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Aquatic Plants for Your Pond

White water lily bloom with many lily padsWhen choosing aquatic plants for a pond, choose carefully.

Plants should be vigorous and fresh-looking. Make sure the water they are growing in is free of algae, duckweed and blanketweed. The undersides of the leaves should be clean. Masses of jelly-like snail eggs can sometimes be found there in poor specimens.

Purchase plants that oxygenate the water when starting a new pond. Every square yard of water surface should have at least 5 bunches of oxygenating plants. These are usually sold as bunched cuttings without roots that have a small piece of lead at one end to keep them anchored until they are established. Keep them submerged in water until they are planted. Most varieties of oxygenators are very prone to drying out quickly.

Fill the pond with water a few days before planting to allow the temperature of the water to stabilize and any chlorine to evaporate off. The water may be colonized by microorganisms which aid in creating a beneficial environment for fish and plants during this maturation period.

For best results and to make rearrangement and division easier, plant larger stationary plants such as water lilies and water irises in black planting baskets lined with burlap. This allows water and gases to circulate through the soil without the soil washing away into the water. The baskets should be filled with a good heavy garden soil that has not been fertilized or manured recently. Do not use peat moss or potting soil as these tend to float after the basket is submerged. Potting soil should not be used because it contains fertilizers which will encourage the growth of algae. To fertilize your aquatic plants, mix a handful of bone meal into the soil prior to filling the baskets. Always plant into moistened soil and soak the baskets well before submerging them so that they do not float.

Follow the planting depth listed on the label of each plant as these vary widely. Planting depth is measured from the top of the soil in the basket to the water's surface. Do not plant too deeply as this limits the amount of sunlight plants receive and may cause them to die from lack of adequate photosynthesis. Placing baskets containing young specimens on stacks of bricks to give them adequate height may be necessary at first. As the young plants mature, the stacks can be gradually lowered increasing the planting depth to the proper level for a mature plant over time. Top dress the deepest plants on the bottom of the pond with pea gravel.

Aquatic plants differ from terrestrial perennials in that they should be planted between late spring and midsummer when in active growth. Plenty of sunlight is available and water temperatures are warmer which allows them to become fully established before die-back in the fall.

Include some floating plants on the surface of the water. Water hyacinths are a favorite due to their ease of division and profuse violet blooms. In warm temperatures, they will multiply rapidly, discouraging the growth of algae and providing essential shade for fish. Floating plants may be simply placed into the water. Their roots take up nutrients directly from the water. Their position is unimportant, and they need no lead anchors.

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