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This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A:  You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this recent blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

Pond Talk: What advice about overwintering can you share with this new pond owner?

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers

How do I winterize my tropical lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Marilyn – Morton, IL

A:  Vivid and fragrant, tropical water lilies are the floating jewels of a pond. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or lower, you’ll need to take extra special care of these warm-weather-loving beauties over the cold season. To overwinter tropical water lilies, you have two choices: send them into dormancy or keep them growing.

Going Dormant for Winter

If you decide to send your water lilies into dormancy for the winter, stop fertilizing them in the fall to slow their growth and help them prepare their tubers for winter. After the first frost, pull out your Aqua Gloves™ and follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove the lily and planting basket from the pond. Using your hands, dig around in the soil just below the plant’s crown to feel for the tubers. They normally range in size from an acorn to golf ball, but they can be smaller or larger.
  2. Take out the tubers and rinse each one very well with a strong stream of water. Use your pond scissors to trim off remnants of roots or stems. If small tubers are growing on a larger tuber, remove them and store them—they could turn into new lilies plants next year!
  3. Store the tubers in a plastic bag or glass jar that’s filled with damp (not wet!) peat moss, sphagnum moss or sand. Consider dusting them with a fungicide before sealing them up. Keep the container in a room that stays warmer than 50° F.
  4. Once a month through the winter, check on your tubers to be sure they’re still damp. Spritz them with water if they get dry.
  5. When water temperatures climb back to 60° F in the spring, replant the tubers in a planting basket filled with fresh, fertile soil. Position them just below the surface with the pointy side up and round side down.

Keep Them Growing

If you decide to keep your water lilies growing over the winter, set up a space in your home for a grow light and an aquarium or lined indoor pond. After the first frost, take the lilies and their planting baskets inside and follow these tips:

  1. First, trim off the largest leaves and any dead, dry or damaged leaves with your pond scissors.
  2. Place the planting baskets and plants inside in an aquarium or lined pond filled with water.
  3. Keep the water temperature above 60° F, and use a grow light to keep the lilies growing slowly over the winter.
  4. Once the weather outside warms and your pond’s water temperature climbs back to 60° F, transplant your lilies or add some fertilizer to their existing soil and submerge them.

Overwintering tropical water lilies isn’t hard, but it does require some space and planning. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What tips can you share for overwintering tropical water lilies?

Keep Your Hands & Arms Dry - Coralife® Aqua Gloves™

Is there any danger to my fish if the pond is always in direct sunlight? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Is there any danger to my fish if the pond is always in direct sunlight?

Q: Is there any danger to my fish if the pond is always in direct sunlight?

Claudia – De Witt, AR

A: Sunshine has its benefits – but it also has its dangers. Direct sunlight with no shade can raise the water temperature in your pond and reduce the levels of oxygen available to your fish. All those rays can also fuel algae blooms, as well as give your fish a sunburn (yes, really!).

Don’t worry: You don’t need to relocate your water feature to a less sunny locale. There are some easy ways to add shade to your pond, and here’s what we recommend.

  • Terrestrial Shade: Trees, and terrestrial and marginal plants growing alongside your pond can provide plenty of shade from the outside. Blue Flag Iris and Dwarf Cattail, for instance, planted on the south or west side will cast cool, shady shadows for your fish.
  • Get Creative with Canopies: If planting trees or plants isn’t an option, consider installing a tent or canopy over part of your pond. In addition to creating protection from the sunshine, a canopy can also add some dramatic flair to your backyard décor.
  • Aquatic Plants: Aquatic plants, like water lilies and water hyacinth, create scads of underwater shade for your finned pals. Simply plant lilies in baskets or plant bags and place them in strategic spots around your pond or toss in water hyacinth to create a floating hideout.
  • Fish Shelters: For a super easy solution, drop some fish shelters, like our Nycon Koi Kastle Fish Shelter, in your water garden. Another option is to create fish caves with carefully positioned rocks. They’ll create a shady shelter that’ll protect the fish from sun – and predators.

A word of advice: Don’t over shade your pond. You still want to maintain an area with some sunlight, which helps bring out koi colors, keep the water a comfortable temperature and help your plants grow.

If you think your fish are already showing signs of heat stress, check your water temperature with a pond thermometer, like Pond Logic® Floating Pond Thermometer, and do a partial water change if the water temperatures reach the high 70s or above. You might also want to add some pond salt, which will help gill function and reduce fish stress, as well as some Stress Reducer PLUS, which alleviates stress, restores a healthy slime coat and removes dangerous toxins from the water.

