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Using Water Hyacinth in Water Gardens – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Water Hyacinth.

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I’ve had many people tell me to add water hyacinth to my water garden. I heard they spread like wildfire and can take over my water garden. What’s so great about them? – Tiffany of West Virginia

A: Water hyacinth, especially in water gardens, are a useful tool when trying to create a balanced ecosystem. Water hyacinth are simple to use and perform many functions in a water garden such as: great for filtration, compete with algae for nutrients and provides shade and shelter. I know many of our readers may not agree with this so let’s explain some of the cons first.

Many southern states have restricted water hyacinth because of its aggressive growth. They clog waterways and choke out native plants. In these areas other plant types can be used. Bogs can be planted with marginal/bog plants to maintain the water body that are not as aggressive. Water lilies can be utilized for shelter and shade. If you are in the northern climates, water hyacinth still spread quickly but they cannot survive the cold harsh winter.

So Why Use Water Hyacinth Anyway?

  • Easy to Plant: Water hyacinth are one of the most simple plants to add to your water garden. Simply drop them in and enjoy. You can place them in your waterfall filter, calm areas in the pond or any place where there is at least a few inches of water.
  • Shelter: Water hyacinth float on the water’s surface covering the pond and shading it from the sun keeping the water cooler. The root systems also provide hiding places for your baby fish as well as cover in general against predators.
  • Filtration Capacity: Water hyacinth have large root systems that can stretch 10 or more inches. Each of these individual roots have thousands of root hairs which increase the roots surface area. We know from our filter systems that the main reason they work so well is the large amount of surface area for bacteria to grow on. Multiply that by numerous water hyacinth and you have instantly doubled or even tripled your filtration capacity.
  • Compete with Algae: Since water hyacinth are prolific growers, they compete with algae for the same food source, thus keeping your water garden balanced and looking good all year.
  • Looks: Water hyacinth are nice too look at. Foliage is green all season and purple flowers form through out the year as well.
  • Easy to Remove: If water hyacinth get out of control in your water garden, don’t worry, they are extremely easy to remove with a pond net.

With so many benefits, in the right conditions, water hyacinth are a great renewable resource.

POND TALK: Do you plant water hyacinth in your water garden? Tell us what you think about water hyacinth.

50 Responses

  1. I love them but every day in the summer I have to clean out the skimmer twice a day because of all the string roots they tear . I can’t go away because the pond needs attention every day. Of course, the fish are very happy.

  2. Will aquarium salt harm this hyacinth?

    • Hi Tara – You can use aquarium salt but you will want to keep the salt concentration at less than 1%. If you are looking to use this in an aquarium, hyacinth generally need a lot of light so an indoor aquarium may not provide the best environment for them.

  3. I made an impromptu pond out of a rubber horse tub to rescue some tadpoles from a drying puddle in the pasture. I got some SAV (oxygenators, submerged aquatic vegetation) and one water hyacinth from the local nursery. I’m in PA so invasive not an issue, they’d die in the wild in the winter. Also got some arrowroot. Tadpoles seem to like all. Nice to know the hyacinth helps keep my tiny ecosystem balanced. Wondering if I can overwinter it inside in a tub?

    • Hyacinth are tough, some have had success overwintering indoors but you would need to have a grow light and possibly even fertilize regularly to keep them healthy.

  4. Can I put some water hyacinths in a salt water pool to help filter the water??

    • Unfortunately water garden plants are not as salt tolerant as koi and goldfish so they would not do very well in a high salt situation. You are much better off sticking with pool filters in this case.

  5. I have a koi pond and have had water hyacinth for years which have been lush and green with lots of flowers and so prolific that I’ve given them away by trash bags full. After I’ve supplied all my friends with hyacinths, I’ve still had so many left that I take them out and compost them. But this year it’s a different story. The hyacinths are bleached- out looking and the leaves are yellow and sickly looking. They’re short and have had no flowers. My pond is spring-fed, and everything but the health of the hyacinths is the same as previous years. I do have string algae, but that’s nothing new. What could be the problem? I live in Northern California.

    • Hi Barbara – It could be a bug or a disease that has your water hyacinth not looking good. Has there been any changes to your water (i.e. pH)?

      • I never check the water. It’s from my spring and I’m assuming there’s been no change in the water. I do have a lot of duckweed this year. Could that play a role? I thought fish ate it but they’re not eating it because it’s multiplying. Should I get rid of it? I don’t think it’s a problem of my koi eating the roots because it hasn’t happened before, unless the two new butterfly koi I got recently would do that. One is about 3-4 inches and the other is about 6 inches.

