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This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Q: This is my first winter with a pond. Do I need to bring in my plants?

Bonnie – Dover, NJ

A: You’ve been watching your aquatic plants flourish all year. Your water lilies and hyacinth put off big blooms, your irises and cattails became homes for frogs and dragonflies, and your submerged plants provided a home for your fish and snails.

With the cold weather on its way, now what do you do with them? Well, it all depends on where you live and what types of plants you have.

In the Zone

What’s your hardiness zone? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map will help you determine which plants will thrive in a particular location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones.

In general, if you live in a hardiness zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! All you need to do is trim off dead foliage with your Scissors & Pliers, fertilize the plants as necessary and enjoy them all year round.

If you live in an area that freezes, however, you have some work to do.

Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants – whether floating, marginal or submerged – are sensitive in varying degrees to freezing temperatures. Some species will overwinter just fine in frostier hardiness zones, while others will wilt and die at the slightest hint of ice.

So before you do anything, get to know your plants and identify which ones are in your zone and which ones aren’t.

Overwintering Your Plants

Winter care of water lilies, marginal/bog plants and submerged plants will depend on if they’re tropical (anything that likes temperatures above your hardiness zone) or hardy (anything geared for temperatures in your hardiness zone or lower).

  • Tropical Plants: These sensitive beauties, including tropical water lilies and canna, will need to be removed from the pond and replaced next season, or removed and relocated to a warm indoor space for winter. Read about how to overwinter tropical water lilies in this blog post.
  • Hardy Plants: These easy-care troopers, including hardy water lilies and submerged plants, only need to have dead foliage removed after the first hard frost. Simply use your AquaGloves™ and Scissors & Pliers to trim away any spent leaves, lily pads or flowers. Once trimmed, sink the plants to the deepest part of your pond. Hardy plants will go dormant for the winter and regrow in the spring.

Floating plants, like hyacinth and water lettuce, can be treated like an annual; they will die over the winter, so remove them from your pond once they begin to yellow. Luckily, they’re inexpensive to replace and will grow quickly once re-added. Please note: hyacinth and water lettuce can be invasive so be sure to dispose of them properly and never release into public water.

Good luck caring for your first winter pond!

Pond Talk: What advice about overwintering can you share with this new pond owner?

Quickly Trim Away Dormant Plants - Pond Scissors & Pliers


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7 Responses

  1. Oh and also what about purple pickerel and unicorn rush?

  2. What about umbrella palms and Mares tail ?

    • Hi – All of those plants are in the bog plant family. Whether or not they need to come indoors for the winter will depend on your location. Purple Pickerel & Unicorn (or Corkscrew) Rush should over winter down to zones 4 or 5. Mare’s Tail is hardy down to zone 3. Umbrella Palms however are more tropical and will not survive outdoors in zones below 11.

  3. How do you sink a hardy plant? Mine were attached somehow to the pond floor in tubs, but two years ago the tub floated to the surface. I put a rock on it, but it is back on top again now.

    • Hi Joy – Are you using regular planting soil or did you take the plants out of the pond and just place them in a tub for the winter? If you are using something other then an aquatic planting basket that is normally buoyant on its own, then you may need to use a different basket that has slits or holes, then the aquatic plant media should weigh it down enough on its own to hold your plants.

  4. As a project any suggestions on how to winterize waterlettuce and Hyacinth? I have access to indoor heated facility about 4000 sq ft. The area is glass windows room temp about 65 F . I can bring in large grow light . What’s more important, Lighting , water temp, or length of lighting time? I have good luck with other plants such as Papyrus and other plants of which I do not know there names. Any help would be appreciated. Kindest Regards’ Zig Grutza

    • Hi Zig – Hyacinth and lettuce are opposites in a lot of ways. For hyacinth you will need warmer temperatures and a more humid environment with lots of direct sunlight and probably fertilizer. Hyacinth can be tough and for this reason many usually just choose to replace them in the spring rather than try to overwinter them. I’ve also heard that you could plant them in a pot rather then float in the water but I have not attempted to do this. Water lettuce on the other hand usually do better in a more shaded area with lower light and may not require much fertilization. Good luck and keep us posted.

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