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I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Dan – Newnan, GA

A: In ornamental ponds, water lilies planted in pots are prized possessions—but in a shallow farm pond or lake, lilies living wild can be an invasive species that takes over the water surface in no time.

Of course, water lilies aren’t all bad. Their leaves and roots provide food for beaver, moose, muskrat, porcupine, and deer. Their seeds are gobbled by waterfowl, and their leaves provide protective coverage for largemouth bass, sunfish, and frogs. Left unmanaged, however, water lilies can restrict lake-front access, eliminate swimming opportunities and quickly take over shallow areas.

But before we get into how to control these beautiful but troublesome aquatic plants, let’s learn a bit about them.

Habitat, Growth

The water lily is a floating-leaved aquatic perennial herb that grows rooted in mucky or silty sediments in water 4 to 5 feet deep. It prefers quiet waters like ponds, lake margins and slow streams. When unmanaged, the plant tends to form dense areas covering hundreds of acres.

Each spring, new shoots appear from the rhizomes and grow up through the water until they reach the surface. The flowers appear from June to September. Each blossom opens in the morning and closes in the early afternoon for two to five consecutive days. After the flowers have closed for the final time, the flower stalk corkscrews and draws the developing fruit below the water.

The plant over winters underground as the rhizome. These rhizomes, along with the plant’s seeds, are how it reproduces. A planted rhizome can grow to cover a 15-foot-diameter circle in just five years!

Limiting Those Lilies

You can control water lilies with several different methods.

  • Mechanical Control: First, you can cut/harvest the water lilies or dig up the rhizomes to create open areas of water. If you cut the lilies, you must do so several times a year as these plants thrive in shallow water and grow rapidly. If you dig up the rhizomes, it can be an intrusive and costly though permanent process; they can be difficult to dislodge, but it can be done via rotovation (underwater rototilling) or excavation. Either way, mechanical control is a difficult method because the plant will likely regrow from seeds or remaining rhizomes.
  • Chemical Control: Another more effective method is to use reactive chemical treatment, like Shoreline Defense®, to manage lilies that are actively growing and have reached the surface. When applied directly to the foliage—along with some Treatment Booster™ PLUS to break down the plant’s protective surface—the herbicide’s active ingredient penetrates the lily and makes its way to the rhizome. Once it has turned brown, use a Weed Cutter to remove as much of the decomposing plant as possible to prevent an accumulation of dead material and muck. If you use this method, treat your pond in sections, dosing only half of the lilies at a time; if the weather is hot, decrease that to a third or quarter, waiting 10 to 14 days between treatments.
  • Preventive Control: In addition to mechanical and chemical control, you can also prevent—or at least slow down—the growth of water lilies by treating the pond’s water with Pond Dye. By blocking the sun’s rays early in the season, the lilies will not get the light they need to develop.

Controlling water lilies can be a challenge. But these methods, you can manage them and keep them contained in a particular area, making them a beautiful addition to your landscape.

Pond Talk: How do you control wild water lilies in your farm pond or lake?

Kill Water Lilies and Other Emergent Weeds - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense(r)

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?

Flexible Pond Planters For All Your Plant Needs - The Pond Guy® Plant Bags

Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them?

Q: Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them?

Melissa – Sedalia, MO

A: It’s a water garden, not a vegetable or flower garden, right? So why do you need plants in your pond? What purpose do they serve? Well, even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are some very good reasons why plants belong in your pond—four of them, in fact.

  • Fish Cover: First of all, floating plants like water lilies and water lettuce provide your pond’s inhabitants cover from predators and bright sun. Your koi and goldfish will appreciate the safety and shade those leaves provide, particularly when a heron comes to visit!
  • All-Natural Water Filter: Bog, floating and underwater plants, like water hyacinth, parrot’s feather and irises, naturally filter the water, too. They’re nicknamed “nature’s water filter” for a reason: They remove excess nutrients from the water while releasing oxygen during photosynthesis.
  • Habitable Habitat: Plants also create a perfect habitat for your aquatic life—both above and below the waterline—by providing food and shelter. Fish and snails hang out around the leaves and stems, frogs hunt for bugs and hide in the shade, and birds and insects flock to the flowers for nectar.
  • Aesthetics: Aquatic plants’ flowers and greenery make for some nice scenery for you, too. Imagine water lilies and irises bursting with color, and curly corkscrew rush and lizard’s tail softening the outline around the pond. Not a bad view while enjoying a balmy spring evening!

Even though Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, it’s still cold outside—too cold for plants. But you can still start thinking about cultivars you’d like to grow in your water garden!

You could head down to your local water garden retailer and check out their selection, but a better option is to order plants via mail order. Simply flip through your favorite mail-order nursery catalog or check out the assortment of aquatic plants at The Pond Guy®. Place your order and voila! Your aquatic plants will be delivered in the spring.