      • Its hard to say Barbara. Duckweed might be competing for nutrients against the hyacinth. Duckweed is a very prolific grower. It may be growing faster than your koi can consume. How are the roots when you pull out the hyacinth?

      • The roots are very short. All previous years the hyacinths have had long roots, but this year they are almost non-existent. I’m fishing out as much duckweed as I can.
        I wonder if the koi could even produce fry if the koi are eating the roots of the hyacinth. I haven’t seen any fry this year.

      • How could I tell if it’s a bug or disease? I bought them from the same pond and garden nursery that I always have.

      • Disease will tend to be yellowing, dying back of the leaves, loss of leaves, etc. Bugs tend to be holes in the leaves, webbing, etc.

      • It’s not bugs then. No holes. Just yellowed bleached out sunburnt looking leaves, very short roots, no flowers.

  6. I have a very small pond with 5 goldfish. I usually buy one water lettuce and one water hyacinth every summer to help keep the pond clean. The fish are eating the roots and the plants are costly here. I paid $5 a piece for them and can’t afford to replace them. How can I keep my fish from eating the roots?

    • Hi Shelley – You have a couple options: (1) Because Water Hyacinth are such fast growers, keep the Water Hyacinth outside the pond (in a kiddie pool or water tank) and move them into the pond when the current batch starts looking bad. (2) Get something that floats (like a pool noodle, hula hoop, Floating Island Planter), attach fine netting (make sure it’s slack so there’s plenty of room for long roots), set Water Hyacinth into the pond on top of the netting. This will not only keep them contained but it also will prevent the fish from getting to the roots.

  7. Will the water hyacinth die from the koi eating the roots???

    • Hi Sue – The Water Hyacinth will probably not die but they will not be healthy plants. Here’s a few options for you:
      – Because Water Hyacinth are such prolific growers, put some in a tub or kiddie pool and just transfer them to the pond when the current ones are looking bad. There will be stagnant water, so adding some Mosquito Dunks will be helpful.
      – Use Floating Islands Planters. These containers have holes in the bottom so water can get in but the roots are protected.
      – Only put the Water Hyacinth in the Waterfall Box or another area that your koi cannot get to.

  8. Awesome..blog everybody. I do love the Water Hyacinths. I have a pond below me that used to get over run by algae and duck weed. I threw a couple of Water hyacinths in this spring from my upper pond and they now cover about a half acre. The water is cooler, cleaner and doesn’t smell. I added an aerator also for effect and it seems to help.
    The pond seems more vibrant and the frogs and turtles are more prevalent. The flowers are beautiful. Sad they will die out in the winter and I will probably have to clean out some dead plants, but worth the color show.

  9. Great article! Thanks for the valuable information.

  10. I found that the Water Hyacinths I purchased from the nursery were all in huge molded ponds, all in shady areas so, of course, they died from the heat. But, last year, somehow, Water Hyacinths ended up in certain irrigation canals and in our river as well. It completely took over the canals and the county had to remove it but in the river, it didn’t spread over the entire length due to the pace of the river itself. I acquired my hyacinth from the bank of the river. I took only one plant, now I have 6 and my Koi love them. So do all my tadpoles. Of all my water plants, the Parrot’s Feather is the most aggressive but it certainly keeps the egret from eating my Koi. Thanks!

  11. Our pond is 8’X12′. Late May we put in 12 water hyacinth and 12 water lettuce. LOVE them! 6 of each would have been plenty though as they multiply quickly. They have completely covered the pond. We keep taking out extras so we can still see our fish. They have done a GREAT job though especially giving shade to the fish as we have very little early AM shade. Would highly reccommend either of these plants in a contained pond.


    • Hi Stacey,

      Physical removal is probably the easiest way to remove the mass of hyacinth. These are floating plants to they do not have a root system that attaches to the bottom of the pond making them much easier to capture. A pond rake or large net used like a seine is probably the quickest. You can also use a chemical spray which would kill them but you would still need to remove the mass once dead. Good Luck!

  13. […] On The Plants: Adding Aquatic Plants like Hornwort and Water Hyacinth in your pond will provide excellent surface area for freshly laid eggs to attach to and will also […]

  14. My water hyacinth leaves start drying up after 4 weeks in the pond, and they all turn yellow brownish, but my water is crystal clear after I add water hyacinth. I kept them separate from my fish, so roots are all in good condition, but can’t figure out why leaves are turning yellow and dried up. There is no water splashing on the leaves, but they are in direct sun in the morning. Could it be PH level?? Please help.