Pond Talk: Have your koi or pond fish ever had a sunburn?

Give Your Fish a Break from the Sun - Nycon Koi Kastle Fish Shelters

My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it?

Q: My skimmer has a rock cover but it looks fake. Is there anything else you can use to cover it?

Christine – Great Falls, MT

A: Now that spring has finally sprung, water garden aficionados are heading out to their yards to do some wintertime damage control, spruce up the surroundings and enjoy the beginning of pond season. It’s also a time when unnatural eyesores – like your obviously fake-rock skimmer cover, clunky pressure filter and boxy waterfall filter – take center stage.

We suggest you turn to Mother Nature for inspiration. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Camouflage with Tall Cover: Bushy or taller bog plants, like dwarf bamboo or dwarf umbrella palms, will provide lush, green camouflage around your skimmer in no time at all. These quick-growing species grow up to 2 feet tall, add texture and interest to your landscape, and naturally filter the water. Plus, they make a perfect habitat for dragonflies, frogs and other pond critters.
  • Position Plants in Planters: Another option is to plant some aquatic or terrestrial plants in small, movable planters, and position them on and around your skimmer. Go with blossoming perennials for pops of color or plants with dramatic foliage, like variegated taro or silk stockings arrowhead. Here’s a pro tip for you: Place water hyacinth right in the waterfall filter to hide the hardware and add filtration.
  • Choose Realistic-Looking Synthetic Rock: You can also replace your unrealistic rock cover with a more realistic one, like our TrueRock™ Boulder and Flat Covers. These faux hand-painted rocks, which come in a range of sizes and shapes, are made with fiberglass construction, making them rugged yet lightweight. Whether you use them to hide your skimmer, waterfall or pressure filter, they blend right into your pondscape.

When you’re considering ways to hide your pond equipment, remember that easy access is critical. Make sure you can get to your skimmer and filters for regular cleaning and repair. Other than that, have fun with it! Tap into your inner landscape designer and create a water garden oasis that you’ll enjoy all season long.

Pond Talk: What are your favorite ways to camouflage unsightly pond equipment?

Hide Filters In Your Landscape - Pond Logic® TrueRock™ Covers

Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Q: Do I need to divide my aquatic plants every year? If so, how do I do it?

Ellen – Kirkwood, SC

A: After a long, cold winter, you’re probably ready to put your green thumb to work in your pond – and digging into your aquatic plants is a great place to start. Your potted bog plants and water lilies will need to be divided, but how you do so will depend on the type of plants you’re dealing with. In general, your bog plants will need to be divided every one to two years, and your water lilies will need to be divided every two to three years.

Below, we’ve included some simplified step-by-step instructions for how to do it. So pull out your waders, pruning tools, extra plant baskets, planting media and garden hose – and let’s get to work!

Dividing Bog Plants
Bog plants include species like corkscrew rush, dwarf cattails and irises. Some have clumping roots, some have runners and some have rhizomes. Regardless of the type of root mass, here’s what to do with them:

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond and gently remove the root mass.
  • Step 2: Using your garden hose, wash the soil off of the mass and trim away any dead leaves and foliage.
  • Step 3: Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system. For plants with clumping roots like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections, leaving some roots intact with each section. For plants that divide by runners like dwarf cattails, cut the runner root and leave the root base with each section of the plant. And for plants that are rhizomes like irises, simply divide them into sections.
  • Step 4: Replant each section of plant in its own container and dispose of any plant overgrowth.

Dividing Water Lilies
Water lilies – both tropical and the hardy variety sold in our Grower’s Choice collection – are also relatively easy to divide. You’ll know it’s time to separate them when you notice fewer pads, reduced blooms or splitting pots.

  • Step 1: First, lift the pot or container out of the pond, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
  • Step 2: Rinse off the soil, and trim away root growth and old foliage.
  • Step 3: Identify the crowns, or the little buds where a new lily pad group will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. Keep the pieces 3 to 4 inches in length. Each one of these will become a new water lily plant.
  • Step 4: Using aquatic planting media, plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle so that the growing tip is still exposed above the soil.
  • Step 5: Place your repotted lilies in a shallow area of your pond where only a few inches of water cover the plants.
  • Step 6: Once new growth appears, move the lilies to the deeper areas of your pond.

