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How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter? – Water Garden & Features Q & A

Plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures.

Water Garden & Features Q & A

Q: How do I “overwinter” or get my pond plants ready for the winter?
- Maryann in Wisconsin

A: If you live in cooler climates – even those that don’t dip too far below freezing – it’s almost time to prepare your plants for winter. Each type of aquatic plant needs to be cared for in a different way, but the most important factor to remember is that the roots of your plants must not come into contact with ice or freezing temperatures. If they do, they simply won’t survive.

Keeping in mind regional variances, here’s how to keep your aquatic plants healthy, happy and ready to bloom again next spring:

    1. First, remove any dead leaves from the plants growing around your pond. Give bog plants, like irises and taro, a good inspection and clip off any unhealthy growth, spent leaves or blooms. You want your plants to go into winter as healthy as possible so they emerge strong and stout in the spring.
    2. Next, pull on your waders and tend to your hardy water lilies. Pull them out of your pond and trim them to about 3 inches above the root system. When you’re done, move the pots or baskets to 18 inches deep or lower, where they’ll be warm and safe from winter frost.
    3. If you have tropical and floating aquatic plants, like tropical lilies or lotus, it’s easiest to treat them as annuals: Remove them from your pond and mulch the soil and root balls. In most climates, they won’t survive the cold winter conditions. You can try to overwinter them in your shed or garage, but it can be difficult, as many of the tropical varieties require temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and strong light to survive.
    4. Treat floating aquatic plants, like water hyacinth and lettuce, as annuals, too. Fortunately, they’re relatively inexpensive to replace year after year.
    5. For hardy lotus, trim back the foliage after they have gone dormant and turned brown. Don’t trim them while the plant and leaves are still green, as it can cause it to be susceptible to diseases that creep in through the hollow stems. In cooler climates, move your plants to a cool, but frost-free area in your yard or the bottom of your pond, along with your water lilies.

Depending on the size of your pond and the number of plants you have, this winterizing chore shouldn’t take longer than an afternoon, but you’ll be rewarded in the spring with healthy growth that will once again beautify your outdoor living space!

POND TALK: Have you ever overwintered your tropical water lilies indoors? How did you do it?

Algae Growth During the Winter – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Algae in Ice.

Q: That isn’t algae growing under the ice, is it?

A: A common question that we receive in the winter pertains to winter algae and what to do with it. In the northern climates, there are strains of algae that do thrive in temperatures down to freezing. The good news is that typically these strains do not reach nuisance levels in ponds or lakes. They tend to hang out in warmer locations, usually around an inflow of water, where it is nice and sunny. In optimal growing conditions, these algae can generate enough biomass to put your fish at risk. A sudden die-off caused by a sudden swing in temperature, overcast weather, etc. can deplete the dissolved oxygen levels under the ice which leads to unnecessary fish stress.

Solutions: Nutrient management in your watershed as well as your pond will slow down the growth of any algae or plant all season. Typically phosphorus is the key nutrient for algal growth, so try switching to phosphorus free fertilizers if you fertilize your lawn. Our Pond-Clear Packets and Pond-Clear Pellets eat away at the muck/nutrients found in the pond. Our Nutri-Defense Packets bind up any excess nutrients flowing in from the watershed. These are things to do in the summer, but what about winter? With the pond frozen over, your options are limited. Dying the pond a deep blue with pond dye will reduce the amount of sunlight that passes through the water column. If you can safely do it, I would suggest adding an extra dose through the ice to slow down growth.

Is There Anything I Should Be Doing to My Pond During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of a pond during the winter.

Q: Is there anything I should be doing to my pond during the winter? – Cindy of Colorado

A: During the winter season there are just a couple things you should be continuing to do help make the following spring a breeze:

Continue to run your aeration system: As I’ve said many time before and will always continue to say it…aeration is important. Continue to run your aeration throughout the winter to help prevent winter fish kills as well as promote an overall healthy pond.

Add pond dye & natural bacteria: Now is a great time to use Pond-Clear 2 in 1 with Nature’s Blue before the ice begins to accumulate. Not only will this continue to shade your pond, it will also add a boost of beneficial bacteria that will go to work to break down fall leaves and debris.

