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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

I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Iris – Kirkland, WA

A: Those big croaking amphibians sure love living in a water garden. Bullfrogs gobble pesky bugs and nibble on nuisance algae while entertaining their human hobbyists with their leaping prowess and trance-inducing ribbit-ribbit songs.

When they’re adults, bullfrogs are impressive creatures: As one of the largest frogs in the world, they grow to 8 inches long and weigh up to 1½ pounds. When they’re tadpoles, they’re impressive, too. The dark green swimmers measure up to 6 inches long, which is larger than most other frog species, and sport a dorsal fin that begins behind its arrowhead-shaped body.

Caring for your tadpoles involves understanding their habitat, diet and developmental stages. Here’s what you need to know to grow your baby bullfrog into a beefy bug-eating adult.

Healthy Habitat

Bullfrog tadpoles like to swim in shallow water on fine gravel bottoms. As they grow, they tend to move into deeper waters. They have speckled-skin camouflage to help protect them from predators, but you should still plan to provide a wide variety of floating and submerged plants, like parrots feather, frogbit and water lilies, as well as rocks and other hides to your pond. The little guys will hang out among them should a hungry bird or fish fly or swim by for a bite to eat.

Algae, Please

When they’re young, bullfrog tadpoles are herbivores that love to nibble on the string algae that forms along your rocks and under plants. Though they have been observed eating frog eggs (gasp!) and other newly hatched tadpoles, the algae should keep them more than satisfied – at least until they become adults. That’s when they become carnivorous critters with a hankering for bugs, rodents, reptiles, birds, small fish and even an occasional bat.

From Tadpoles to Adulthood

While they’re in their tadpole – or pollywog – stage, these tiny gilled critters live exclusively in the water. But after about one year, the tadpoles will start to grow legs. Shortly thereafter, they grow arms. As their tails shorten, they develop lungs and their gills disappear. The tadpole, now several years old depending on where it’s growing up, has finally transformed into a froglet that can make the leap from water to dry land.

Once your tadpole has grown into an adult, you can expect that bad boy to be around for 8 to 10 years. Enjoy your new pond pal! Ribbit!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been to a frog-jumping contest? If so, tell us about it!

Maximize Blooms and Beauty - CrystalClear(r) Thrive(t) Plant Fertilizer Tabs

Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond?

Q: Will the snails I added last year still be in my pond?

Phoebe – Amherst, NH

A: Snails are a pond keeper’s best friend – especially when it comes to gobbling through algae.

The type that you probably have in your backyard water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Snail. They get their name from their fancy shells, which have a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predators.

Cold-Weather Friendly
These little guys are hardy enough to weather cold temperatures, like the ones we had all winter. Unlike other aquatic snails, Japanese Trapdoor Snails lack a lung, which means they don’t need to surface to suck in frigid (and potentially deadly) oxygen in the winter. They’re ideal for harsher northern climates.

Hiding Places
When the spring and summer sunshine warms the water, you might not see your snails. They like to hang out on the bottom of ponds, and they blend in incredibly well with rocks, gravel and plants. But they’re hard at work doing what they do best – eating algae and the detritus that feeds it. They also do a great job grooming plants and keeping your rocks and plant pots algae-free.

Strength in Numbers
For maximum algae-eating benefit, we recommend housing a minimum of 10 snails per 50 square feet of pond. If you have a farm pond or larger water feature, you’ll need at least 200 snails to have any effect at all. Remember that they will reproduce a few times a year, and tiny newborn snails are hungry!

Aerated Water, Happy Snails: Keep those helpful gastropods happy all year-long by providing plenty of oxygen-rich water. The best way to do that is by aerating your pond with a subsurface aeration system, like the PondAir™ Aeration Kit. Featuring two air stones and flexible black vinyl air tubing, an adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

Pond Talk: Have you had success controlling algae in your water feature with snails?

Breathe Life Into Your Pond - Airmax® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Q: We just had our first freeze. How do I clean up my plants?

Barb – Sterling, CO

A: Brrr! It’s certainly getting cold outside! Your aquatic plants are feeling the chill too, so now is a perfect time to clean them up and put them in a warmer place for winter. 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 get busy!

