5 Swimming Pool Landscape Ideas – Make a Big Impression on a Small Budget

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Bananas, Castor Bean, Cannas behind swimming pool

Of late, I’ve gotten a number of emails from blog readers all asking the same question – What are some inexpensive ways for me to get an exotic, tropical look quickly with landscaping around my pool? – or some variation of this.  Of course, I encourage them to get the backyard resorts ebook, but I do try to provide some ideas, even if they don’t.

Since I’ve gotten this question a number of times, I thought I’d toss out some of my ideas, and would encourage our subscribers to throw out some of their own ideas. Let’s turn this into an idea exchange that we all might benefit from!

So, here’s the  set up – assume someone has a new swimming pool, or one that has little or no landscaping and wants to start creating their own backyard resort, on the cheap and they want some quick impact.  I’m going to assume here that buying a reasonably sized hardy palm or two is not in the budget.  What should they do?  Here are 5 ideas I’d suggest:


  1. Banana’s, canna, castor bean, ornamental grasses around pool

    Bananas.  They are about as tropical looking as it gets and will make an immediate impact. Establish groupings around the pool.  Don’t line them up in straight rows! For those of you that have the Backyard Resorts Ebook, you know that, for better or worse, I’m all about a more wild, untamed look, not a formal, tidy look.  Bananas are readily available in garden centers (or on Ebay), reasonably inexpensive, easy to grow, and grow really fast if you plant them properly and give them plenty of food and water.

  2. Cannas. Use these as borders, between your bananas and other taller plants.  Bengal Tiger and Tropicana are a couple of really flamboyant varieties, but my favorite is a large purple variety that I’ve yet to identify. Not as flashy, but it holds up better in the brutal summer heat here in Dallas.  Experiment … there are lots of options, and they are inexpensive and very easy to grow.
  3. Castor Bean. This is just one of my favorite plants, and is an incredibly exotic looking large specimen plant.  You can learn more about it in this article I posted a while back.  It grows from seed to 15-20 feet tall every year for me and is stunning to look at.  There are green (biggest), red, and grey varieties.  You can get seeds on Ebay for next to nothing.  Once you grow it once, you’ll have all the seeds you’ll ever need.  Fair Warning – the plant and its seeds are poisonous if eaten.
  4. Containers with flamboyant flowering plants.  I know, attractive pots can get pricey, but there are inexpensive options out there.  Tropical hibiscus, plumeria, bougainvilla, mandevilla, and Angel trumpet are some real show stoppers in pots.  Create mixed plantings of varying colors and textures.  See this article I posted a while back on container ideas.
  5. Ornamental Grasses.  This idea often gets overlooked in my opinion. The linear form of ornamental grasses contrasts beautifully with large leafed plants like bananas and Cannas, and create an airy, seaside look and feel. Pampas Grass is great if you have the space, but can get huge, up to 7 feet. Maiden Grass is medium (up to 3 feet) and is beautiful in any kind of a breeze.   Aztec Grass or Purple fountain grass, with their beautiful colors, contrast beautifully with almost any green plant.  Most are readily available and reasonably inexpensive.
Backyard Resorts Ebook - Tropical backyard landscape, tropical pool landscape

Of course, if the budget is there, you have to be thinking one or more hardy palms but, if not, the ideas above will get you started without big bucks.   What other ideas do you have?

Cheers, and enjoy your Backyard Resort.

Lets Talk Swimming Pool Landscaping

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tropicalpool1Landscaping around your pool … “cement pond” to tropical oasis

So, you have a swimming pool in your backyard. You’ve have had it for years, or maybe its brand spanking new.  When you first decided to put in that pool, you had visions of laidback fun days with your family or friends, some good Jimmy Buffet music or maybe some fun Reggae, and, yea, one of those fruity drinks with an umbrella.  Maybe a nice hammock out there to enjoy summer evenings too.  Ahh, the good life.

Did you get all that?  Or, did the new wear off pretty fast, leaving you with just something else to take care of?  Do you hang out with family and friends at your pool, or does it rarely get used?  Are you really getting that enjoyment you envisioned?

RELAX … here a sure way to make that original vision real.  Creative landscaping around a pool can turn that “cement pond” (and yes, I admit it, I’m a fan of granny from the Beverly Hillbillys) into an exotic, tropical oasis, and you can have a lot of fun doing it.  Take a step back and envision your pool surrounded by palm trees, maybe a clump of banana plants with those huge exotic leaves, and brightly colored flowering tropical plants everywhere. And, what the heck, let’s put one of those cool Tiki statues out there too.  Get the picture?  Landscaping around a pool can turn that “cement pond” is now your favorite room in the house, your laidback, relaxing tropical oasis.

Get the Backyard Resorts EbookNow, if you’re new to Backyard Resorts, you may be looking out the window at a temperature below freezing thinking I can’t do that.   Think again …     There’s a real good chance you can.  That’s what backyard resorts and www.tropicalyard.com are all about.   Windmill palms and other varieties are completely hardy at temperatures well below freezing.  Bananas, well anyone can grow and create a tropical pool setting with bananas.  All those tropical flowering plants like hibiscus, mandavilla, and bougainvilla …. yep, you can use those too.  And let’s throw in an Brugmansia, with flowers about a foot high that put out the most eerily pleasant scent, but only at night.  Let’s get a little taste of Hawaii with some Plumeria too.  Get the picture??

Interested?  Think your friends would be impressed? Think you and your family would enjoy your pool more?   Trust me, you’ll get the Wow factor, and you will get the enjoyment.  Tropical landscaping around a pool, to me, is just the way it should be.  There is no other answer.  So, get creative, get educated,  and create that tropical pool oasis …. your Backyard Resort.


Cheers …

Palm Trees In Dallas?

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Visit the Dallas (DFW) area March – October and you would think there would be no problem at all having palm trees, or any other tropical plant you wanted in your landscape.  Visit those other months, and you might get a surprise though.  It might be 70 degress, or it might be 25 …. and therein lies the challenge.  The sad fact is that is does get cold in Dallas.

I constantly get visitors from the Dallas area to the www.tropicalyard.com site, and people I know and meet that are surprised they really can have palm trees around their pools, or just a little tropical oasis with palms in their backyard.  Especially on one of those 25 degree days, with the lingering threat of that once or twice a year ice storm.   Making it worse, many have fallen victim to the “too hard to pass up” sales on big, exotic looking palm trees at garden centers, only to find that they were killed by the cold the very first winter.  Sadly, many garden centers sell palms that have not the slightest chance of living here …

Windmill Palm
Windmill Palm

The good news …. you can have palm trees around your pool in Dallas.  Just pick the right ones, and give them a little extra TLC they need.  Look for Windmill Palms or Sabal Palms.  If you’re in the southern part of the DFW area, you’ll likely have no trouble with a Pindo Palm.  Mexican Fan Palms and California Fan Palms can be grown here too, just keep in mind that they will likely not look so great in the winter.  The bad news is that some of the palms I mention can be a little tough to find, but they’re out there.

Even with palms that will grow in Dallas, take the time to do a little homework before you put down your hard-earned money.  Learn about micro-climates, the proper way to plant, when to plant, fertilizing, and winter protection (at least for the first couple of seasons).  If you get this right, it can be very rewarding … and you’ll be well on your way to that tropical pool landscape or Backyard Resort

Cheers …