    • William,
      pH levels can affect your plants. If the water is too hard it can stunt the plant growth. A pH level of 7 is perfect; a range of 6.5 to 8.5 is usually fine for plants. Another thing to consider is if you are you using salt in your pond water: Salt will affect the Water Hyacinth, as well as other aquatic plants. It is recommended to us 1 ¼ cups of salt per 100 gallons if there are plants in your pond. Fertilizing your plants with fertilizer in small frequent feedings will also help with yellowing plants. Bloom and Grow is a concentrated liquid. Use one ounce per 300 gallons of pond water.

  15. I bought 3 water hyacinth plants for my small backyard pond. The top is almost entirely covered, I almost never have to clean the pond filter and it gets direct sunlight all day. Next year, I think I will start with just 1 plant!!!

  16. I love water hyacinth. I live in the north so overgrowth is no problem. I would like to try to keep them over the winter inside. Could I use a water tank and grow light? Considering the economy, they are not THAT inexpensive, at least not to me.

    • Kathy,

      You can definitely try and I’ve talked to some customers who have been successful wintering them over and other customers who haven’t been so successful. A water tank should work. The biggest thing you have to make sure of is keeping the temperature warm.

      Thanks for the comment!

  17. Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment!

  18. Hello,

    I tried water hyacinth last year. I started out with about 15 plants, They did reproduce prolifically, however, the sun started to burn the edges of the plant, and I ended up with burnt, brown, leaves and the plants died. I don’t think they do will in direct sunlight, at least they didn’t do well in my pond. I have a 2,400 gallon pond with koi and gold fish.


    • Hyacinth does not like getting thier leaves splashed I know that sounds funny being they are a water plant but like a lotus if the leaves are splashed by a fountain or waterfall for example they burn.

  19. […] Using Water Hyacinth in Water Gardens – Water Garden & Feature Q & A – Week Ending May … Water Gardens & Features Q & A Q: I’ve had many people tell me to add water hyacinth to my water garden. I heard […] […]

  20. I have trouble growth health, prolific water hyancinth. Is it the quality of the plants? or could it be the water? Generally, the water is clear and other plants do OK. Any suggestions?

    • Mary,

      Check the pH of the water. A pH level of 7 is perfect. If your water’s pH is above 8.5 you can have issues with plant growth. Also, koi love to eat the roots of water hyacinth. It’s like candy for them. So check and make sure they aren’t eating them as well.


  22. Yes I do use water hyacinths in my pond I have one problem I can’t keep the squirrels from eating the plants. They even pull them out of the pond. Any hint on what I can do to prevent this situation’

  23. I love water hyacinth in my pond, which is about an 800 gallon size. Although they are prolific, they are great for added shelter and shade. What I most love about them is how they filter the water. My pond stays very, very clear throughout the summer because of the water hyacinths…if you have many Koi, however, they may well nibble on the roots – I had one Koi who was particularly fond of the roots and nibbled most of them down to little stubs! Also, some ducks like to munch on the leaves, but if you have enough they will simply bounce back and continue growing well. When mine
    are out of control I simply thin them out by removing them from the pond. I heartily recommend water hyacinth!

  24. I have planted water hyacinths for the past few years but mid summer they wither and die. Any ideas why?

    • Ron,

      Check the pH of the water. A pH level of 7 is perfect. If your water’s pH is above 8.5 you can have issues with plant growth. Also, koi love to eat the roots of water hyacinth. It’s like candy for them. So check and make sure they aren’t eating them as well.

      • My water hyacinth also die after a week or so. I was told its because I add pond salt to my water garden. Is this true?

  25. How can I extend the time of the water hyacinth plant in winter?.
    It is possible to easily latency or die?.

    • Bernardo,

      You can try and winter them over in your home by planting them in pots, but it may not be worth the effort since they are fairly inexpensive to replace.

      Thanks for the comment!

  26. I love water hyacinths, but they don’t last in my pond. They die after a week or two. I live in the desert does that make a difference. What am I doing wrong?

    • Do you have any shade next to your pond? Sometimes direct sunlight and excessive heat can damage to plants. Also, check the pH levels, if the water is too hard that can stunt plant growth as well. A pH level of 7 is perfect, a range of 6.5 to 8.5 is usually fine for plants.

  27. I love the water hyacinth. I usually buy about 3. They aren’t that expensive and soon I have enough to take care of my pond, I have sold the extras in the past for 50 cent a piece and made back the money I have put into buying other plants for the pond. My kids and I love watching our koi pull them around the pond by the roots and the blooms are beautiful.

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