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. Now that you’ve had your first frost, trim the lilies’ foliage back to just above the root ball and submerge the plants as low as they’ll go for the winter. Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plants’ crowns.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year-long, so these plants will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter, like an aquarium or large bucket inside your heated garage or workshop. Check out this article for a step-by-step guide to overwintering tropical plants.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back to just above the soil with pond scissors. Then sink them lower into the deepest parts of your pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

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

Pond Talk: If your aquatic plants are planted in the soil rather than a movable basket or pot, do you do anything special to them to prepare them for winter?

Trim & Remove Plants with Ease - Pond Pliers & Scissors

My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Q: My pond is mostly clean but should I do a fall cleanout?

Melanie – Ludlow, MA

A: Relax! Unless your pond really (and we mean really) needs it, we don’t recommend doing a total fall cleanout. Doing so would stress your fish out and compromise their health. Any amount of cleanliness you’ll achieve is just not worth the risk.

Instead, here’s a four-step to-do list to prepare your pond for fall:

  1. Get Your Plants in Shape: After the first frost, remove dead foliage from you aquatic plants, trim them back and sink them in the bottom of your pond to protect them from the cold temperatures. If you have tropical water lilies or other temperature-sensitive varieties, make room for them inside your garage or another place that will not freeze.
  2. Remove Algae: If you have a stream or waterfall in your pond, remove any algae or debris with CrystalClear® Algae-Off®, which vaporizes string algae, and Pond Logic® Oxy-Lift™ Defense®, which foams up and lifts debris from surfaces. These oxygen-based products are safe for use around plants and fish.
  3. Clean Up Debris: Using a brush and net, like those included with The Pond Guy® 3-in-1 Pond Tool, scrub down your rocks and liner and net out as much decaying debris as possible. Then use a vacuum, like The Pond Guy® ClearVac™, to suck up whatever’s left. This will minimize the amount of algae-feeding muck decomposing in the pond throughout the winter.
  4. Treat with Beneficial Bacteria: Finally, continue to treat your water garden with muck-munching beneficial bacteria until water temperatures dip to 50° Fahrenheit. Once the water is below 50°F, switch to Seasonal Defense® to continue breaking down any remaining debris. It’s formulated for use during the cooler months.

With these chores completed, your pond will be in good shape going into winter. Until then, relax and enjoy the fall colors and changing season!

Pond Talk: What do you do to prepare your pond for winter?

Make Fall Maintenance Quick and Easy - The Pond Guy(r) ClearVac(tm) Pond Vacuum

Do I need submerged plants in my pond, and how do they help? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do I need submerged plants in my pond, and how do they help?

Q: Do I need submerged plants in my pond, and how do they help?

Jennifer – McLean, VA

A: Sure, floating and surface plants, like water lilies and hyacinth, add pops of color and beauty to your water garden, but those underwater cultivars deserve some love, too! Just like a rock concert’s or theatrical production’s support crew, subsurface plants play a critical role in the health and wellbeing of your pond.

Here’s just a few things they do:

Supply Oxygen: Underwater plants are called “oxygenators” for a reason. They naturally produce oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis – and oxygen is one of the best things for your pond’s health and vitality. When submerged plants like the colorful and fast-growing Red Ludwigia are used in combination with a sub-surface aeration system, you’ll wind up with cleaner water that supports your pond’s inhabitants.

Protect Fish from Predators: Sub-surface plants, such as the lush Red Stemmed Parrot’s Feather, also give your fish and other pond critters places to hide when predators stalk or attack. Koi and goldfish will swim into the lush growth and hide out when a raccoon stops by the pond or a blue heron circles overhead. The greenery provides excellent camouflage for your finned friends.

Provide Spawning Areas: The leaves, stems and root systems of underwater plants give your pond life safe places to spawn and lay their eggs. And when those tiny fry hatch, the plants provide protection, food and a comfy place to call home. An excellent choice is the ribbon-like Vallisneria, which can create grassy meadows beneath your pond’s surface.

Submerged plants are easy to add to your water garden or fish pond. Simply fill planting baskets, like the Laguna Planting Baskets, with planting media, add some oxygenators, and place the planted basket on the bottom of your pond or on a plant shelf on the side of your pond. The planting baskets allow the plant’s roots to branch out and find nourishment while containing it and preventing fish from nibbling on its root system.

Don’t neglect your pond’s support staff. Add some plants to your pond today. You’ll be glad you did!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite submerged plant?

Give Your Fish Hiding Places & Oxygen - Submerged Pond Plantst

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