How to choose water garden plants
So the water garden bug has
bitten. You’ve dug and leveled and sweated
and said words you hope that no one else has heard. Now it’s
the fun part – picking out your water garden plants!
Plant varieties within these four categories are what you need
eyeball: deep-water, marginals, oxygenators, and floaters. (If
these words are big words, just be happy we’re not talking about
After you’ve diligently planted your new plants in plastic tubs,
clay pots, packing the fertilizer- and chemical-free soil down
load the container down with pea gravel to keep the soil from
away. (Don’t ask why this works, but it does.) Plunk your plant
water at the appropriate depth (You’ll read about that in just a
minute) and you’re on ready to go!
Plant-dunking should be generally be done during the growing
season. For new ponds, wait four or five weeks for the water
plants to do their thing before you add your fish. If you just
can’t hold your horses, or your fish, for that long, you can
jump the gun a couple of weeks, but the idea is to let the
plants first get established.
When picking your plants, you’ll no doubt be wowed by water
the tropical persuasion. These aquatic wonders are popular
compared to their hardier cousins with knock-out fragrance, big
blooms day or night –
depending on the variety – and a habit of blooming their little
out nearly every day during the growing season. They love their
though, so unless you live in a year-round, warm-weather
climate, be prepared to hasten them into a greenhouse or at
least muster up some funds to buy them some “grow” lights to
tough it out through the winter.
They will definitely bite the
dust at freezing temperatures, but give them night-time temps of
at least 65F and daytime temps of 75F or warmer, and your love
affair with tropicals will only grow that much more torrid.
Hardy water lilies, while not the showboaters that tropicals
are, are.... well, hardier. Their big advantage is that they can stay in
water year ‘round unless it freezes so deeply the rootstock is
And being the tough guys they are, you can plant these puppies
than the tropicals, some living it up in depths of 8 to 10 feet.
Both hardy and tropical water
lilies are real sun worshippers. At least
5 to 10 hours a day is what it takes, along with regular
to keep these plant pals happy.
Everybody and their brother with a water garden wants a lotus
(Sisters, too, no doubt.) These water-lily relatives come in
not-so-hardy strains, so make sure you know what you’re buying.
bigger than water lilies, lotus have huge, famously splendid
not only will knock your socks off, but make you forget you have
altogether. Their leaves and seed pods are so breathtaking,
favorite in costly cut-flower arrangements. Big, bold, and
with water-depth needs of 2-3 feet, these shouters are really
in big ponds that get plenty of sun.
Marginals (sometimes called “bog” plants by those less high-falutin’)
are grass-like plants that strut their stuff in shallow areas no
than 6” that border the water garden. They also do well in mud.
bamboo, rush, papyrus, and many other plants fall into the
marginals and grow best with a minimum of at least three hours
Some plants are there but not seen, working stoically under
without fanfare to fight algae, oxygenate the water, and provide
for fish. (In lieu of these plants, if your pond is small, you
it fairly adequately with an aquarium pump.) Easy on the wallet,
varieties of these plants can be bought in bunches and like
sandy and/or gravelly. Like hardy water lilies, they, too, will
it through the winter.
Water hyacinths have become a recent rage, especially for the
us. No soil is required for these beauties. Toss them in the
they’re “planted.” A water hyacinth ain’t just another pretty
though; these plants do their part in the war against algae and
weeds by keeping sunlight scarce on the water’s surface. But one
caution: This plant may take over the world if allowed. It’s
all get out, so keep it under control or you (and your
wish you’d never laid eyes on it.
Lily surrounded by water hyacinths
A water garden isn't a garden without plants. Take your time,
climate, and choose wisely. Your rewards will be great in