The house I was living in had a huge waterfall planter that needed a centerpiece. I picked a pink Mandevilla vine and a heart shaped trellis. Sure it was absolutely beautiful in the beginning but there were many things I didn't think of. The dead blooms falling in the pool all the time and at certain times of the year it would get infested with mealy bugs and loose it's leaves, falling into the pool.
I also had a multitude of hanging baskets and potted plants all around the lanai. With leaf drop and potting soil that eventually ended up in the pool my paradise was soon becoming a nightmare.
When I moved to my new house I had worked for a landscape contractor and was fortunate enough to design many gardens for builders of million plus homes. With what I had learned from my first house in Sarasota and designing many gardens for new home buyers, I knew exactly what I wanted for my new lanai.
Many lanai pool areas come with built in planters. Either the builder or the homeowner many times choose inappropriate plants not realizing how large they will grow and eventually pushing out screens!
One of my favorite plants is palms. There are some beautiful varieties, but most, are not suited for the lanai because they will become taller than your screen eventually. Even with this being the case there are a few palms that are suitable for the lanai setting.
Here is a picture of one of my two Cat palms I have growing in built in planters on my lanai. They have been planted for 7 years now in the same place. I routinely trim palm fronds back but this is really a low up keep palm. In nature, this attractive palm grows in or near fast flowing streams, hence the specific name. The palm requires a good supply of water, and medium light. It has dark green foliage, is very easy to care for. The beauty of this palm is it does not out grow it's space even after being planted in the same spot for years.
Another good choice of a lanai palm would be a Bamboo Palm Chamaedorea, Bottle Palm Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, Lady Palm Rhapis excelsa. All of these palms are going to have more height than the Cat palm and would eventually have to either be dug out or the pot taken out in the yard and the palm transplanted in your landscape.
I also have potted plants on the lanai in the new house. These include a Night-blooming cereus, a flowering Cereus Cacti that bloom at night. The flowers are short lived, blooming for one single night.I have trained mine to grow in a tree shape. This wonderful plant does not drop anything but the occasional flower at the end of the blooming cycle.
I have also included Ti Plants because if by chance they too tall it is very easy to cut them and take the piece you cut and start another plant.
Other choices I have included are Elephant ear, Colocasia esculenta. I love the tropical look it gives my lanai and it is another easy maintenance plant. One every couple of weeks a large leaf starts to die as a new one emerges. I cut them off with a sharp knife.
I also Cypress mulch each pot on the lanai which helps keeping soil in the pot during rains. I use lava rock in the permanent planters as my two Afghan Hounds sometimes walk in these planters and if I had added Cypress mulch my hounds would have it thrown all of the lanai.
Right now I have a beautiful Flame Thrower palm on the lanai but it's days are numbered because of it's height.
There are many other plants well suited for lanai living. Just remember to think about leaf and bloom drop and the mature size of the plant you choose down the road.