In many cases, if you place your order early the nursery will hold your order until the weather in your area is suitable to grow the plants. Another benefit of having your plants shipped: They’ll be less expensive because you’re not purchasing a full-grown potted plant. Once they arrive, they’ll need some time to grow—but once they get growing and blossoming, you won’t even know the difference!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Add Color To Your Pond - Grower's Choice 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

How many and what type of plants should I have in my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q&A

How many and what type of plants should I have in my pond?

Q: How many and what type of plants should I have in my pond?
Bryce – Myrtle Beach, SC

If you’re a person – and we’re going out on a limb here to assume you are – you understand the importance of eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins. Variety, it seems, is more than just the spice of life. Like you, your water garden thrives on variety – in the form of a carefully selected mix of aquatic plants. But just as overeating is harmful to you, over-planting spells trouble for your pond. So, whether you’re dining or planting, it pays to be prudent.

Ideal plant coverage is around 60% of your featured surface – this allows for enough nutrient absorption to help prevent algae from gaining a foothold in your pond. There are many types of water plants to choose from – bog plants, marginal plants, lilies, floating and submerged plants – and frankly, we recommend that you try and use them all because each type of plant brings a little something different to the water table if you get our drift.

For instance, submerged plants, like Hornwort or Anacharis, are oxygenators, providing critical support to a pond’s eco-system by supplementing the water with oxygen, while floating plants, like the water hyacinth, provide shade that cools the water and cover under which fish can hide.

Our customers have found The Pond Guy Choice Hardy Water Lilies, make lovely additions to their ponds. Position the root of the plant in a container of Microbe-Lift Concentrated Aquatic Planting Media, and locate the water lily so that its floating leaves are away from any splashing water for best results.

Blue Flag Iris, Water Hibiscus and Bog Bean are all lovely examples of bog plants that can be placed around the shallow edges of your pond for both aesthetic and ecological reasons. To keep your water garden in healthy, we suggest you treat your plants once a year to such products as the Laguna Temperature Activated Aquatic Plant Fertilizer Spikes or the nitrate and phosphate free supplement Bloom and Grow, formulated specifically for aquatic plants.

There’s no doubt about it: variety is the spice of life. It’s also the sign of a healthy, well-cared for pond.

Pond Talk: What types of plants do you have in your pond?

The Pond Guy® Choice Hardy Water Lilies

Why do people build water gardens? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Water Garden and Water Lily

Why do people build water gardens? Amanda – Clearwater, FL

More Than Just A Pretty Face

Maybe you’ve entertained the idea of constructing a water garden in your yard, but feel you are not quite up to the task. Perhaps you are one of those people who don’t understand what all of the “hype” is about when it comes to back yard waterfalls and pricey Koi. To those of you who have yet to experience the triumphs and challenges of owning your very own water garden, there really is more to pond ownership than fish, water, and rocks.

Thanks to the progression of the pond industry, both the process of selecting an appropriate type of water feature and the installation procedures associated with each style have been dramatically simplified. This broadens your selection to a wide range of water features from small pre-formed ponds for beginners, low maintenance and space saving Pondless Waterfalls, or large water gardens equipped with intricate streams and waterfalls for those of you with more experience or are daring. You can also take advantage of the cost savings of purchasing a complete Pond Kit which can save you the time and trouble of trying to purchase each component independently. Regardless of which type of pond you decide is best for you, remember to take your time and do your Homework. Being prepared will ensure that the entire pond process from design to finished product is an enjoyable experience.

When done properly, a water feature can become an outdoor retreat, providing soothing sounds and sights to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere. Your water feature will accent your home and the surrounding landscape creating an inviting appearance and an increased curb appeal. Implementing Aquatic Plants and Koi into your water feature is a great way to further increase its value. Having fish present in your water feature creates fun activities that you can do with friends and family. Witnessing a few fish antics alone provides a great source of entertainment, while feeding your fish is an excellent group activity that can create a little extra “together” time with friends and family. If you have children it is also a great way to teach them about the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Every person has their own unique story about how their water feature came to exist. For some it may just seem like a logical step and for others it starts with the gift of one small goldfish. Intentional or not, it is easy to fall in love with your water feature. While there is some time and expense associated with any water feature, it all seems trivial once you see the results of such a rewarding investment.

POND TALK: How has your water garden changed your lifestyle?

Pond Kits

How to split water lilies – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a water lily.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: How do you split water lilies?

A: Whether they’re hardy, tropical, day or night bloomer, water lilies beautify decorative backyard ponds. Their vivid colors add a dash of drama in an otherwise green landscape, which is probably why you added them to the pond in the first place!

In the confines of an aquatic pot or plant basket in a decorative pond, water lilies can quickly run out of space and nutrients.

When those flowers stop blossoming and the leaves grow to excess, it’s a sure sign that it’s time to divide and replant the lilies. With a little know-how, splitting lilies is a chore that can be done in no time. Here’s how to do it:

1. Remove your overgrown plants from the water garden in the spring, sometime around March or April, when the water temperature starts to rise. Put on your waterproof gardening gloves, like the Aqua Gloves, and carefully lift the plant to a work space and remove it from its container. You may need to cut open the basket, depending how pot-bound the plant is.

