Creative Landscaping Ideas for Your Above-Ground Swimming Pool

Above-ground swimming pool

How can you make your above-ground swimming pool a more appealing part of your landscape all year long? Here are some creative landscaping ideas that will take your dull pool exterior from an eyesore to an eye-catching feature in your lawn.

Landscaping around your pool?

With Pool Gnome
  • Think shallow. Even when it comes to in-ground pools, homeowners have moved away from large ones with a deep end and a diving board. Among other things, with deeper pools you will need lifeguards — and insurance. This is also true of above-ground pools.

    A small pool doesn’t have to be boring or an eyesore. Get creative as you “think shallow.” Stock tank pools are a trendy way to cool off in the shallow end without breaking the bank.
stock tank pool
Photo Credit: Ryankstanton / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Think darker. People are moving towards pools that better retain heat and that lend themselves to being part of a landscaping project. Among other things, that has people turning to dark pools and away from white and light blue.
  • Think lighting. People are making it a point to have pool lights, including string lights or floating lights, in and over their above-ground pool. You can post the lights around, above, or in the pool. These outdoor lights can throw a glow across the water. Some can even be controlled with an app on your phone or laptop!
  • Think tanning. A trend for in-ground pools is to build a shallow area in the pool where you can work on your tan while soaking. When it comes to above-ground pools, people take this into account for a poolside deck. Some people even put a lounge chair or stool IN the pool.
  • Fences can be fun. You can’t forget that the primary purpose of a pool fence is to protect children and pets. But a pool fence can be stylish. It can also be moved back from the pool; the better to keep an eye on the kids in the pool. 
  • Fire pits are popping up in backyards more and more. A perfect summertime gathering spot, you can place a fire pit on a deck around an above-ground poolside, or on the ground around the pool. Certainly eye-catching (and relatively inexpensive, too).  
  • Water features around the pool can add to the experience. If you want to invite people over, you might want to look into water features to place around, from a fountain to a waterfall. It can add to the poolside experience.

Above-Ground Pool Decks

It makes sense to add a deck to your above-ground pool, but before you start compiling above-ground pool deck ideas, check with local authorities to find out if you need a permit. Most places require one.

It might make it a good idea to hire a professional, and to listen to their above-ground pool deck ideas.

Here are some above-ground pool ideas to consider:

  • Build the pool first. Then put in the deck. You want them to line up and to fit together.
  • Fencing is a must. If you don’t have a fence, build one before you put in the pool (or at least before you fill it).
  • Build the deck right up to the pool. You don’t want a gap between them as you get in and out.
  • Slope away. The ground around the pool should slope away from it. Any landscaping should take that into account.

Some shapes to consider for your deck:

  • Circular: The most common.
  • Oval: You might like the look, but the curves make it harder to build.
  • Rectangular or square: The best shape for a DIY project.
  • Irregular: Different shapes can be eye-catching, but they are so much more difficult to build.
  • Partial: You can build your deck to one part of the above-ground pool. It costs less, and allows you to add plants around the rest of the pool.

Get quality landscaping at an affordable cost

With Pool Gnome

Materials Used for Above-Ground decks:

  • Wood: Usually pressure-treated.
  • Composite: Lasts longer than wood, in part because insects don’t chomp on it.
  • PVC: Often the plastic is made to look like wood.
  • Aluminum: People are turning to it, liking that it is light and lasts longer than wood. But it can be slippery and noisy.

Average Costs to Build a Deck

National average cost$7,320
Typical price range$3,920-$10,540
Extreme low end cost$1,600
Extreme high end cost$17,000

Standard installation costs include posts, framing, decking, a few stairs, and railing, according to a LawnStarter pricing guide

Landscaping: Think Buffer

The water that gets splashed from a swimming pool is chemically treated, therefore likely to harm lawns and plants (if it splashes in large quantities). To deal with this, when it comes to above-ground pool landscaping ideas, start by creating a buffer zone:

  • Cover the splash-zone with gravel, river rock, decomposed granite, or another porous surface. You can use mulch, but don’t put mulch all the way up to the pool. Stop a foot short.
  • Use pavers and edging to mark walking areas through the landscaping. 
  • Think about your pool maintenance: Do you store pool supplies nearby or under a  deck? Make sure your pool’s landscaping ideas include a path to that area to avoid stepping on new plant life or shrubs.
  • Cover the sides of the deck, especially if the under-deck is a storage area. Something to consider: Put in a lattice to act as a trellis and grow climbing plants, such as honeysuckle, trumpet vine, or hydrangea. 

