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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

I just bought a plant package. What should I do now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Rick – Winchester, NH

A: Congratulations! For water garden enthusiasts like us, opening an aquatic plant package is like celebrating Christmas in spring. A box of colorful flower tubers, oxygenating plants and algae-eating snails arrives at your doorstep, and you get to look forward to a season of fun in your backyard playground.

Depending on the package size (small, medium or large) you received, you’ll get:

  • Water lilies
  • Floating plants, like water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot’s feather
  • Bog plants, like blue flag iris and dwarf cattail
  • Pond snails

These pond plants work together to shade the pond, aerate and filtrate the water, provide habitat for wildlife and insects (and your snails), and beatify your landscape.

Ready to get growing? Here’s how to care for – and play with – your Christmas-in-spring present.

Pond Snails

After traveling all those agitating miles to your doorstep, the Black Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snails may appear lifeless or even dead, but don’t worry: They’re most likely hiding inside their shells. Wake them up and welcome them to your garden by filling the bag halfway with pond water, and then floating or holding it for a few minutes while the gastropods acclimate to the new environment. Then place the open bag in a shallow area and let them work their way out and into the deeper section of your pond.

Plant Care

Before your plant package arrives, purchase some planting containers (like baskets, bags or pots) and aquatic planting media. Use soil designed for water gardens; avoid using bagged potting mix and other lightweight soils from your local garden center, as they will float and cloud the water in your pond.

  • Water lilies: With your pots and plant media ready, take out your water lily tubers and place one inside a pot with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with the aquatic planting media, making sure the roots are well spread and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Place the planted pot in a shallow area of your pond to encourage faster growth. Once leaves have reached the surface, you can move the water lily to a deeper part of your pond.
  • Floating Plants: These plants are easy to propagate. Simply place in the water! They will float freely and take up nutrients from the water through their root systems.
  • Bog Plants: Like the water lilies, these around-the-edge plants require a pot and planting material. Position the tubers in the media so that the cut end of the tuber is against the side of the pot, not in the middle. Why? Because the roots need as much room as possible to spread through the soil and across the container. Once it’s planted, submerge the container on a shelf that’s up to 6 inches below the water surface.

Keep Them Growing

Like the plants growing in your vegetable garden, your aquatic plants will require fertilizer to help them grow healthy and strong. Spikes or tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™ tablets, can be pushed into the soil at planting time. They’ll slowly release into the media, feeding your lilies and irises the nutrients they need to thrive. From April through August, continue to feed your plants, following all manufacturers’ recommendations for fertilizer application rates.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Pot Your Plants with Beneficial Bacteria - Microbe-Lift(r) Aquatic Planting Media

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

How many plants do I need in my pond, and do I need to fertilize them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How many plants do I need in my pond, and do I need to fertilize them?

Q: How many plants do I need in my pond, and do I need to fertilize them?

Cynthia – Bishop, CA

A: A good mix of aquatic plants does more than beautify your water garden. The marginal, floating and submerged plants, such as those found in our Aquatic Plant Packages, also absorb excess nutrients in the water and shade the pond’s surface, which can help prevent algae attacks and protect your finned friends from hungry herons and raccoons.

When planting aquatic plants in and around your pond, you should ideally have 40 to 60 percent of your water garden’s surface covered with floating aquatic plants, like hardy water lilies, water hyacinth and water lettuce. This allows for enough nutrient absorption and shading to prevent algae from gaining a foothold in your pond.

Just like the plants in your vegetable garden, those lilies and bog plants need some nutrients added to their soil to thrive. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Spikes: Fertilizer spikes, like Laguna Plant Grow Fertilizer Spikes, slowly release plant food, which makes them super easy to use. The balanced nutrients in the spikes encourage both foliage and root growth and flower production, while the low phosphorous and no copper formula ensure no adverse effects on water quality or fish and plant life. You simply push the spike into the soil (one for every 1 to 2 gallons of planting container space) and forget about it until next year.
  • Tabs: Tabs, like TetraPond® LilyGro™ Aquatic Plant Food, are formulated for use during your aquatic plants’ growing season. As with the spikes, the nutrients in the fertilizer encourage greenery and bloom production, but the tabs need to be added to the soil monthly for best results. Using one tablet per gallon of potted soil, push it deep into the soil 3 inches from the crown of the plant and pack the hole with dirt to prevent the fertilizer from being released into the water.

During the growing season, plan to fertilize your water lilies and marginal plants once per month. Floating and submerged plants should have plenty of nutrients in the water to feed them. Enjoy your blooms!

Pond Talk: What is your favorite aquatic plant?

