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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?

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

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 - Pond Logic (r) PondAir(t) Aeration Kits

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Q: Do I need to provide indoor shelter for my pond snails?

Jerry – Kernersville, NC

A: Scientists have identified an estimated 4,000 species of freshwater snails, but one that you might find inhabiting your backyard pond or water garden is the Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snail, also known by its scientific name Viviparis malleatus.

These algae-eating gastropods have extra-special shells with a hinged fingernail-like plate that allows them to seal the shell’s opening, providing protection from drought and predation—hence their “Trapdoor Snail” nickname.

Though these hearty snails overwinter well in harsher northern climates, they do require some attention when temperatures dip. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cool with Cold-Temperatures: These snails really do well in colder temperatures—in fact, some experts say they’ll do fine in sub-freezing weather, even down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets really frigid, they’ll dive to the bottom of the pond, where the water is warmer.
  • Adequate Pond Depth Required: In order for them to be happy and healthy through those chilly winter spells, the snails need the water in your pond’s depth to ideally be 20 to 30 inches. Down there, they’ll happily groom the bottom of your pond, gobbling all the decaying matter like leaves, excess fish food and fish waste.
  • No Habitat Required: Because these little guys carry their homes on their back, you don’t need to provide shelter or food for them. If they feel endangered, they’ll disappear into their shells; if they’re hungry, they’ll nibble on algae that’s on your plants, underwater pots, rocks and walls.
  • Aeration Appreciated: Like any aquatic critter, Trapdoor Snails appreciate oxygen-rich water, and that’s where a subsurface aeration system, like the Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kit, will help. An adjustable unit like this will infuse your pond with oxygen while remaining whisper quiet.

If you have other types of snails in your pond or water garden, these rules may not apply—so be sure to learn their care requirements as they may need more attention than these hearty Trapdoor Snails.

Pond Talk: Do you have other types of snails in your pond? If so, what kind of care do they require?

Eliminate Harmful Gases - Pond Logic® PondAir™ Aeration Kits

Do Snails Need To Be Acclimated When Being Added To My Pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do Snails Need To Be Acclimated When Being Added To My Pond? Do Snails Need To Be Acclimated When Being Added To My Pond?

Bonnie – Fallston, MD

Like fish, snails also need to be acclimated to a pond. It may seem strange since the anatomy of a fish and snail are so different, but snails like the Japanese Trapdoor are also susceptible to shock from early-season chilly waters if they are not acclimated. However, these snails are best for pond life because they are live bearing and don’t reproduce as quickly.

Acclimating snails is the same process as acclimating fish to new pond water. Upon arrival, leave the snails in the bag and float it in the pond for 10 to 15 minutes. Once you have floated the bag you will want to remove the snails from the most newspaper and place them in the pond. By then they should be acclimated to the temperature and be fine.

Black Japanese Trapdoor Snails

Will snails survive the winter in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Will snails survive the winter in my pond?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails in the winter?

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

When should I remove the fountain from my pond?

Can my snails stay in my pond for the winter?
Cody – Falling Spring, VA

While your fish and some of your aquatic plants remain safe and sound during their winter dormancy you may wonder if your snails will be as successful. Your pond snails are amazingly resilient in cold weather and will do just fine given their habitat is suitable.

Your pond depth will play a major role in the success of all of the living creatures in your pond. Your plants, fish and snails can survive in cold water but they won’t fair too well if frozen into a solid block of ice. The ice that forms on the top of your pond varies in thickness depending on where you live but the general rule of thumb is to build your pond to be around 20”-30” in depth. This ensures there is an ample layer of water at the bottom of the pond that is left unexposed to the elements which will provide a safe haven for all of your pets and plants.

You won’t have to worry too much about your snails finding a safe place to hide over the winter as they come equipped with a strong shell which provides adequate shelter. They can hide amongst the rocks and plant remains in the pond as well during the winter but as your fish are in dormancy there is not an overwhelming need for additional habitat. As water temperatures drop and bacteria begin to dwindle a lot of pond owners tend to rely on algaecides to keep their ponds free from algae. If you are using an algaecide in your water garden review the product label thoroughly to ensure it is safe to use with your snails. When your pond comes back to life in the spring your snails will flourish amongst the new plant growth.

Pond Talk: Do you do anything special to provide safety for your snails in the winter?

Aquatic Plants – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Pink Water Lily

Get Ready to Soil Your Plants
Owning a small pond is not just about pumps, filters, and fish. Pond guys and gals everywhere are exercising their green thumbs by implementing aquatic plants into their water feature.

Go Green or Go Home
Aquatic plants are an excellent addition to your pond as they add life to your water garden with their diverse shapes and colors. In addition to their obvious visual appeal, plants also feed off of available nutrients in your water garden which decreases the amount of food available for potential algae blooms. Furthermore, aquatic plants provide food for your fish population as well as places to spawn and hide.

Plethora of Plants
You may love the idea of incorporating plants into your water garden, but there are so many types to choose from it may feel a bit overwhelming. If you are still a bit fresh in the water gardening scene, or you just don’t know that much about aquatic plants, you can find solace in an Aquatic Plant Package. Getting great plants for your water garden is as simple as choosing a plant package that fits the square footage of your pond. Packages also include Black Japanese Trapdoor Snails, which are great for eating algae without taking over your entire water garden. More adventurous water garden owners can purchase aquatic plants à la carte to add even more diversity to their pond. Mixing a variety of plants will make for a more interesting landscape and will help promote a balanced ecosystem as each plant has its own unique attributes.

Click over to our Planting Aquatic Plants article to read more about aquatic plant selections and how to plant them.

POND TALK: What type of plant selection can be found in your water garden? Which plant is a MUST have?

Aquatic Plant Packages

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