Easy-Care Plants to Consider Around the Pool

Plants around swimming pool
Photo Credit: Aliseenko / Canva Pro / License

Low-maintenance plants are always a plus. Here are a few tips (and a plant list) to consider when landscaping your above-ground pool:

Tip #1: Avoid debris. Avoid planting deciduous trees (ones that shed leaves annually) or trees that have cones or seeds to keep your pool free from debris. 

Tip #2: The pool reflects light, and the area around the pool will generate extra heat. Choose plants that are sun and heat-loving.

Tip #3: Choose low-maintenance plants. Who wants to be pruning when you could be swimming?

Easy-Care Plants Around Your Above-Ground Pool

Here are a few easy-care plants to consider:

  • Agave (Agave)
  • Aloe (Aloe barbadensis)
  • Butterfly bush or Buddleia (Buddleia davidii)
  • Emerald arbovitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald’)
  • Green giant arbovitae (Thuja plicata ‘Green Giant’)
  • Goldmound spirea (Spirea japonica ‘Goldmound’)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)
  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
  • Karl Foerster ornamental grass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’)
  • Knockout rose (Rosa ‘Radrazz’). There are several varieties of this plant, with colors ranging from white to deep red.
  • Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
  • Sago palm tree (Cycas revoluta)
    (Note: Plant with caution. All parts of this plant are highly poisonous.)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Woundwort (Stachys officianalis ‘Hummelo’)
  • Yucca (Yucca aloifolia)
  • Zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’)

Caution: Agave, aloe, knockout roses, Sago palm, and yucca are very low-maintenance, but many cultivars have spines or thorns, so install these plants away from the pool wall.

Pots Of, and With, Color

You can also manage your landscape design by planting in containers of different sizes. Pots can camouflage not-so-appealing pool walls, ladders, or pool pumps. 

Container plants will require more watering, but can offer an explosion of color. When it comes to above-ground pool ideas, here are some container plants to consider:

  • Blue hill salvia (Salvia nemerosa ‘Blauhugel’)
  • Euphorbia (Euphorbiaceae)
  • Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
  • Lantana (Lantana camara)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia spp)
  • Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Put a Roof Over Your Head

You can add to the use of an above-ground pool by putting a roof over it.

Some materials:

  • Clear vinyl: Lets in the sun, keeps out the cold.
  • Fabric: Blocks the sun and the cold.
  • Aluminum frame: Sturdy, but can be taken off in sections and stacked.
  • Steel frame: Strong enough to leave in through the winter snows. 

Some options:

  • Inflatable: Can be put up or taken down as often as you want.
  • Structural: A frame is put in place. Usually left in place, with the vinyl or fabric removed.
  • Open-sided: Blocks the sun, but lets in the fresh air. Wind might lift it.

Some coverage:

  • Full pool: The most common.
  • Partial pool: Some can swim in the sun, while others can have shade.
  • Canopy: Creates an alcove on one part of the pool.

You can also use the same kind of sun room you might buy for your porch, but instead put it over the above-ground pool.

Find local pool cleaning pros at the click of a button

With Pool Gnome

The Cost of Installing an Above-Ground Pool

Pool Gnome has put together an extensive pricing guide on the costs of installing, and maintaining, an above-ground pool.

