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Plants that work beautifully in the pool cage

Every pool deserves beautiful plantings to set it off. But not all plants work in a pool cage. You want color, you want tropical, but you definitely don’t want a mess — in the pool or on the pavers or concrete around it.

The best combination is to group “clean plants” in the planting beds and large pots brimming with plants as accents.

Here are some great choices for pool cage plants; choose the ones that work best for the sunlight and space in your pool cage.

For smaller height plants, bromeliads are fantastic. They are easy care for, pretty and tropical. There’s also the soft texture of foxtail fern, spiky little purple-backed oyster plant, and the grassy mounds of liriope.

For medium-height plants, crotons are perfection around the pool for color and cleanliness. Endless varieties give you lots of color and texture choices. Crotons don’t grow very fast, another pool cage plus, though some types grow larger than others.

For taller plants, dracaena marginata, black magic dracaena, the ti plant and other dracaena/cordyline varieties add height, drama and color. The lacy look of false aralia, with its dark gray-green leaves, contrasts well with lighter greens and larger leaved plants.

If you want tropical leaves, consider the beautiful xanadu philodendron, which grows in a swirly cushion of green. There’s also the bright yellow-striped leaves of variegated ginger or variegated arboricola. Anthurium hookeri has stunning upright leaves, and alocasia odora has the look of small, ruffled elephant ears. There are small, unusual varieties of philodendron or alocasia as well. White bird of paradise can get very big, so plant it only if you have plenty of height in the cage. Or use it in a pot, so you can divide it later to control the height.

Cycads such as dioon edule, cardboard palm and coontie make striking accent plants in beds or pots.

Great palms for the pool cage include ponytail palm, cat palm, windmill fan, adonidia, Chinese fan and lady palm.

If you grow flowers, place them well away from the pool’s edge, so any spent blossoms fall in the bed, not in the pool. Small blooms are best; such as Anne Marie lantana with its multi-color flowers and low-mounding habit, and dwarf pentas in pink, red, white or purple. Larger flowers like hibiscus can stain the pool deck and are as slippery as a banana peel.

Some plants will eventually outgrow their pool cage space, so for larger specimens like palms, plant slow growers you can enjoy for a long time, or ones that won’t grow too big in the first place. How to get an overgrown palm out? Hire a pro, like Jeff Gilchrist of Jeff Gilchrist Landscaping, who has actually invented a device to remove the unwanted palm without making a mess or tearing up the screening.

Books by Chase Landre, “Snowbird Gardening” and “Design Your Own Landscaping,” are available at local garden centers and businesses.

For more information, visit www.snowbirdgardening.com. Her gardening column runs twice a month in Neighbors. Meet Chase at 9 a.m. on Saturdays at Burnett’s Nursery, 4808 18th St. E., Bradenton.

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