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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?

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My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Q: My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Susan – Centreville, MI

A: Lackluster growth or blooms on your water lilies last season is and indication that it’s time to divide them. Early spring is the best time to divide your water lilies but most varieties of hardy water lilies can be divided anytime during the growing season.

For easiest access, you may want to divide your water lilies during your spring cleanout. Hardy water lilies should be divided every 2-3 years to ensure your lilies are producing beautiful blooms season after season. Dividing lilies may seem complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container. Carefully move the plant to a workspace and remove from its container. You may need to cut open the basket depending on how root bound your lily is.

Step 2: Rinse off any old soil and remove roots that are not attached to the plant. Split the crown of the plant with a sharp knife to cut through the creamy white rhizome, saving the youngest parts of the clump, typically around the outside edge, for repotting.

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: Use Plant Bags or Plant Baskets to replant your water lilies. Plant each tuber with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with aquatic planting media, such as Microbe-Lift, making sure the roots are spread well and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface.

Step 5: If using a plant basket, place in shallow area of pond to encourage faster growth.

Step 6: Once new leaves have reached the surface, lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

Don’t forget to fertilize your water lilies monthly during the growing season to keep your plants healthy and gorgeous. Remove spent blooms and old leaves to encourage new growth.

Pond Talk: How often do you divide your water lilies and other aquatic plants?

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I Know That Floating Plants Help Shade My Pond, But What Do Submerged Plants Do? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

I know that floating plants help shade my pond, but what do submerged plants do?

Q: I know that floating plants help shade my pond, but what do submerged plants do?

Donnita – Palos Park, IL

A: Got plants? If you’re like most pond hobbyists, you probably have plenty of growing and blooming greenery surrounding your water garden – but what about sub-surface varieties? Underwater plants, like hornwort, and red stemmed parrots feather, offer great benefits to your water feature and its inhabitants, including:

Filtration: Underwater plants naturally filter your water. How? Plants, with their copious amounts of surface area on their leaves, stems and roots, absorb nitrates and fish waste – which is actually fertilizer to them. The result is a body of water that’s cleaner and clearer, thanks to Mother Nature’s nitrogen cycle.

Predator Protection: Sub-surface plants 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.

Aesthetic Appeal: As popular as they may be, gravel-bottom ponds are boring. And they’re not very natural-looking either. Have you ever seen a wild pond or lake with no plants beneath the surface? Nope, didn’t think so. Ponds planted with below-the-waterline foliage create a more realistic-looking – and aesthetically pleasing – water feature, which is something most (if not all!) hobbyists hope to achieve.

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 are used in combination with a sub-surface aeration system, you’ll wind up with cleaner water that truly supports your pond’s inhabitants.

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.

Submerged plants are easy to add to your water garden or fish pond. Simply fill planting baskets, like the Laguna Submersible Pond 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.

Add some plants to your pond today. Your fish will thank you for them!

Pond Talk: Do you have submerged plants in your pond?

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Should I add submerged plants to my Water Garden? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

Should I add submerged plants to my Water Garden?

Should I add submerged plants to my Water Garden?
Stacey – Grand Rapids, MI

Let’s face it: floating and surface plants, like lilies and hyacinths, are the rock stars of any water garden. They’re the show-offs, the preeners, the colorful ones that visitors “ooh” and “aah” over; the divas that pond owners proudly feature on center stage.

But, may we ask, where would the rock star be without his support crew – the techies, the roadies, the groupies? Still playing air guitar in front of his mirror, that’s where. Lilies, hyacinths and the like just happen to be the most visible and attractive feature of a supportive ecosystem that should include their plainer relatives – the Submerged plants, like Vallisneria, Red Ludwigia, Hornwort and Parrot’s Feather. These worker plants compete with algae for the nitrogen produced by decaying plants and fish waste,produce oxygen to help keep the pond properly aerated,andprovide shade and shelter for koi and other fish. Submerged plants may not be flashy, but they’re a critical component in maintaining water quality and general pond health.

The easiest way to add one of these workers to your water garden is to plant its stems in a Laguna Submersible Pond Planting Basket along with an ample supply of Microbe-Lift Aquatic Planting Media, and place it on the bottom of the pond. The baskets come in various sizes with mesh sides and bottoms – this allows the plant to seek nourishment outside the basket, without the risk of growing out of control.

Any performer will tell you that a well-fed support crew is a happy support crew. So to make sure your Submerged plants are getting the nutrition they need, we highly recommend the Laguna Temperature Activated Aquatic Fertilizer Spikes, a verbal mouthful that also delivers the goods. Simply push a spike into to the soil near the plant until the cap is just above the surface and you’re all set for a year.

So, by all means, add Submerged plants to your water garden and let your lilies rock on!

Pond Talk: Do you utilize submerged plants in your pond?

Submerged Plants for Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens

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