is available from many retail outlets or may be ordered from the Maricopa County Master Gardeners or the Water Resources Research Center. To place a mail order, send a check or money order for $25.00 made out to The University of Arizona to either:

Desert Landscaping CD-Rom Maricopa County Master Gardeners
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension 4341 E. Broadway Road Phoenix, AZ 85040

Desert Landscaping CD-Rom Water Resources Research Center The University of Arizona 350 N. Campbell Tucson, AZ 85719-5633

11. Visit the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension home horticulture website: for excellent information on Environmentally Responsible Gardening and Landscaping in the Low Desert.

Some Suggested Plants for Poolside Landscapes



  • Acacia abyssinica, Abyssinian acacia
  • Acacia aneura, Mulga
  • Acacia pendula, Weeping acacia
  • Acacia salicina, Willow acacia
  • Acacia stenophylla, Shoestring acacia

Brahea armata, Mexican blue palm
Butia capitata, Pindo Palm
Caesalpinia cacalaco, Cascalote
Chamaerops humilis, Mediterranean fan palm
Chorisia speciosa, Silk floss tree


  • Eucalyptus erythrocorys, Red-cap gum/Illyarrie
  • Eucalyptus formanii, Forman’s Eucalyptus
  • Eucalyptus leucoxylon, ‘Rosea’, White Ironbark
  • Eucalyptus spathulata, Swamp mallee
  • Eucalyptus torquata, Coral Flowered Gum
  • Eucalyptus woodwardii, Lemom Flowered Gum

Geijera parviflora, Australian willow
Leucaena retusa, Golden leadball
Lysiloma watsonii, Desert Fern
Olneya tesota, Iron Wood
Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island Date Palm
Phoenix dactylifera, Date Palm
Pistacia lentiscus, Mastic
Pithecellobium flexicaule, Texas Ebony
Quercus virginiana, Southern Live Oak
Trachycarpus fortunei, Windmill palm


Asclepias linaria, Pine leaf milkweed
Buddleia marrubifolia, Wooly butterfly bush
Caesalpinia gilliesii, Desert or Yellow bird of paradise
Caesalpinia mexicana, Mexican bird of paradise
Calliandra californica, Red fairy duster
Calliandra eriophylla, Fairy duster
Carissa grandiflora, Natal Plum
Convolvulus cneorum, Bush morning glory
Cordia parvifolia, Littleleaf cordia
Dalea frutescens, Black dalea
Dalea greggii, Trailing indigo bush
Dalea pulchra, Bush dalea
Dodonaea viscosa, Hop bush
Dodonaea viscosa ‘purpurea’, Purple hop bush
Encelia farinosa, Brittlebush
Ericameria laricifolia, Turpentine bush
Fallugia paradoxa, Apache plume
Fatsia japonica, Japanese aralia
Feijoa sellowiana, Pineapple guava
Fouquieria splendens, Ocotillo
Justicia californica, Chuparosa
Justicia candicans, Red Justicia
Justicia spicigera, Mexican honeysuckle
Lantana camara, Bush lantana
Larrea tridentata, Creosote bush
Leucophyllum candidum, Silver cloud, sage
Leucophyllum frutescens, Texas ranger/Texas sage
Leucophyllum laevigatum, Chihuahuan sage
Nandina spp., Heavenly bamboo
Rhus ovata, Sugar Bush
Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosemary
Ruellia peninsularis, Desert ruellia

  • Salvia chaemedryoides, Blue sage
  • Salvia clevelandii, Chaparral sage
  • Salvia coccinea, Cherry Red sage
  • Salvia farinacea, Mealycup sage
  • Salvia greggii, Autumn sage
  • Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush sage

Santolina spp. Lavender cotton
Simmondsia chinensis, Jojoba
Sophora secundiflora, Texas Mountain Laurel
Sphaeralcea ambigua, Globe Mallow
Tagetes lemmonii, Mountain marigold
Tecoma stans v. angustata, Arizona Yellow Bells
Tecomaria capensis, Cape honeysuckle
Vauquelinia californica, Arizona rosewood
Zauschneria californica, California fuchsia


Baileya multiradiata, Desert marigold
Dalea greggii, Trailing indigo bush
Drosanthemum speciosum, Iceplant
Dyssodia pentachaeta, Golden Fleece
Gazania rigens, Gazania
Lantana montevidensis, Trailing Lantana
Melampodium leucanthum, Blackfoot Daisy
Myoporum parvifolium, Prostrate myoporum
Oenothera berlandieri, Mexican primrose
Oenothera caespitosa, Prostrate evening primrose
Oenothera stubbei, Satillo evening primrose
Rosmarinus prostatus, Prostrate rosemary
Ruellia brittoniana ‘kati’, Kati ruellia
Stachys coccinea, Texas betony

