Best & Worst Trees to Plant around a Pool

best-and-worst-trees-near-a-poolLandscaping around a swimming pool can really make your pool pop; but plants and trees need to be chosen carefully.

Trees with lots of ‘leaf litter’, excessive pollen, berries or budding debris can cause extra work for you and your pool filter.

Trees with extensive root systems can damage pool walls or pool plumbing. And cute little trees that grow into large monsters can block the sun’s warmth, or block the sight and sounds of the pool, which can be unsafe.

Many pool guys will say “the best trees for a pool… is no trees at all”. But that’s not always realistic, or desirable in most cases.

Best Trees to Plant Around a Pool

First, consider those things which may limit your pool tree selection.

hardiness-zone-map-smClimate: Pools located in more temperate hardiness zones (southern states) have a wider variety of trees that can flourish around the pool. Northern pools can still use many tropicals if planted in large pots, or cut back during fall and mulched over.

Shade: If you are specifically looking for shade around the pool, or in a certain area, that can guide your tree choice. Or as an option to trees, consider a cabana or pergola with wisteria or vines.

Privacy: Are you trying to block out neighbor’s prying eyes, noise or a less than perfect view? Fast growing evergreens may be a good choice for one or two sides of the pool.

Beauty: Adding beauty around the pool is an obvious reason for enhancing your pool landscaping. Flowering trees, fruit trees and deciduous trees (those that shed leaves during fall) may be pretty, but can be messy.

The best trees to plant around a pool include: Acacia, Banana, Citrus, Evergreens (arbor vitae, cypress, spruce), Holly and Magnolia (also evergreen), Olive trees (non fruit bearing), Oleander (actually a large bush), and Windmill Palms (hardy into areas of zone 6). BEST-TREES-TO-PLANT-AROUND-A-POOL

Worst Trees to Plant Around a Pool

Just as there are trees that do well around pools, there are lots of trees that won’t. In most cases, chlorinated water or salt pool splash-out is not much of a concern, as long as trees around a pool are regularly watered.

Climate: Again the regional climate is the number one consideration. Refer to the map above and look for trees that are “hardy” in your local zones. A tree that does well in zone 8 may not survive winters in zone 7.

Litter: Some trees are constantly shedding buds, flowers, leaves and bark. With a little wind, this can fill your pool with debris, but using a leaf catcher or even solar cover can mitigate some of this issue. Deciduous trees are not necessarily bad, but will give the backyard a bare appearance during winter.

Leaf Size: Small leaves from a willow or maple tree can be fairly manageable but large leaves can clog skimmers, pool vacuums and cleaners, berries can stain pools and pool decks, and soft fruits can be messy and smelly.

Root Systems: Most trees grow root systems of about the same size as the tree branch systems. Some trees have very aggressive roots that can damage pool walls or vinyl liners when planted too close to inground pools.

The worst trees to plant around a pool include (among others), Ash, Cottonwood, Elm, Eucalyptus, Mulberry, Oak, Pine, Poplar and Walnut Trees – messy, sticky, oily and dusty. Avoid trees that grow too fast, too tall and spindly, which are prone to limb loss or complete loss. WORST-TREES-TO-PLANT-AROUND-A-POOLLet me finish by saying this, I love trees and if they were there before the pool, perhaps they have squatter’s rights, and should not be taken down to improve the view or sun exposure. But they can be trimmed!

And with that said, don’t be afraid to change what was planted after the pool was built. If you have trees around a pool that have become undesirable tenants – you can start over, with something new!

Davy Merino
InTheSwim Blog Editor




Best & Worst Trees to Plant around a Pool — 71 Comments

  1. Hi Davey, We planted a Moringa tree about 5 feet from the pool less than a year ago and now it is about 12 feet tall. Do you think the roots of Moringa will damage the pool. This is South Texas at the tip of the Rio Grande Valley. Also have a Brown turkey fig tree, about 12 ft from the pool.

    • Hi Rene, keep in mind that I’m not an arborist, just a pool guy… but based on my quick google research here… 🙂 both of those trees have somewhat aggressive root systems, not thin surface roots like Palms or other trees but very deep and wide roots, especially the turkey fig.
      You do have some control over the root spread of any tree, by Pruning to keep the tree small-ish, and by Not Watering on the Pool side, but watering only on the opposite side of the tree, to encourage most root growth Away from the pool. Or, if you don’t water the tree anymore, you could also shape the land a bit, and/or add plastic barriers, or drains, swales or gutters, to capture rain water on the pool side of the tree, and channel the water away from the pool. By doing this, the tree does most of it’s drinking on the opposite side of the pool, which discourages growth of (more) roots on the pool side of the tree, which may even shrink and recede, when the water source dries up.

