Planting Palm Trees by Your Pool? What to Know

With more and more people working and entertaining from home, it’s a great move to cultivate a vacation-ready feel in your own backyard. One of the best ways to bring a tropical vibe to your backyard paradise is by planting a few palm trees.

In this post, I’ll break down what you need to know before planting a few palms around your pool, and a few things to be aware of.

What are the best palm trees to plant near a pool?

European fan palms, Sabal palms, Fan palms, and Date palms are a few small to medium-sized palm varieties suitable to plant near swimming pools. Consider factors like your local climate, the size of the palm, and its root system to select the best type of palm for your pool; you should also consider as well as whether or not seeds will pose a problem for guests.

If you plan to plant your palm tree inside a concrete, stone, or wood surround (the area around your pool), keep in mind that some palms grow to be extremely tall and should be planted strategically. In general, many of the fan palms are small enough not to crowd this area.

Good palm tree varieties for hot climates

If you live somewhere that gets pretty hot in the summer, consider silver saw palms. These silvery trees don’t grow as tall as regular palms, but they’re heat tolerant, slow-growing, and a perfect choice for containers.

If you’re looking for something larger, you might also consider California fan palms which are a bit more dramatic and can grow to be 100 feet tall. They’re best suited for tropical climates and have grayish-green fronds.

European fan palms for colder climates

European fan palm

For those looking at palms suited for colder climates, a couple of options to consider are windmill palms or European fan palms. Both of these trees will fare well in the cold, and European fan palms can tolerate temperatures as cold as 20 degrees.

If you live in a flexible, temperate climate you may be able to get away with a little more. In these situations, you might lean towards one of the more striking varietals like Texas sabal palms or pindo palms.

Pindo palms for fairly cold climates

pindo palm

Pindo palms are famous for their light, feather-like foliage, yet they’re still fairly cold-hardy. Conversely, Texas palms can stretch up to 48 feet tall, and have large blue-green fronds that form a thick crown around the top of the tree.

With whatever variety you choose to go with, it always helps to consult with a local landscaping company who may even be able to install these for you for a minimal cost.

How far from a pool should you plant a palm tree?

In general, most small palm trees like Pindo or Sabal palm may be planted 5 to 6 feet away from a pool. Smaller palms have a non-invasive root system, so they shouldn’t crack concrete like other trees. Some varieties like Royal palms aren’t ideal for pool areas, because they are taller and have larger root systems that require more room.

When it comes to how far away you should plant a palm, it really depends on a palm’s root structure. If your palm has fronds cascading 10 feet across, its roots may need a little extra room, but in general, it’s not something to worry about.

Palms often fare a lot better than other deciduous trees in this situation, and if you’re really worried you can always plant your trees in planters.

Planting palms in planters

palm in planter

If you’re using a planter you’ll want to fill it with well-draining soil, and handle the initial root ball (the roots of your palm tree) with care. If you break or tear the roots while transferring the root ball from its pot, the plant could go into shock and die.

For the best results, leave the rootball relatively untouched as you transfer it into the ground.

Then, make sure to not plant the palms too deep, and water it right away to fill in any air pockets around the roots. Any remaining air pockets can lead to root rot and disease, so it’s important to carefully pack soil along the roots where you can.

From there, you can water fairly infrequently, making sure to fertilize your palm four times a year. Two to four months after you plant your palm in the container it’ll be ready for fertilizer, so make sure to find one designed for feeding palms.

The benefit of planting in planters is that you have the mobility of moving them indoors in the event an unexpectedly harsh winter threatens them. This can be the case in regions like Charlotte, North Carolina that sometimes experience cold spells.

Palm root systems and drainage near pools

To properly care for your palm tree you’ll need to figure out what kind of drainage your soil has. Sandy soils generally have the best drainage and clay the worst.

In some situations, clay soil can be packed with nutrients, but if it goes too long without water it can dry in a solid mass, and become fairly impenetrable. To combat this you may have to dig out a larger area than you expected and fill it with a mix of different soils.

Additionally, you don’t want water collecting below your palm, as this could lead to root rot. An easy way to test this is to visit the hole you’ve dug for the palm tree, and fill it with water.

Time how long it takes for the water to pass through —for best results it should only take about an hour or two. If the water remains and can’t soak through the soil, you can try drilling smaller holes throughout the hole to facilitate drainage, but otherwise the soil may not be equipped to handle your palm tree.

Can chlorine kill palm trees?

For the most part, palms are pretty hardy and typically very salt and chlorine resistant, especially considering the diluted chlorine found in pools. More often than not palms fare much better than other cold-weather trees.

This is largely because of their waxy fronds, which inhibit the absorption of any chlorine —no matter how often they get splashed. The very hardiest of the bunch will be dwarf palmettos, cabbage palms, saw palmettos, pindo palms, and Mediterranean fan palms.

How to avoid palm seeds in your pool

medjool palm tree seeds

The biggest hassle with planting trees poolside is the maintenance involved. If you plant a species that drops a ton of seeds or fronds, you’ll have to deal with cleaning your pool a lot more often. To avoid this you should stay away from queen palms and medjool date palms.

However, if you have your heart set on one of these palms you can always plant them a little further away from your pool, and still bask in their beauty without the constant cleanup.

Check out my post on how to remove and prevent leaves in your pool for a few strategies worth implementing if you are considering planting trees nearby.

Conclusion

Overall,  planting palm trees near your pool or hot tub can add an elegant touch to any backyard. With the right care and soil, they generally will be just fine assuming that you select the appropriate variety.

Here in North Carolina, fan palms in addition to larger palmettos near coastal areas are a popular choice near pools, since they aren’t too large and adapt quite well. Whatever you decide to plant, just be sure you know what the growth potential and maximum height will be!

Check out my post 9 Ways to Make Your Pool Feel More Tropical for more ideas for your pool space.

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