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?