Add Living Color To Your Pond - Aquatic Plant Packages

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Q: How can I prepare my aquatic plants for the fall and winter?

Sandy – Holly, MI

A: This topic—what to do with your aquatic plants—tops the to-do list of many pond owners and water gardeners at this time of year. No matter the climate where you live, you will need to do some plant clean-up and relocate them to ensure they survive the winter frost and freeze.

What you need to do depends on the type of plant. So pull on your 28-inch, PVC Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ to protect your hands and arms and keep them dry, grab your handy-dandy Pond Scissors and Pliers, and let’s get to work! Here, we’ve outlined some basics:

Hardy Water Lilies

They may be “hardy,” but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible! When the first frost hits in your area and the lily’s foliage begins to die back, trim the plant material back with your pond scissors to just above the root and toss it in your compost pile. Don’t worry: Come spring, the greenery will reemerge healthy as ever from the plant’s crown. Because water lilies are typically planted in frost-proof deep water, they will overwinter just fine.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies prefer warm temperatures all year long, so these colorful and fragrant beauties will need to be completely removed from your pond and relocated to a protected indoor space for the winter. We’ll talk more about how to overwinter these aquatic plants in future blogs.

Marginals and Bog Plants

As with hardy water lilies, your marginals’ and bog plants’ foliage will need to trimmed back with pond scissors and removed after Jack Frost first arrives. And if your iris, arrowhead, canna and other marginals are at or above water level, sink them lower into the pond where the water remains unfrozen during the wintertime.

Floating Plants

Unless you’re lucky enough to 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 to prevent the dead plants from decomposing and causing water quality issues through the wintertime.

Pond Talk: How do you prepare your aquatic plants for winter?

Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ - Keep your hands clean & dry

Do I need to fertilize my aquatic plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to fertilize my aquatic plants?

Q: Do I need to fertilize my aquatic plants?

Bruce – Taneytown, MD

A: If your aquatic plants look lackluster, aren’t as lush as you’d like or are failing to produce those show-stopping blooms, they might need a little help – and that’s where fertilizers come to the rescue.

Whether we’re talking about plants in your water garden or vegetable garden, the soil they’re living in provides them with nutrients that they take up through their root systems. If you have your plants in pots or if they’ve been in the ground for some time, the soil will need a boost of plant food. Adding fertilizer will encourage quicker growth in new and established plants, and it will deliver enough nutrients for the plants to form those colorful blooms.

So what kind of fertilizer should you use? There are three basic types to choose from:

Spikes: Fertilizer spikes, like Laguna Plant Grow Fertilizer Spikes, slowly release plant food over the course of one year – making them super easy to use. The balanced nutrients in the spikes encourage both foliage and root growth and flower production, while the low phosphorous and no copper formula ensure no adverse effects on water quality or fish and plant life. You simply push the spike into the soil (one for every 1 to 2 gallons of planting container space) and forget about it until next year.

Tabs: Tabs, like TetraPond® LilyGro™ Aquatic Plant Food, are formulated for use during your aquatic plants’ growing season. As with the spikes, the nutrients in the fertilizer encourage greenery and bloom production, but the tabs need to be added to the soil monthly for best results. Using one tablet per gallon of potted soil, push it deep into the soil 3 inches from the crown of the plant and pack the hole with dirt to prevent the fertilizer from being released into the water.

Liquids: Liquid fertilizers, like Microbe-Lift® Bloom & Grow Aquatic™ Plant Supplement, add micro- and macronutrients to plants through the water rather than soil. These supplements, which need to be added to the pond water once or twice a week during the plants’ growing season, help produce brighter, faster blooms and healthier, stronger roots. The liquid fertilizers are safe to use around fish, but unsafe if the water is intended for human consumption.

No matter which form you choose, make sure it has no or low levels of phosphates, which fuel algae growth. You want your plants to grow – not the green water, right?

Pond Talk: What’s your preferred form of fertilizer?

Laguna Plant Grow Fertilizer Spikes - Maximize Plant Size & Color

Help! How do I get rid of green water? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Help! How do I get rid of green water?

Q: Help! How do I get rid of green water?

Linda – Gardnerville, NV

A: Nope, there’s nothing nice about a pea soup-colored pond. Just about every water gardener dreams of a clean, crystal-clear pond – not an algae-filled eyesore. During the warmer seasons, what do you do to prevent and get rid of that unsightly green water? By making sure your pond is in balance.

For a stable pond that inhibits algae growth, you have to strike a perfect balance (or close to perfect, anyway) between fishes, aeration and filtration. And to keep it that way, you have to keep it well maintained. Here’s what you need to know to get rid of that green water.