    • HI Gregg, most Palm trees have weak, shallow roots and are monocots so they don’t have tap roots like hard wood trees, but dicots, which grow in a more diffuse pattern. And most Palm trees, except for large varieties, have roots of only a foot or two deep and wide. Using heavy plastic around the Palm can be a way to limit root growth, by forcing water only near the trunk, and not watering further than 2′ diameter from the trunk. Planting palms around a pool, (or any tree), the root spread can be limited by first installing a wood box – in the ground, with 6×6 lumber, to a depth of 24″ – however, this is not necessary for most palms, including King palms. Most palm trees are fine to plant around pools, and King would be a nice choice.

  2. Hi Dave, our Houston, TX in-ground concrete pool has been dark green and usable for several months prior to and all through the summer. The pool service has been treating it with chemicals and then drained the pool several days before Hurricane Harvey storms struck Houston 2 weeks ago. They quickly filled the pool up again and it is still dark green. They said the berries from crepe myrtle trees are clogging the main drain. We have had the trees for years without a problem. Canyou suggest anything? Thank you!

    • Hi, if the Crepe myrtle berries are a problem, the drain cover can be replaced, with one that won’t allow clogging, or cover the drain with a Polaris Unibridge, which should also be a solution. A pool without good main drain suction will suffer with water quality, but usually just hazy water in the deep areas, not full blown green algae. You may have a severe phosphate contamination, which can be treated with PhosFree, or a severe filter problem, or no chlorine, or the pump only runs a few hours a day… and the main drain issue, but probably not the main drain per se… causing green water

  3. My pool is green with pollen. The pool services said the crape myrtle trees pollen (2 trees) are making the pool green, is this true. I’m having the trees removed, if they are.

    • Hi Cynthia, in extreme cases (large trees, and lots of them blooming at the same time), a big release of pollen can make the pool look greenish yellow. If you don’t see or feel algae clinging to walls or steps, and the water chemistry is good, the service co. could be right. A good filter should remove pollen fairly easily however, but smaller or older filters may need some help with clarifiers or extra filtering, if you want to clean it up fast. Crape myrtles, like most trees, tend to have cycles of heavy pollen every few years, so this year is probably one of the heavy years, should be much less volume for the next 3-5 years.

  4. Hi Davy, We’re considering macadamia nut, fragrant tea olive tree and bottlebrush around our pool here in San Diego. Would these be okay? We could place the bottlebrush slightly at a distance from the pool. PK

    • San Diego! I would plant an avocado tree, and pistachio 🙂 and yes macadamia and fragrant tea olive, but skip the bottlebrush, they are known for trouble root systems.

      • Thanks, those are great suggestions Davy! Aside from trees for privacy, we’re also looking for drought resistant ones as we are required from time to time to cut back on the watering. Would Avocado, Pistachio and Macadamia nut fit that bill? Thanks!

        • Of the three you listed, Macadamia is the most drought resistant, followed by Pistacio. Avocado can also handle some dry periods, but less so. In all cases, cutting back on water will reduce fruit yields, but will likely not kill the tree.

  5. I just bought a house and I have a queen palm tree between a block wall and a pool. It’s about 2 feet from my pool and 1 ft from my wall. It’s probably about 20 years old. I’m worried if it continues to grow it may damage the pool. Would this type of palm tree do this? Thanks

    • OF all the palms to plant in a tiny space like that, the Queen Palm was a good choice. It has a very shallow root structure, with weak roots that are kind of wimpy. The root spread is equal to the leaf spread, so keeping it pruned will slow growth. Watering outside the wall, can encourage root growth away from the pool. Likewise, covering soils in plastic on the pool side, will slow water absorption on the pool side of the tree, to discourage root growth. I don’t think you have to worry about this one, although it is only two feet away from the pool. But then again, I could be wrong! 🙂

  6. We have 7 windmill palms around our pool, but the shedding of its trunk is annoying and I feel I constantly need to clean the pool. Any solutions?

    • Hi, you can slow growth with less watering and fertilizer. Palms can be pruned of course, close-up to the trunk, but never ‘Top’ a palm, leave 3 or 4 fronds coming out of the top. For the fur that grows on the trunk, if your climate is not too cold, you can trim of that hair from around the trunk. If they are too much however, consider ‘culling the herd’, and taking out half of them, planting some low bushes, azalea or boxwood or oleander to fill space in between.

  7. Davy,
    Tree suggestions for around an in-ground pool in Wisconsin Zone 5? Trying to minimize debris while providing some color and corner accents to the pool. We are removing 2 Canadian red cherrys

  8. Hi there,we are planning to install a salt water pool,and I have 14 feet cypress near the pool,any concern that the salt water will kill the plant .do you think the plant can survive the minimum splash of salt water,thanks.

    • Hi – most cypress trees are at least somewhat salt tolerant, so no worries,especially a tree that tall. Some tips to reduce salt uptake are to water plants deeply, and avoid fertilizers with any salt in them. You can also grade the spot just in front of the tree, so as to create a channel or downhill slope to move any splashout away from the tree(s)