Flowers are twice as nice when reflected in your pool.

Want to improve your landscaping without spending a lot of money? Consider this: shimmering reflections of your existing landscaping, as well as a few artfully arranged container gardens.

Why not double the intrinsic value of your landscape by using your pool as a mirror that reflects your plantings year-round? Container gardens are perfect for this: You don’t need to retrofit new beds and planting areas; all you need to do is add some appropriately sized pots close to the water’s edge, and gain the look immediately.

Consider using some brightly colored pots, and then plant in them flowers/plants with one or two colors to gain the greatest reflective value in the pool. To keep your pool-cleaning from becoming more challenging, you will also want to choose flowers that do not readily drop. Some annuals that hang on to their blooms are Scaevola (fan flower—trailing), Pentas (tall upright) and Gazania (low perennial). I also recommend searching out some of the more interesting varieties of Lantana. They will thrive in the heat and hold up well all summer long.

Some heat-happy succulents and other plants to consider:

  • Giant Hesperaloe. (Pictured to the right.)
  • Red Yucca.
  • Whipple’s Yucca.
  • Bougainvillea—Torch Glow. (You don’t want to use other varieties, as you will constantly be removing the petals from your pool filter. The Torch Glow hangs on to its blossoms much better.)

What about the heat, you ask? You can beat the heat with some good planning. It’s best to place your pots on the south or west side of the pool. West-side pots should ideally have something behind them to provide a bit of afternoon shade. A wall would be perfect—see the picture at the top—or you can use a landscape plant if you already have a bed nearby. You can even use a larger pot behind the pool pots. The reflection value is tremendous with this latter arrangement.

If the pots need to be on the east side of the pool—which means plants will get not only a direct hit of the Western sun; they’ll also bear the reflecting heat of the pool—it’s best to go with shrubs or cacti/succulents. These plants hold up well to the direct sunlight and heat of our desert summer.

North-side pots are most at risk of heat problems in the middle of the summer when the sun is setting. Again, you can add plants or large pots to offer these pool-area pots some relief.

All plants will need regular water, so make sure your plantings are in pots a minimum of 24 inches tall. Floral plantings will need daily water, and shrubs require water every two to three days. Cactuses only need water once every two weeks.

Your first step is to spend some time looking at your pool while the weather is still relatively cool. If you have an empty pot handy, try placing it near the pool’s edge to see where you get the best reflection. Then plan what pot(s) you will want to use, and what you would like to plant in them. Start with just one, if you’d like, or ramp it up to two or three. If you’re worried about trying this during the summer, go ahead and plan for the fall.

A 24-inch pot with one of the succulents listed above will be the easiest plant to practice with. Plant one in a brilliant red or purple pot, and it’ll do the trick!

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the Desert’s Potted Garden Expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at, and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook. The Potted Desert Garden appears weekly at