Including tropical plants in your swimming pool landscape adds an exotic touch to the setting that makes even swimming laps more fun. It also enhances the view from inside and creates a focal point for the room overlooking the pool. Select plants with lush foliage or colorful blooms to create the ambiance of an island retreat, but avoid those temperamental types that require an excessive amount of maintenance or pampering.
Dwarf schefflera (Schefflera arboricola) is an evergreen shrub characterized by dark green, glossy leaves that grow in umbrella-like clusters at the ends of stiff stems. It develops a neat, rounded form with multiple stems arising from the base. Encourage branching and thickening by pruning.
Hardy in Zones 9b through 11, dwarf schefflera will reach a height of 10 to 15 feet and a width of 6 to 15 feet. It is useful in pool landscaping as a specimen or container plant. Tolerant of sun, shade and a variety of soil types, this schefflera is rarely affected by disease or pests. Over time, you can transform it into a small accent tree if you consistently remove the lower branches.
White Bird of Paradise
White bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) strongly resembles the banana tree. It produces clumps of upright stalks that can grow to a height of 20 to 30 feet and spread up to 10 feet. Its leaves are 5 to 8 feet in length and fan out at the tops of the stalks in a dramatic display. Showy white flowers with blue tongues can reach 10 to 12 inches wide; they appear year round. Bird of paradise grows in Zones 9b through 11 and makes a strong tropical statement in pool landscaping whether it is planted in the ground or in containers.
Resistant to pests and diseases, bird of paradise is undemanding once it is established. Plant it in full or partial sun for best performance, and make sure its soil drains well. The leaves of the white bird of paradise may tatter in high wind, according to the USDA Forest Service. Remove the ragged ones to keep the plant looking healthy and neat.
An ideal flowering shrub for your tropical pool landscaping is hibiscus. Known for its spectacular flowers, some of which measure 6 inches across, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub that is hardy in Zones 9 to 11. It can reach a height of 15 feet in warmer climates. Hibiscus flowers come in a multitude of vibrant colors and petal styles.
When it is pruned to tree form or allowed to sprawl casually as is its nature, hibiscus is stunning. Aphids may attack the new growth, and other insect pests can potentially be bothersome. However, if the plant is healthy and well cared for, these invasions should not be difficult to control. Hibiscus requires only occasional pruning to remove a stray branch or a leggy stem, and does well when it is grown in containers. Though the blooms last only a day, they are plentiful and continuous.