Gardening 101: Brighten up your poolside this summer

NORTH TEXAS ( — With the summer heat expanding, pools have become one of the preferred places to escape the heat. So why not add some color to everyone’s favorite hangout?

Container gardening is easy and flexible. There are literally thousands of combinations of flower and foliage color to play with. You can plant for the shade or sun, and then move your container around until it finds its happy place. When you feel the need to refresh the look, simply plant into the ground what you currently have and start anew.

However, there is a major caveat for container gardens: they are a commitment. In the peak of the summer heat, they’ll need watering every day, so get that habit into your morning routine. Make sure to add a water retention additive to your soil like coconut fiber or vermiculite. Our story used Calloway’s Nursery soil specific to the task. Read the ingredients if you want to make a home version (Warning: there are lots of components.)

Also, since many of these containers will house all summer flowering plants, they require lots of food. I recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer that is in a slow-release granule form. Here is an example from the Calloway’s website. If you work into the top inch of the soil, you’ll only have to do this about every month.

Watering from the bottom of the container and allowing the moisture to wick up to the roots will not only promote deeper roots and hardier plants, but it will also keep you from leaching nutrients out of the soil in a daily top watering. 

Calloway’s Jennifer Hatalski picked out three of the hardiest summer annuals you can grow in this area. Remember the container motto, “Thrill, fill and spill” for your plant selection. For the “thrill,” the centerpiece plant, she went with three red pentas (they also come in pink and white.) I love pentas because they can handle both full sun and partial sun, and don’t seem bothered much from the heat. 

Hatalski introduced me to a specific variety of catharanthus called soiree kawaii, a type of vinca that has both small leaves and flowers. They are just as hardy as the regular vinca you see everywhere in the North Texas landscape. This is a flower famous for handling the Texas heat. These were the plants to “fill” the container, slightly less in stature than the taller pentas. 

For the “spill,” the absolute standard go-to plant for this task, is sweet potato vine. The classic lime green is a bright favorite, but this plant also comes in purple and darker greens. These plants are both inexpensive and prone to explosive growth.

The combinations are near endless as well the color palettes. This is what makes container gardening so fun, it is an inexpensive and easy way to add dashes of color around your pool. Just make sure to get in the habit of daily watering and, if the heat is making them suffer, be willing to move them around to a better spot. 

You can find more container garden suggestions from Hatalski on her weekly blog

Also, I’d like to give a special thanks to our news operation manager Billy Sexton, a fellow gardening enthusiast that usually shoots these stories with me. The pool shots and accompanying container gardens come from his backyard.