Swimming pools are the focal point of many backyards. A swimming pool without landscaping looks unfinished. Coordinate the landscaping with the architectural design of the house and the ambiance of the pool. For example: a play pool and hot tub in an informal backyard would be overwhelmed by formal plantings.
Modern pools call for modern landscaping. Choose plants that are geometrically shaped and repeat the plantings in patterns. Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) with its upright segmented stems works well. The stems, which are green in the spring, have long thin branches at the tips resembling a horse's tail. Hostas have a rosette shape; they do flower but are valued more for their leaves, which may be variegated, striped or edged in contrasting colors. Lilies add some color when they're blooming and interesting leaf shapes when they're not.
Incorporate hardscape into the landscaping. Alternate square stepping stones with squares of ground cover. Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), Irish moss (Chondrus cripus) and baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) all can withstand some traffic and are easy on bare feet.
Use planters and plants that are the same shape. Place an evergreen pruned to mimic the straight sides of a square pot on either side of the entry way to the pool. Repeat the pots at the back of the pool and in seating areas.
Use large river rocks to create a border around the beds surrounding the pool. Plants at the beach are windblown and low to the ground. Create that look with scrubs pines pruned in windswept shapes. Grasses in different heights from 18 inches to 3 or 4 feet high add to the look. Succulents look and feel right at home as long as they're not in direct sun; tuck a few in under the pines. Jade plants (Crassula argentea) multiply quickly and stay short. Spread sand as a mulch over the beds. Scatter seashells and smooth sea glass randomly in the beds.
Nothing says tropical like lush plants, palm trees and lots of vivid color. Choose palms in various sizes and place them in groups of threes with a taller palm in the center and shorter ones on either size. Fill in between the palms with tall cannas (Canna edulis). Cannas have bright flowers in yellow, orange and red that resemble giant gladiolus. Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) bushes grow to 5 feet with heart shaped leaves and large--up to 5 inches across--five-petaled flowers. The flowers comes in a variety of colors and some are two-toned.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra) is a fast growing sturdy plant that throws out long branches. It is not a vine like morning glory (Convolvulaceae) or ivy (Hedera helix), but is similar to a climbing rose. Bougainvillea provides privacy for the pool when it is supported by fencing or lattice work.
When it is grown over a pergola, bougainvillea adds overhead shade that's thick and colorful. Although it has small insignificant white flowers, bougainvillea has very colorful bracts, which are leaves that are shaped a little differently that the other leaves on the plant and grow around the flowers. Colors include bright red, fushia, peach, white and purple. Do not plant bouganivillea directly next to a pool because it has nasty thorns. It also sheds the bracts which can be messy in pool water.