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Hot Tub Landscaping for Beauty and Function

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: September 27, 2020

When you installed your hot tub, you had plans. Big plans. You were going to create a beautiful oasis where you could enjoy your relaxing soaks. Now it’s a couple of years later, and you still have a lonely spa sitting in the back yard all by itself, surrounded by nothing but a ring of dirt and some half-dead grass. It’s time for a change.

Hot tub landscaping can reduce the amount of chemicals you need to use, and can conserve water, both of which will save you money. You’ll also get several other benefits, not the least of which is a prettier hot tub area. It’s not too late. You can get that beautiful oasis. It’ll just take a little work.

Hot Tub Landscaping Benefits

It’s essential to create a plan before you start shopping, especially if you have a limited budget. But remember, spending some money up front can help you save more money in the long run. Regardless of what you plan to spend, the first thing to do is think about what you want the new hot tub landscaping to do for you.

Better Aesthetics

Your back yard and hot tub area looking nice is just part of your entire home looking nice, right? If your hot tub is surrounded by just a few feet of dirt or rocks, it can definitely look uninviting and unkempt.

Just a small amount of hot tub landscaping can turn turn that barren spot into a haven. If, instead of open ground, you have a hot tub deck, colorful planters and containers can work wonders.

But there are even more valuable benefits to be had.

Less Evaporation

Any spa loses water to evaporation, whether it’s outdoors or not. This means you’ll have to replace lost chemicals and water on a regular basis. You can’t keep it from happening, but you can lessen it.

An outdoor hot tub is subject to wind, which increases evaporation. Strategically placed shrubs, plants, and other types of barriers can protect your spa from wind, which will decrease water loss through evaporation. You won’t have to replace as much water, which means you won’t have to replace as much chemicals, which means you’ll save money.

More Privacy

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to soak in your hot tub without worrying about the neighbors peeking through the fence? It’s not like you’re going to soak in the nude—or maybe you are. No judgment.

Either way, privacy is nice, and it’s at a premium in some neighborhoods where the homes are quite close together. Tall hedges or flowering plants, or even small trees, shrubs or vines can give you the privacy your privacy fence can’t.

Less Yard Maintenance

Maybe you’ve been thinking you don’t want to do any hot tub landscaping because it will just mean a lot more yard work than you’re already doing. That is possible, sure, if you choose the wrong plants.

Get all the benefits with less work by selecting plants that:

  • Are ideal for your USDA hardiness zone: Plants geared toward warmer temperatures won’t thrive, or possibly even survive too far north.
  • Are native to your area: Because they’re at home in the local soil, native plants can better survive local weather, help prevent erosion, improve water quality with strong root systems, and will require less fertilizer, if any at all.

Less Debris in the Hot Tub

Some plants release a lot of pollen, are deciduous, or drop their dead flowers. A lot of that debris is going to end up in your hot tub if you plant them too close.

Do some research and choose plants that have less pollen, are evergreen, and either don’t flower, or flower less than others. Putting some of these plants around your hot tub may also protect it from other plants in your yard that do give off more debris.

Higher Home Resale Value

Maybe you’re living in what you know is only your first home, and you plan to sell it eventually. Putting in some nice hot tub landscaping may add a little to the sale price. But if it doesn’t, it will still be more appealing to potential buyers than a wet, muddy area around the spa.

Design First

To get the most benefit from the plants you install, you need to make sure you put them in the right places. You don’t want to end up with a mishmash of wild growth you’ll have a hard time taming. Create a design before you break ground.

You can use an online garden planner, or just get a few sheets of graph paper and draw it yourself.

To build a solid plan, you’ll need to do a couple of other things as well.

Measure the Space

Make sure you have enough space for the plants you choose. You don’t want to plant things too close together. If you give the plants enough room to grow, they won’t obstruct each other, or compete with each other for sunlight and water.

Important: When you measure, leave some space between the hot tub and the actual area where you’re installing the hot tub landscaping. You don’t want soil, plants or mulch touching the tub or cabinet. Place the plants around the hot tub pad (or whatever solid surface your tub in resting on). If you want to add plants closer to the spa, use plant boxes or containers.

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Choose the Right Plants

Some plants grow upward, others grow outward, and some do both. Yes, you do want a few taller plants to reduce the amount of wind that skims over the water, but if you put them in front, you won’t be able to see the other beautiful plants you put in, and then what’s the point of having them?

Important: Avoid plants labeled invasive. This means the plant will grow aggressively and possibly kill other plants around it. It also means you’ll have to work hard to keep the invasive plant from taking over. Be aware that even some native plants can be invasive.

Hot Tub Landscaping Supplies

Depending on the choices you make, and whether you have a hot tub deck or not, you may not need all of these supplies.