But no poolscape is complete without a bit of greenery and color, right? Here is what you’ll pay to add landscaping features, as well:

Landscaping ServiceAverage Cost
Sod Installation$0.87 to $1.76 per sq. ft.
Pathway Installation$8 to $22 per square foot
Tree and Bush Planting$25 to $3,000
Flower Bed Planting$650 to $3,000

Having a safe, pleasant place to gather around your above-ground pool includes hardscaping costs, too. LawnStarter has compiled a pricing guide for the full range of landscaping costs

Here are the prices for some hardscaping projects that might come up:

Hardscaping ServiceAverage Cost
Fire pits$500-$3,433
Gazebo installation$5,358 to $9,058
Landscape lighting$188 – $325 per light
Outdoor kitchen installation$5,057 to $17,276
Patios$8-$22 per square foot
Pergola installation$2,100 to $6,000
Retaining wall installation$3,500 to $9,400
Water fountains/waterfalls$1,141 – $3,692

Keep Your Pool in Proper Shape

You want to be sure to take these steps to keep your pool operating properly:

The stepsThe concernThe average cost
Fix any leaksThey damage the lawn, waste water, and will spread.$300 (DIY patches start at $25.)
Get rid of moldIt is yucky and it clogs lines. By the time you see it, it is too late to fix it yourself.$500
Keep up with algaeAlgae makes you gag, is slimy, and will damage the filter.DIY with bleach and a scrub brush.
Check on the pumpThe heart of the system; if it is no longer keeping up, replace it.$120 to $800
Measure the filterYou want to keep the particles out and the water clean.$150 to $700
Put in a pool heaterYou can use your pool earlier and later in the year, and the day.$1,800 to $2,400 to have it installed.
Start with a fenceIt simply isn’t safe to have a pool without a fence around it.$1,120

Source: National Association of Realtors

When to Call a Landscaping Professional

Some pool landscaping projects might be DIY, but calling a professional is a good idea if you have a more complicated pool design in mind. After all, if you already have professionals handling your pool care, why not add a professional landscaper to help with this outdoor space?

Landscaping pros have construction capabilities and botanical knowledge that you probably don’t have on your own. They can take your wildest dreams for your backyard pool landscape or outdoor space and make them a reality.


Does Adding an Above-Ground Pool Make Your House Worth More?

Above-ground pools may add value to homes if they are well-designed and maintained, but not if they’re removable or poorly maintained. It also depends on pool demand in your area. Warm climates make any kind of pool desirable, while home buyers in colder climates will likely see the pool as an inconvenience. Above-ground pools tend to add less value than in-ground pools.

Realtors will tell homeowners that the decision to add an above-ground pool should be based on their personal enjoyment rather than being an effort to increase the value of the outdoor space.

Should I Take Into Account the Path of the Sun?

Before you set up your above-ground pool, you might track the sun’s progress across your yard, and set up the pool where it gets the most sun. It takes a lot of time, and might be more important with an in-ground pool (that can’t easily be moved if it turns out to have a location problem), but might be worth it.

Can I Put the Pool Anywhere in the Yard?

Make sure you choose a level spot for your pool installation. When you fill the pool with water, the pressure on an unlevel pool can cause the walls to give way. That can be dangerous for anyone in or around the pool area. You can DIY this part, or call in a landscaper to help with the leveling process of the pool installation.

A Call to Action

An above-ground pool can be a fun thing to have in the yard, but if you decide to add one, you should take action:

✓ Check on the need for permits. 

✓ Decide if you want to install it yourself or hire a professional.

✓ Make sure your pool fence will provide safety, or have one built.

✓ Decide if you want a roof over it. Even a part of it.

✓ Choose the landscaping you want, from plants to decks. And hire a landscaper to install it, or DIY.

You can make the project as big or as simple as you want, and manage the costs as you want. But slowly drifting is something you do after the pool is in place, not before.

Pool need maintenance?

With Pool Gnome

Main Photo Credit: ZarFilms / Canva Pro / License

Ted Rodgers

Ted Rodgers has been an editor and writer for a half century at least, and has had to deal with pests throughout. His home is still standing, which is one (small) definition of success in dealing with them. He is willing to pause in his battles long enough to share what he has learned. He borrows from Beatrix Potter when he shares this truth about pests: “Tiddly, widdly, but not piddly.”