Remove any dead debris from around the pond: Remove dying or dead cattails, tree branches or twigs from around the edges. Allowing these to decay in your pond throughout the winter will add more nutrients for algae and pondweeds to grow during the spring. Doing these few things will help for a great spring!

How Do I Winterize My Aquatic Plants? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Water Lily.

Q: I am working to shut down my water garden for Winter, but I’m unsure of what to do with the aquatic plants? Do I pull them out? If I leave them will they come back next year? – Bill of Wisconsin

Aquatic Plant Maintenance: Every type of aquatic plant needs to be taken care of in a different way. The biggest factor to remember is to make sure that the roots of the aquatic plants do not come into contact with the ice. Anything “hardy” will usually come back each year as long as the roots do not come in contact with ice. Anything “tropic” or “non-hardy” will parish during the Winter times. The following are the steps to take for each type of aquatic plant.

Hardy Water Lilies, Marginals & Submerged Aquatic Plants: Simply trim to around 3 inches above the root system. Water lilies & submerged aquatic plants should already be planted 18″ to 24″ deep making it very unlikely for them to be frozen.

Tropical & Floating Aquatic Plants: Any tropical water lilies, tropical lotsus, or tropical marginals should be treated as annuals. They will not survive the harsh Winter conditions. If you would like to try and keep them, you can place them in pots and bring them indoors, but this can be difficult to keep them alive. As for floating aquatic plants such as: Water hyacinth, lettuce, etc., treat these as annuals as well. Most floating plants are realtively inexpensive to replace each year.

Hardy Lotuses: Trim back the foliage after it has died and turned brown. If leaves are cut while still green, the plant is susceptible to diseases entering through the hollow stems. If stem must be cut while still green, make sure to trim above the waterline, so water does not enter the stem and essentially drown the plant. In colder climates, lotus tubers must not be allowed to freeze in the winter, and containers should be moved to a cool but frost-free area, such as the bottom of a pond that is deep enough to keep the tubers from freezing.

Can I Leave My Fountain Running During the Winter? – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Fountain Running in Winter.

Q: I have a decorative fountain in my pond. Can I leave it running for the Winter? – Andy of Minnesota

A: No. Just look at the picture to the left. Although it may look neat, the consequences are great. If you left your fountain running during the Winter, the ice, over time, will freeze around
it. This can cause severe damage to the fountain. The prop could freeze and burn the motor out or the float could crack causing the fountain to sink to the bottom!

Removing the fountain: Remove and store the fountain in a cool, dry place. This is also a great time to scrub and clean the fountain. Remove any debris or algae from anywhere around the prop. Once squeaky clean, store until the Spring.

Can I Run My Waterfall & Stream Throughout the Winter? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of a Waterfall in the Winter.

Q: Can I run my waterfall and stream in my water garden throughout the Winter? – Carla of Pennsylvania

A: A majority of water garden owners will shut down their water gardens entirely during the Winter, but there are still quite a few that don’t.

Have you ever seen a waterfall with a stream running during the Winter? Its amazing! Ice begins to build up on the falls and you’ll see sections where the water
flows underneath the ice throughout the stream. It really is a beautiful scene.

Having said that, yes you can run the waterfall and stream throughout the Winter, but it depends on these couple factors:

Pump Size (Gallons Per Hour): Here is the major factor in whether or not you can continue to run your waterfall and stream throughout the Winter. Your GPH or gallons per hour must be greater than 2,000 as the water is coming down the waterfall and stream. If this flow is not obtained, then there is a greater possibility the water could freeze, causing ice dams in the stream and pushing the water over and out the side of the stream. If this happened, your water garden would be drained in no time.

Long Streams Beware: Even if you have 2,000 GPH of water coming down the stream, if the stream is quite long, longer than 10′ or 15′, then it may not be a good idea to run the system throughout the winter. In long streams, there is more opportunity for ice dams to be created and thus draining your water garden. If your stream is longer than 10′ to 15′ and you still want to try and run your system I would advise you to use a little bit more flow than 2,000 GPH and to watch it regularly to make sure these ice dams are not created.

I wish you all the opportunity to enjoy your water garden throughout the Winter. Again, it really is an amazing site.

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