2. Next, wash off old soil and roots 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. Examine the rhizome for damage or signs of disease, like soft patches of rot. Cut those portions off.

3. Trim the long, coarse roots back to 4 to 5 inches. Line your new plant basket with landscape cloth or similar material and position three to five pieces of rhizome in the basket with their growing tips facing outward to help avoid competition as the crowns develop.

4. Fill in around the rhizomes with aquatic soil, like Microbe-Lift Aquatic Plant Media, making sure the roots are spread well into the soil and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Gently press the plant in and compact the soil.

5. Finish repotting by applying a layer of gravel. This helps anchor plants, keeps the soil in the pot and deters fish from digging out the plants. Return the lily to the water garden taking care when positioning the
pot not to tip the lily out.

You can expect to divide your water lilies every few years or so, depending on your particular variety and growth rate. To keep you plants healthy and thriving between transplanting, be sure to fertilize regularly
with aquatic plant foods, like Tetra Lily Grow Tablets, Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow or the convenient Fertilizer Spikes.

POND TALK: How often do you split and repot your water lilies?

Planting Aquatic Plants – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Mayla Water Lily

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I would like to order plants for my water garden this year, but I don’t know where to begin. What plants should I get and how do I plant them? – Kayla of Florida

A: The simplest and easiest way to select the right variety of aquatic plants is to purchase one of our plant packages. Our plant packages come in multiple sizes with an assortment of beautiful aquatic plants (shipped bare root) that are recommended for great coverage. What kinds of aquatic plants are there? What should I get for my water feature? These are very legitimate questions. There are many different categories of aquatic plants with many species in each category:

Floating - Floating plants such as water hyacinth & water lettuce are best used to absorb excess nutrients that cause excessive algae growth. They also provide shade and cover for the fish.

Submerged - Submerged plants are fantastic oxygenators. They are also used to absorb nutrients, so there is no need to fertilize them.

Bog - You can add a nice touch to your water feature using bog plants. Bog plants are planted around the edges of the pond in shallow water areas. They also act as a visual anchor to the surrounding feature. Bog plants are perennials, meaning that they will grow back every year based on your zone.

Hardy Water Lilies - Hardy water lilies are perennials. They will bloom all summer long on the water surface. Hardy water lilies have smooth waxy leaves that are rounded at the edge.

Tropical Water Lilies - Tropical water lilies have very fragrant blossoms and will have several blooms at a time. These lilies come in daytime and nighttime blooming varieties. Tropical water lilies will be jagged or pointed around the edge of the leaves.

Hardy Water Lotuses - Hardy water lotuses have very large blooms and leaves that can stand out of the water from two to five feet depending on the variety. A hardy water lotus may take up to two years to become fully established.

So why are aquatic plants so important? In a water feature, plants are absolutely vital in balancing the ecosystem, and they offer an aesthetic touch to your landscape. If you ever wonder what causes algae to grow or why your pond isn’t clear, there are really only four factors to consider:

  • Not enough filtration
  • Too many fish
  • Not enough aquatic plants
  • Not using DefensePAC (natural bacteria)

The recommendation for aquatic plant coverage is 60% of your overall water feature surface. This will provide enough absorption of nutrients to help combat algae before it has a chance to grow.

Now that I know aquatic plants are important, how do I plant them? That’s a great question. Here is the rundown:

Floating - Floating plants do not need to be planted. Simply toss plants onto the surface of the water or place inside a Waterfall Filter unit for added filtration and to prevent vigorous spreading. This will also help to hide the Waterfall Filter.

Submerged - Submerged plants may free-float throughout your water feature. If your water feature is equipped with a skimmer, you may want to wrap a weight around the base of the plant before tossing it in to prevent the skimmer from pulling in the plant.

Bog - Simply create pockets and crevices 6-8″ in depth between the gravel and boulders. Remove the marginal plant from its pot, move gravel aside, place the plant and then spread the gravel around the base of the plant for support.

Hardy & Tropical Water Lilies - Prepare lily pockets by making indentations within your first or second shelf (12″ to 18″ in depth). Place the lily tuber in the lily pocket and fill
with aquatic planting media (remember to not cover the crown, a.k.a. growing tip of the lily). Finally, spread loose gravel around the
base of the lily to prevent the soil from being stirred up.

Hardy Water Lotuses - Hardy water lotuses are usually potted in wide, shallow containers because of their aggressive behavior. Hard water lotuses should be planted in a round container at least 18″ in diameter with 6″ of depth. It must be round, because square pots can cause lotuses to die when the tuber gets crunched into a corner during heavy growth seasons. Gently place the tuber into at least 3″ of soil. Fill the rest of the container up to the brim with with gravel and place 10-12″ deep within the pond depending on variety.

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