10 Ideas for Hot Tub Landscaping on a Budget

Updated: Dec. 14, 2023

Give your hot tub a welcoming vibe without busting the budget. These savvy tips will help you create a private spa retreat on the cheap.

Let’s face it: Once you’ve splurged on a hot tub, you’re probably not keen on spending more money on landscaping (although, you should consider investing in some of these hot tub accessories).

Good landscaping integrates a hot tub into the surroundings and makes it feel more private and welcoming. But it can also be expensive, particularly if it involves hardscape features like overhead structures and stone pathways.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money. By following these tips, you can have an inviting spa-like retreat — and the only soaking you’ll take will be in the tub!

It’s Mulch Appreciated

Aside from the hot tub itself, hardscaping can be the most expensive part of the project, especially if it involves pavers and natural stonework.

You can save money by using wood mulch as a pathway material. The big box stores often offer attractive bagged mulch as low as $2 for a two-cubic-foot bag around the major summer holidays. Or you can scavenge for opened bags at half price or less.

Another option? Pick up free wood chip mulch from your public works department. Many offer it to residents from trees cut down and chipped.

Roll Out the Carpet

A little carpeting can make a hot tub retreat more homey. It feels better under your feet than mulch or stones. And it’s safer than bare pavers, which can be slippery when wet.

The old standby, green artificial turf, won’t clash with anything visually and wears well, even when wet. But there are plenty of colors and patterns available on newer outdoor carpets to really personalize the space. To keep costs down, look for discounted remnants at carpet outlet stores.

Secondhand? Second That!

Why buy new when you can save money with used items? Many places stock secondhand hardscaping materials, including thrift stores, church rummage sales and garage sales.

Also, see if your community has an outlet for second-life building supplies. One example is Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells discounted new and used home improvement materials donated by contractors and companies. Sale proceeds go towards building homes for those in need.

Fast and Furious

If you surround your hot tub with rapid risers, speed will rule the day, just like with the popular movie franchise. Examples include bamboo, privet, forsythia and even Jerusalem artichoke, an eight-foot-tall perennial sunflower with edible tubers.

Rapidly growing plants give you a quick bang for the buck and are so vigorous you won’t need to augment them in the future. But that same wild abandon can also make them a thug in the garden.

So in the case of bamboo or Jerusalem artichoke, confine the roots to prevent their spread. With privet or forsythia, plan to prune more frequently than slower-growing shrubs.

The Grass Is Greener

Ornamental grasses offer a lot of landscaping potential around a hot tub. Smaller grasses fit in nicely with bedding annuals, midsize grasses mix well with perennials and shrubs, while tall grasses offer privacy and pleasing sound as they sway in the breeze. Hardy pampas grass and giant miscanthus are two of the tallest, both reaching 12 feet.

While garden centers often put plants on sale in the fall, ornamental grasses are an exception. They’re at their finest in fall, and retailers are less inclined to discount them. Grasses are easily divided to make new plants, so find a friend or plant partner to hit up for divisions!

Evergreens Are Ever Serene

If you’re using the hot tub year-round, plant an evergreen hedge, providing more privacy along with protection from cold winds. If it’s more about appearance than shelter, you can easily save money by buying smaller plants — say, a five-gallon arborvitae instead of a 10-gallon one.

Arborvitae, juniper and yew are the more economical options often planted as hedges. Dwarf spruce and pine offer more eye appeal as standalone plants but are less likely to go on sale. Create a cozy outdoor with these hot tub shelter ideas.

Privacy Can Be Pretty

Rather than a stockade fence, choose plants to establish your personal spa space. They look more natural while adding a more welcoming ambiance. There’s no shortage of options, including shrubs like hydrangea, rhododendron, bottlebrush buckeye and rose of Sharon, a woody hibiscus. Or try rose mallow, a perennial hibiscus that dies back to the roots in cold climates but quickly rises again to reach four to five feet the following season.

For the best prices, visit the sale racks at big box stores in early to mid-summer or later in fall.

Annual Appeal

Say you want beauty, fragrance and a little privacy — and you want to talk pennies, not dollars. The answer is as close as the seed rack at your local garden center. Buy a few seed packs of annuals, cultivate the soil, then sow and grow an economical bed of color.

Look for zinnias, cleome, bachelor’s buttons, cosmos, sunflowers, tithonia and celosia, all easy to sprout directly in the garden without seed-starting supplies.

Don’t want to bother with seeds? Buy bedding annuals at the supermarket or hardware store when they go on sale in early to midsummer. Selling plants is not their primary business, so they’re usually ready to liquidate inventory at that time.

Don’t Overlook What’s Overhead

Consider what’s above the hot tub. The thick beams of a pergola offer a welcome sense of enclosure without feeling confining. Cover it with some lattice and vines for added shade and screening from second-story windows.

Leftover sheets of lattice are often available secondhand on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. A used pergola may be harder to come by, and new ones don’t often go on sale. But you could substitute a small to medium-sized tree like a redbud, dogwood or crimson maple for some overhead cover.

A Vine Time for All

Rapid-growing vines are good for quick cover. Start annual vines like morning glory with a $2.99 pack of seeds to provide cover and beauty the same growing season.

Perennial vines are more expensive, although often heavily discounted at the end of the season, but only need to be purchased once. And they generally cover more territory than annual vines. A wisteria can reach 30 feet and cover a large pergola. While you’re at it, get to know if you can put a hot tub on deck.

Caution: Large vines like wisteria require strong structures for support. Don’t try to grow them on a flimsy section of thin lattice!