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Planting a Water Garden


Red water lilies float on the surface of a placid pond.Your water garden is ready, a blank canvas for you to fill with plants of your choice. There are plants that live beneath the surface of the water, surface/floating plants, marginal plants that will thrive around your water garden, and even carnivorous plants are available if you want them. A note of caution however, while aquatic plants are widely available at aquarium stores and greenhouses and from specialist stores that can ship live plants across the U.S., you could end up breaking state or federal laws. There are some species of plants that are illegal in certain states and your plant dealer may not always get it right for your state. Research your plant before you buy and check the list of restricted plants by state at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) invasive and noxious weed list. (http://www.plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver) Depending on the state that you live in you may also find links to aquatic weed programs.

Rules of thumb

Before ordering your plants take some time and see what should grow in your area rather than what you would like. Water garden plants will generally grow from plant hardiness zones 4-11 with the majority of the choice towards the higher end of the scale. Also, pay some attention as to the amount of shade and light that areas of your water garden are subject to and for plants in the water, whether they prefer deeper or shallower water. Essentially there are three growing zones in your water garden:

  • Aquatic plants that grow submerged in the water, which can oxygenate the water, reduce algae growth and provide shelter for fish.
  • Aquatic floating plants, such as water lilies, bloom spectacularly as well as providing oxygen in the water and also shelter and habitat for amphibians.
  • Marginal plants, which are useful for breaking up the hard edges of your pond structures, providing shelter and can also be merged into the rest of your garden; many marginal plants attract butterflies and birds too.

Plants

There is a huge array of choice from cooler clime plants to heat loving tropical plants. Do your research and talk to your plant supplier and to what may work best for you.

Aquatic submerged plants

It is a good idea to get these plants into your pond as soon as possible as many of them will oxygenate the water and take up existing nutrients that algae need too. Starting off you may want to consider:


  • Anacharis, (generally plant hardiness zone 5-11) this plant grows vigorously and other plants can be created by breaking off branchlets from the parent plant. Anacharis can be planted in gravel. However, as it roots itself you can also drop it into the pond with a plant sinker attached just where you want it
  • Hornwort, (generally plant hardiness zone 5-11) does not need to be planted and is a favorite with baby fish for shelter with its feathery green leaves
  • Vallisneria, also know as Jungle Val, (generally plant hardiness zone 5-10) has ribbon like leaves and can be planted in small containers or by using plant sinkers

Aquatic floating plants

These plants spread out over the surface of the water but can quickly dominate the space if you let them. To begin consider:

  • Water lilies are a little of both submerged and floating categories, but they can be a spectacular centerpiece for your water garden. There are two basic types, hardy (generally plant hardiness zone 5-11) and tropical (generally plant hardiness zone 8-11); each has a large number of varieties to choose from. Usually lilies will be pot planted; follow your plant supplier's directions.
  • Azolla, (generally plant hardiness zone 5-9) is a floating fern that somewhat resembles algae. However, it is also a favorite food for Koi carp; break off a branch to start a new plant.
  • Common Salvinia, (generally plant hardiness zone 8-11) resembles a floating fern and can be an aggressive space dominator.

Marginal plants

These plants provide color, foliage, and also a blank canvas for you to fill to merge the rest of your garden into the margins of your water garden. There is a bewildering variety of plants to choose from in hardy varieties, (generally plant hardiness zone 5-11) and tropical varieties (generally plant hardiness zone 8-11). Be careful not to over plant as
some varieties can get very large indeed. Consider:

  • Taro, (generally plant hardiness zone 8-11), there are several varieties that provide foliage cover and can grow up to five feet high
  • Iris (generally plant hardiness zone 2-10) also known as flag will provide a spectacular floral display and long vertical leaf cover right into ten inches of water; once Iris is established it is very difficult for other plants to get a foothold
  • Pickerel (generally plant hardiness zone 5-10) comes in a variety of types and colors and can produce an intense floral display all summer long set off against a generally dark green foliage

Once you have established your plants you can work gradually over time and introduce other varieties where you think they might work; water gardening may become addictive.

Browse our online selection of products that might aid you in planting your new Water Garden today!


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