  • Verbena gooddingii, Gooding verbena
  • Verbena peruviana, Peruvian verbena
  • Verbena pulchella, Moss verbena
  • Verbena rigida, Sandpaper Verbena

Phlomis fruticosa, Jerusalem sage
Zinnia grandiflora, Prairie Zinna


Merremia aurea, Yellow morning glory vine
Podranea ricasoliana, Pink Trumpet Vine


Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii, Desert
Aquilegia chrysantha, Golden columbine
Cannaceae, Canna lilies
Dietes bicolor, Evergreen Iris/Fortnight lily
Dyssodia tenuiloba, Golden fleece
Erigeron spp., Fleabane
Gazania spp., Gazania
Hymenoxys acaulis., Angelita daisy
Iris germanica, Bearded iris
Melampodium leucanthum, Black Food Daisy

  • Penstemon baccharifolius,
  • Penstemon eatoni, Firecracker penstemon
  • Penstemon palmeri, Palmer’s penstemon
  • Penstemon parryi, Parry’s penstemon
  • Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Desert penstemon
  • Penstemon superbus, Superb penstemon

Psilostrophe cooperi, Paper flower
Zephyranthes spp. Rain lily

Accent Plants


  • Agave americana, Century plant
  • Agave bovicornuta, Cowshorn agave
  • Agave colorata, Mescal ceniza
  • Agave desmettiana,
  • Agave parryi, Parry’s Agave
  • Agave victoriae-reginae, Queen victoria agave
  • Agave vilmoriniana, Octopus agave


  • Aloe vera, medicinal aloe
  • Aloe ferox, Tree aloe
  • Aloe saponaria, Tiger aloe

Asclepias subulata, Desert Milk Weed
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’, Foxtail/Asparagus
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’, Sprenger asparagus
Cereus hildmannianus, Hildmann’s Cereus
Cycas revoluta, Sago palm
Dasylirion wheeleri, Desert spoon
Dasylirion longissimum, Mexican Grass Tree
Echinocactus grusonii, Golden barrel cactus
Echinocereus engelmannii, Hedgehog cactus
Echinopsis multiplex, Easter lily cactus
Ferocactus acanthodes, Compass barrel cactus
Ferocactus wislizeni, Fishhook barrel cactus
Hesperaloe parviflora, Red or Yellow Yucca
Lophocereus schottii forma monstrosus, Totem Pole
Muhlenbergia rigens, Deer Grass
Nolina spp., Grass Tree

  • Opuntia acanthocarpa, Buckhorn cholla
  • Opuntia basilaris, Beavertail Prickly Pear
  • Opuntia ficus-indica, Indian fig
  • Opuntia engelmanii, Prickly pear cactus
  • Opuntia Santa-rita, Purple prickly pear

Stenocereus marginatus, Mexican Organ Pipe
Trichocereus candicans,
Trichocereus huasha hyb.,

  • Yucca aloifolia, Spanish Bayonet
  • Yucca baccata, Banana yucca
  • Yucca brevifolia, Joshua tree
  • Yucca elata, Soaptree yucca
  • Yucca recurvifolia, Pendulous yucca
  • Yucca rigida, Blue yucca

Some Plants to Keep Far Away from Your Pool

Acacia farnesiana, Sweet acacia Bauhinia spp., Orchid tree
Bougainvillea brasiliensis, Bougainvillea Brachychiton populneus, Bottle tree Callistemon spp., Bottlebrush Ceratonia siliqua, Carob tree Fraxinus, spp., Ash Jacaranda mimosifolia, Jacaranda Prosopis spp., Mesquites
Ulmus parviflora, Evergreen/Chinese Elm Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste tree/Monk’s Pepper


Xeriscape Gardens: Plants for the Desert Southwest, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association

Brenzel, K. N. (ed.).(1995) Sunset Western Garden Book
More than 6,000 plants listed, keyed to 24 Western climate zones, climate maps, 2,500 color photos, illustrations, charts, and diagrams, 50,000 plant facts, complete guide to plant selection and hundreds of how-to tips and techniques. ISBN 0-376-03851-9

Desert Landscaping, Plants for a Water-Scarce Environment, CD by the Water Resources Research Center, The University of Arizona College of Agriculture

“Environmentally Responsible Gardening and Landscaping for the Low Desert”, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Maricopa County Home Horticulture Website:

Many thanks to Selby Saubolle, Designer for Poco Verde Land Scape, Tempe, AZ, Kent Newland, Water Resources Specialist for the City of Phoenix, Terry Mikel, Extension Agent, Commercial Horticulture, The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Maricopa County and Libby Davison, Adjunct Instructor, Department of Plant Sciences, The University of Arizona, who each provided input and guidance in the development of this publication.

The University of Arizona is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. Any products, services, or organizations that are mentioned, shown, or indirectly implied in this publication do not imply endorsement by the University of Arizona.
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Published August 1998
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