Home & Food
How to Choose Water
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
time for the fun part – picking out your
water garden plants!
by: Brett Fogle
Plant varieties within these
four categories are what you need to eyeball: deep-water,
marginals, oxygenators, and floaters. (If you think these
words are big words, just be happy we’re not talking
After you’ve diligently
planted your new plants in plastic tubs, pans, or clay
pots, packing the fertilizer- and chemical-free soil down
tightly, load the container down with pea gravel to keep
the soil from floating away. (Don’t ask why this
works, but it does.) Plunk your plant into the 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 lilies of 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 hearts out
nearly every day during the growing season.
They love their warmth, 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
the water year ‘round unless it freezes so deeply
the rootstock is affected. And being the tough guys they
are, you can plant these puppies deeper 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 fertilization,
to keep these plant pals happy.
Everybody and their brother
with a water garden wants a lotus plant. (Sisters, too,
no doubt.) These water-lily relatives come in hardy and
not-so-hardy strains, so make sure you know what you’re
Much bigger than water lilies, lotus have huge, famously
splendid blooms that not only will knock your socks off,
but make you forget you have feet altogether. Their leaves
and seed pods are so breathtaking, they’re a favorite
in costly cut-flower arrangements. Big, bold, and beautiful,
with water-depth needs of 2-3 feet, these shouters are
really better off 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 deeper than 6” that border the water garden.
They also do well in mud.
Cattail, bamboo, rush, papyrus, and many other plants
fall into the family of marginals and grow best with a
minimum of at least three hours of sun.
Some plants are there but
not seen, working stoically under water and without fanfare
to fight algae, oxygenate the water, and provide food
for fish. (In lieu of these plants, if your pond is small,
you can fake it fairly adequately with an aquarium pump.)
Easy on the wallet, varieties of these plants can be bought
in bunches and like their soil sandy and/or gravelly.
Like hardy water lilies, they, too, will warrior it through
Water hyacinths have become
a recent rage, especially for the lazy among us. No soil
is required for these beauties. Toss them in the water
and they’re “planted.” A water hyacinth
ain’t just another pretty face, though; these plants
do their part in the war against algae and blanket weeds
by keeping sunlight scarce on the water’s surface.
But one note of caution: This plant may take over the
world if allowed. It’s invasive as all get out,
so keep it under control or you (and your neighbors) may
wish you’d never laid eyes on it.
A water garden isn't a garden
without plants. Take your time, know your climate, and
choose wisely. Your rewards will be great in return.
To read the full article,
click here: http://www.macarthurwatergardens.com/Newsletters/July2004/pond-plant-selection.shtml
About The Author
Brett Fogle is the owner
of MacArthur Water Gardens and several pond-related websites
including macarthurwatergardens.com and pond-filters-online.com.
He also publishes a free monthly newsletter called PondStuff!
with a reader circulation of over 9,000 pond owners. To
sign up for the free newsletter and receive a complimentary
'New Pond Owners Guide' for joining, just visit MacArthur
Water Gardens at www.macarthurwatergardens.com.