Watch Fish Load, Feeding

Yes, it’s tempting to take home a dozen or more of those tiny koi from your favorite water garden retailer. But remember: those fish will grow and excrete nutrients that feed the algae. The rule of thumb is to allow 1 inch of adult fish per square foot of surface area, so don’t max out your capacity with one impulse buy at the koi store.

Speaking of fish, take it easy with the food. Feed them a quality diet, like Pond Logic® Growth and Color Fish Food, once a day, and give them only what they can gobble down in a few minutes. Anything more than that just adds excess waste to the pond – which is food for the algae. You can feed your finned friends more often, but be prepared to do more partial water changes or add extra filtration to handle the job.

Add Some Aeration, Bacteria

When you circulate your pond’s water with an aeration system, like the Pond Logic® KoiAir™ Water Garden Aeration System, you deliver oxygen to the bottom where all the muck – a.k.a. algae chow – sits. This oxygen helps all the beneficial bacteria, like Muck Defense® that’s found in the Pond Logic® DefensePAC® Pond Care Package, break down and consume the material there and throughout the water column, resulting in cleaner, clearer water. Plus, the aeration is good for your fish’s health, too.

Filtration – the Bigger, the Better

Go big with your mechanical filtration system. Make sure it’s at least big enough to handle the amount of water in your pond. Manufacturers rate filters for minimal fish load, so if you intend to have a lot of fish, go even bigger.

Plants – floating, submerged, marginals and bog varieties – make excellent natural filtration systems that complement your mechanical and biological filtration. Plants also shade the pond, keeping temperatures cooler and sheltering your fish. So try to cover 40 to 60 percent of your water with plants.

If you still have a pea soup colored pond after getting your fish load right, your feeding routine in check, your aeration system in place and your filtration system humming and growing, it’s time for the big guns – an ultraviolet clarifier. A UV clarifier, like The Pond Guy® PowerUV™ Ultraviolet Clarifier, will help to bind the green water algae so it can be pulled out by your filter.

Keep It Clean, Kind Of

Normal maintenance, like regular partial water changes and debris removal, can go a long way to get rid of excess nutrient buildup. But don’t overdo the filter-cleaning chores. Too much – meaning daily or weekly – washing of the filter media will wear the material down faster and wipe out the beneficial bacteria that actually clean the water. If water is unable to pass through the filter, simply rinse it lightly with water.

And if you don’t already, it’s always a good idea to do an annual spring cleanout of your pond to get rid of organic materials that feed the algae.

Pond Talk: How can you tell when your pond or water garden is out of balance?

Pond Logic® DefensePAC® - 5 Simple Steps To Clear Water

4 Tips For Picking The Right Pond Plants | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How Do I Know Which Plants Are Right For My Pond?

Alice – Chesterfield, VA

Know your hardiness zone. The USDA publishes a hardiness zone map that shows in which areas of the country various types of plants can survive and grow. The majority of your pond plants should be from your hardiness zone because they are best able to tolerate the year-round conditions of your area.

Know your pond’s depth. Some pond plants prefer deep water and some pond plants prefer shallow. Hardy water lilies prefer deep water, for example, while bog plants prefer shallow.

Know what type of sun exposure your pond receives. In addition to hardiness zones, plants also are categorized by the type of light they like to receive (full sun, partial sun, or shade). Marsh Marigolds yearn for sun, while Clyde Ikins Water Lily can tolerate the shade.

Know your pond’s flow. This is a factor that water gardeners often overlook. Some pond plants love moving water while others prefer the water stand still. Dwarf cattails, for example, do well in streams because they enjoy moving water, but water lilies are not fans of being right underneath a waterfall.

Hardy Water Lilies

How Do You Divide Water Lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How Do You Divide Water Lilies?

Cindy – Galesburg, IL

Dividing lilies may seem somewhat complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do. Try to plan it so you divide them during your spring cleanout, which would give easy access to tubers. Dividing is necessary every two to three years, and it is helpful if you notice the lily grew mostly pads and few lilies over the past season.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container and rinse off. Plant baskets are ideal containers until they are ready to be moved to the pond.

Step 2: Trim away root growth and old foliage.

Step 3: Cut the tuber down to size. You can safely cut the tuber down between two to three inches on the growing part with a sharp knife. This can be increased to five to six inches on longer plants. Remember to also cut off new buds and older leaves, so that the new root system has a chance to grow.

Step 4: Plant each tuber separately or discard if you wish to reduce the lilies’ quantity in your pond. Use plant fertilizer and planting media for best results and a continuing healthy pond.

Step 5: Replant them shallow in the pond until new growth begins.

Step 6: Upon new growth lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

TetraPond LilyGro Aquatic Plant Food

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