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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 TetraPond® LilyGro™ Tablets, Microbe-Lift® Bloom & Grow™ or the convenient Fertilizer Spikes.

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

Controlling Phragmites – Pond & Lake Q & A

Picture of Phragmites.

Pond & Lake Q & A

Q: How do I control invasive Phragmites in my lake?

A: The common reed, Phragmites australis, may seem innocent enough, but these tall grasses topped with feathery tufts can quickly crowd a farm pond or lake. Native and non-invasive varieties of the plants have thrived in wetlands for centuries throughout the United States, but invasive varieties have taken root on the East Coast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and in your lake, creating a nuisance along shorelines.

Phragmites Explained
Growing along streams and ponds, phragmites is a perennial wetland grass that can grow to 6 to 15 feet high. The stems, which are erect, smooth and hollow, may be nearly 1 inch in diameter and are topped with 12-inch-long dense panicles, or purple-brown pyramid-shaped plumes of flowers, that emerge between July and September. Leaves arise from the stem are 10 to 20 inches long and up to 2 inches wide.

The plants propagate mainly via an extensive network of underground rhizomes, or horizontal stems, that produce roots and shoots that grow as deep as 39 inches, with their root systems growing down another 3 feet. Dense above ground and below, stands of these plants crowd out native plants and animals; block shorelines, reducing access for swimming, hunting and fishing; and create fire hazards from dry plant material. But they can be controlled.

Controlling the Common Reed
Once phragmites has invaded your lake or pond, you’ll need to develop a long-term management plan to control the plant. Unfortunately, because the plants spread through their rhizomes, they could be difficult to eradicate entirely. That’s where chemical and mechanical control can help.

Herbicidal Control: First, you can spray a herbicide and surfactant product, like Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo, in the late summer or early fall. Mix 8 ounces of Shoreline Defense® and 4 ounces of Treatment Booster™ PLUS with 2 gallons of water. Pour into pond sprayer (like the The Pond Guy® Specialty Pond Sprayer) and spray on the plants to completely wet the surface of the leaves. Allow the mixture to absorb into the plant and the root system, the most difficult part of the plant to kill, for one to two weeks.

Mechanical Control: Once the herbicide has had a chance to soak into the phragmites’ root system, you can use a weed cutter to cut at the base of the plants, allowing for easier removal with a pond rake. If you can control your pond’s or lake’s water line, you can also cut the phragmites 2 to 3 inches below the water surface to cut off the plant’s supply of oxygen and drown the plant. To prevent the accidental spread of the plant, collect the cut material and bag it before disposing of it.

Plan to repeat this routine several years in a row. Patches may emerge even after regular treatments, but once you’ve wiped out the majority of the phragmites, the plant will be much easier to control. Good luck!

POND TALK: How do you control phragmites in your pond or lake?