  • graph paper
  • colored pencils
  • steel rake
  • square garden spade (for edging)
  • digging shovel
  • garden hose
  • garden tools (trowel, transplanter, and cultivator)
  • garden gloves
  • spray nozzle
  • landscape fabric (optional)
  • mulch
  • landscape edging
  • pea gravel or other stones(optional)
  • plant seeds
  • live plants
  • landscape lighting
  • gardening gloves
  • sunscreen
  • closed-toe shoes

How to Landscape Around Your Hot Tub

Whether you’re working with an entire yard or just a tiny strip of land next to your hot tub, you can add beauty and benefit with some hot tub landscaping.

Prep the Space

Clean up the area around your spa. Remove dead grass and plants, rocks, and anything else that’s in the way. You want to start with a clean slate.

Get rid of all the weeds too. If you do this after it rains, they’ll come up a lot more easily. If it hasn’t rained in a while, soak the ground the night before. This step is important because you need to pull out the entire root. Otherwise, the weed will just grow back.

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Prepare the Plants

If you’re using seeds, you can skip this step. But if you’re using live plants, you can’t just pull them from their plastic pots and stick them in the ground.

First, gently pull them from their pots. Massage the roots to loosen them up, taking care not to break or damage them. Finally, pull any dead flowers or leaves off.

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If you choose the right kind of hedge, you can create a truly private space around your hot tub. Some hedges are so dense, you can’t see through them once they grow in. And some will grow tall enough that you can’t see over them when standing.

You can place them in a perimeter around the spa, or plant them along your fence line. If possible, choose an evergreen variety so they provide that privacy all year long. Just remember you may need to keep them pruned and shaped, depending on the type.


This is where it gets interesting and fun. You’ll be able to choose from literally hundreds of varieties: flowering, non-flowering, tall, short, narrow, wide, in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

If you’re unsure which plants will work best for you, go to a nursery instead of a big box store. Their botanical experts will be able to help you choose the right plants.

Note: Remember that many flowers attract bees and wasps, so choose carefully.


Even if your spa is out in the open, vines can provide aesthetics and privacy. You can put up a couple of trellises, or even a few to surround your hot tub, then plant vines at the base and train them to climb.

You may even get privacy more quickly from vines than any other plant because most varieties grow rather quickly.

This may not be feasible around the entire spa, but you could put trellises up on one or two sides, and train some type of vine to climb them. If you don’t have privacy fencing, you can also allow vines to climb your fence as well.

Or, if you want all the benefit with none of the work, you can use artificial ivy. A lot of what’s available now is pretty realistic looking.

Important: Some vine species are invasive, so choose wisely.

Gravel or Landscape Rocks

If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of planting anything around the base of your hot tub, you can lay gravel or landscape rocks instead. You’ll get a nice, clean perimeter with less maintenance and no watering required.

Gravel won’t keep weeds from cropping up, so you may want to lay some landscape fabric underneath. And while most home improvement stores will have some types of rock available, you can probably get better prices from a landscape supplier.

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Once you’ve put your plants in, you want to help protect them. That’s a job for mulch. It helps keep the soil in place around the plants, and also helps keep more moisture in the ground to keep the roots hydrated. Mulch also helps prevent weeds from growing and competing with your plants.

You may also want to consider rubber mulch. It looks similar to organic mulch, and it also helps keep weeds at bay. If may even offer a little cushion should anyone happen to slip on their way into or out of the hot tub.

Note: Rubber mulch is best used only around your hot tub. We don’t recommend using it in your flower beds or gardens because it doesn’t break down the way organic mulch does, which means no nutrients are added to the soil.

Important: Some rubber mulch is made from old, shredded tires. There are concerns that it may not be the healthiest material to use. Do some research before you buy it so you can make an educated decision.

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Ground Cover

The ground surrounding your spa can become saturated and muddy, especially if you let the kids use the hot tub. You know they splash around in there.

One solution instead of grass is ground cover. Some types are even better than grass at tolerating traffic and splashout.


Ah, there’s nothing like a nighttime soak. But now that you’ve installed all this hot tub landscaping, it’s even harder to see out there! That’s an easy fix with landscape lights.

In keeping with the money-saving theme, choose solar lights that will charge all day, and then provide warm, ambient light in the evening.

Hot Tub Deck “Landscaping”

If your hot tub is surrounding by decking, not to worry. You can still some some hot tub “landscaping” with containers and flower boxes.

They’ll be even lower maintenance than anything planted in the ground. And they’re portable, so depending on what you grow, you can move it around to provide privacy.

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Who Says Beauty Can’t Be Functional?

After a season or two, when everything has had a chance to establish and start growing, you’ll be amazed at the difference a little hot tub landscaping can make. The change will be immediate, and will only get better with time.

Get ready to start enjoying that oasis, and a fuller wallet!

Happy Hot Tub Landscaping!

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.
A Cheat Sheet For Balanced Hot Tub Water and Crystal Clear Soaking.
Download this FREE printable cheat sheet to keep your hot tub clean and clear. You’ll never worry about your hot tub again with this easy-to-use guide.
Click Here For The FREE Cheat Sheet