Fertilize and Tend
Once you’ve divided and replanted your aquatic plants, don’t forget to give them regular doses of fertilizer to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive and produce vigorous blooms. And keep your colorful beauties looking good by keeping them trimmed and regularly removing dead foliage throughout the growing season.

Pond Talk: When you divide your aquatic plants, what do you do with your extra cuttings?

Add Beauty To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Q: Do I need to do anything to my aquatic plants this time of year?

Jaclyn – Tomahawk, WI

A: Shorter days and swaths of fall colors mean one thing: winter is on its way, and your aquatic plants will need some attention before the big chill sets in. So bundle up, pull on your hip waders and Aqua Gloves™ to keep dry and warm, dig out your easy-to-use Pond Scissors and Pliers – and let’s take care of some winter-prep pond plant chores!

Tropical Plants: Tropical water lilies, water hyacinth, water lettuce and other tropical plants prefer warm temperatures all year long. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone nine or lower, you’ll need to completely remove these plants from your pond and relocate them to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside a heated garage or workshop.

Tropical water lilies will need some extra care. When you pull the plants from your pond, remove any dead foliage, rinse the plant well, keep the tuber moist in distilled water and place it under a grow light until spring.

Keep in mind that despite these winterizing measures, your tropical aquatic plants might not survive the winter. They are from the tropics, after all …

Hardy Water Lilies: Hardy water lilies can tolerate cooler temperatures than your tropical varieties, but they need to be kept in a place that won’t freeze, like the deepest areas of your pond. Remove the plants from the pond, trim the foliage back to one to two inches above the root ball, and submerge them as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Bog Plants: Your bog plants’ leaves and stems will begin to die off as winter arrives, so you’ll need to trim them back to just above the soil with pond scissors. If they are in containers, sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime. If they are planted directly into the ground, leave them alone for the winter.

Submerged Plants: The only thing your below-the-surface greenery needs is a quick trim to get rid of decaying and dead foliage. Cut plants in containers back to one inch above the pot and submerge in the center of the pond; any plants living directly in the ground can be left as-is.

Floating Plants: Unless you live in a climate that doesn’t freeze, floating plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce won’t survive the winter. Plan to remove them from your pond after the first hard freeze and toss them in your compost pile. If you leave them in the pond, the dead plants will decompose and cause water quality issues this winter.

While you’re preparing your plants for winter, take some time to do a little clean up around your pond. Remove any dead leaves and foliage, and rake or net out leaves and fallen debris. Water quality matters – even in the winter!

Pond Talk: How long does it take you to prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Keep Your Hands Clean & Dry- Coralife(r) AquaGloves(t)

My water lilies have lots of leaves but no flowers. What’s wrong?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My water lilies have lots of leaves but no flowers. What’s wrong?

Q: My water lilies have lots of leaves but no flowers. What’s wrong?

Lucinda – Angier, NC

A: Those lily pads may provide much-needed shade and protection to your pond’s underwater inhabitants, but if the plants lack those beautiful pink, peach, yellow and white flowers, that could be a sign that something’s amiss.

Here, we’ve outlined some possible causes of your lilies’ missing flowers:

  • Not Enough Nutrients: Curling or yellowing of the leaves or flowers can be signs of nitrogen, iron and magnesium deficiency. Have you fertilized your lilies lately? If not, if may be time to give them a little plant food. Thrive™ Aquatic Plant Fertilizer Tablets slowly release nutrients for up to one month, providing your plants with what they need to flourish.
  • Insufficient Light: Are your lilies getting six to eight hours of partial to full sun a day? Without that sunshine, the plant will appear weak and frail. If they’re under a canopy or in a shadier part of your pond, move them to a sunnier location.
  • Overcrowded Plants: Plants – terrestrial and aquatic – need room to stretch out their roots and grow. If they’re placed in a tiny planter or there are too many packed in one area, this can stunt their development. Take some time to pull out those plant baskets from your pond and divide the lilies into separate pots. Here are step-by-step instructions for dividing water lilies.
  • Poor pH Levels: Water lilies do best in water that’s in the 6.2 to 7.4 pH range. Check pH levels frequently with a pH Test Kit to ensure the measurements are within that range and correct them accordingly.

Like your roses or other plants in your flower garden, your water lilies will benefit from some regular trimming and dead-heading. Prune or trim any flowers or leaves that have turned yellow or brown. This will encourage new growth – and hopefully some new blooms!

Pond Talk: How do you increase blooms from your water lilies?

Plant In Flexible Pond Planters - The Pond Guy(r) Plant Bags


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