NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants

Landscaping Ideas for Pools and Ponds in New Zealand.

A lush tropical pond in Singapore.  It’s quite possible to create something equally as exotic in New Zealand.
A range of different Phoenix palm trees suitable for an oasis style landscaping around a swimming pool.
A Senegal Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata, and Kentia Palm, Howea forsteriana.  Both make excellent plants for landscaping swimming pools.
The Himalayan Fishtail Palm, Caryota maxima, is a lovely palm to plant on the south side of a swimming pool.
A collection of King Palms, Archontophoenix alexandrae.  For a jungle landscape around a swimming pool these are a fine choice.
Pritchardia fan palms originate from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.  They’re a particularly beautiful genus of fan palms that’ll look great around a swimming pool.
Cannas and large leafed tropical plants should be densely planted around jungle landscape around swimming pools.
A lotus water lily.
A mixture of palms and large leafed alocasias look great around ponds.
The Lady palm, Rhapis excelsa, provides a wonderful screen around ponds and pools.

© NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants 2019

Both swimming pools and spa pools as well as ponds offer up a wonderful opportunity for landscaping. A tropical landscaping around a swimming pool will transform a boring pool into an oasis. Ponds on the other hand are soothing and relaxing and our recommendations are in keeping with this.


Swimming Pools and Spa Pools

Beginning with swimming pools and spa pools, some important considerations. First, avoid deciduous trees or anything with a habit of dropping leaves or bark into the pool. Ensure at least half a metre between the edge of the pool and any planted area. This is to prevent soil and bark washing into the pool. Also, consider planting bamboo or the Bamboo Palm, Chamaedorea microspadix, for screening and privacy. Finally, think carefully about the eventual size of the plants and their potential to shade the pool. Large plants should be on the south side of a swimming pool to avoid casting the entire area into shade.


We propose two landscaping ideas for the planting of palm trees and other plants around swimming pools; the oasis and the jungle pool. The oasis looks to the Arabian Desert for inspiration; large, tough palm trees, spiky plants, rocks and sand complement the look. Meanwhile the jungle pool is characterised by lush green leaves and hot colour.


Oasis Swimming Pools

For an oasis style planting around your pool you’ll need plenty of space. The palm trees we’re suggesting are large and will be overbearing in a small setting. This design relies upon a number of species of Phoenix palm. Phoenix are found throughout Africa and include those that are seen around oases in the Arabian Desert.


We’ll begin with at least one clump of Date Palms, Phoenix dactylifera. With their grey-blue colour and distinctive form these are the archetypal palm of the oasis. Date Palms do cluster but here we recommend planting clumps of three plants and clipping off new shoots. The next Phoenix palm to consider including is the Senegal Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata. This is a reliable clustering palm so you only need plant one in any location. A more tropical looking palm than the Date Palm this species will grow to develop tall arching trunks and graceful heads smaller than most other Phoenix species. Next there’s the smaller Pygmy Date Palm, Phoenix roebelenii, a familiar plant throughout much of New Zealand. The cultivated form of this palm is solitary so again we recommend planting clumps of three palms. With age these clumps will resemble a miniature Phoenix reclinata. Another Phoenix that’s a classic (if somewhat rarer) desert palm is the Silver Date Palm, Phoenix sylvestris. This is an attractive palm from India. A little smaller in size than the true Date Palm it’s well suited to an oasis style planting.


Use rocks and stones as well as liberal quantities of sand amongst the palms with only small, tough plants such as miniature Aloes and Agaves as groundcover.

Jungle Swimming Pools

The alternative pool landscaping to the somewhat Spartan oasis planting is a lush jungle pool. The jungle pool combines many of the elements of the Tropical and South Pacific gardens such as tall, stately palm trees, lush foliage and bright flowers. Keep trees to a minimum to avoid leaves in the swimming pool and instead plant tall, slim palm species that won’t block out the sun. In particular look to species such as King Palms, Archontophoenix alexandrae, Kentias, Howea forsteriana, Majesty Palms, Ravenea rivularis, and the Juçara Palm, Euterpe edulis. All of these species look great planted in clumps of three or five. If space permits plant to the south of the pool either the tall Himalayan Fishtail Palm, Caryota maxima, or the Giant Fishtail Palm, Caryota gigas.


A carefully landscaped pond provides a place for peace and tranquillity in the garden. We believe ponds should be hidden allowing them to be discovered by the visitor rather than placed in full view. For this reason you’ll want to think about creating a narrow path through the garden. Picture a scene with large ferns and ornamental bamboos bordering a winding bark-chip path that eventually leads to a secluded pond.


The pond is half-hidden but there’s a glimpse of small, ornamental palms such as the thin Wedding Palm, Lytocaryum weddellianum, and the gorgeous Cascade Palm, Chamaedorea cataractarum, which sits at the water’s edge. Larger stands of the Sugar Cane Palm, Dypsis baronii, the Lady palm, Rhapis excelsa and the Bamboo Palm, Chamaedorea microspadix, along with large tree ferns shield the pond from the rest of the garden.


At the water’s edge grow large-leafed Alocasias and Colocasias intersperced with clumps of dwarf gingers and the Water Canna, Thalia dealbata. In the pond itself are planted sacred lotus water-lilies.

For medium-sized palms the most desirable is the Sugarcane Palm, Dypsis baronii, a relatively hardy alternative to the tropical Golden Cane Palm. Chamaedorea palms are also a must. With both solitary and clustering species that tolerate chills one should consider the clustering Bamboo Palm, Chamaedorea microspadix and the lovely Cascade Palm, Chamaedorea cataractarum.


A particularly tropical looking fan palm is the Pritchardia from Hawaii. Consider also a few cycads such as different species of Cycas and the large and impressive Lepidozamia peroffskyana.


For tropical foliage plant ornamental bananas such as Musa or Ensete in a sheltered spot along with an under-planting of cannas, gingers, Colocasias and Alocasias.


Finally, for bright flowers plant nothing less than a dozen different coloured hibiscus bushes.