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Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond?

Q: Do you have any tips for adding plants to my pond?

Patricia – Charlestown, WV

A: Water lilies and lotus … blue flag iris … hyacinth … so many aquatic plants, so little time. A pond full of these colorful beauties – along with the hardworking, submerged oxygenators – adds splendor and life to your waterscape. Not only that, but birds will visit, bugs will buzz through and aquatic critters will stop by, attracted by the blooms and foliage.

Like your terrestrial garden, a water garden needs some planning and forethought; without it, you could end up with an aquatic jungle. Here’s what we recommend for adding plants to your pond.

Choose Wisely
Before you get your feet wet (and your hands dirty!), first consider what types of plants you want in your water feature and how many you’ll need.

Aquatic plants are typically categorized by their function in a pond. They include floating plants, like water hyacinth and water lettuce, that have roots that reach down from the water’s surface; submerged plants, like vallisneria and hornwort, that live on the pond’s bottom and release oxygen into the water; bog plants, like cattails and iris, that ring the perimeter of the pond; and water lilies and lotus, which provide dramatic surface color and underwater shade.

When browsing for plants, select a mixture of floating, submerged, bog and lilies/lotus, with the goal of covering about 60 percent of your water’s surface. A sample plant shopping list for a 50-square-foot pond looks something like this:

  • 6 to 12 floating plants
  • Several submerged plants
  • 2 bog plants
  • 1 water lily

Don’t forget to add aquatic plant media, fertilizer and containers, like pots, plant bags, planting baskets and floating planters , to your list. You’ll need them when you transplant and care for the new greenery. Speaking of which …

Planting How-To
Once you’ve planned out and purchased your plants, it’s time to move them in to your water garden. The different types of aquatic plants need to be handled differently:

  • Floating Plants: Simply place these easy-care plants in the water. They will float freely and take up nutrients through their root systems.
  • Submerged Plants: Grow these underwater plants in plant bags or other planters. Fill your container with planting material, plant several bunches of them together and submerge into the desired section of your pond. Another option: Tie a bunch to a weight and drop it into the pond, using one bunch for every 2 square feet of surface area. Their roots will take up nutrients from the water.
  • Bog Plants: Best grown in containers filled with aquatic plant media, bog plants like their roots wet. Position them around the edges of your pond in 6-inch-deep water, or inside your pond with a floating island planter.
  • Water Lilies and Lotuses: These beauties thrive in pots, like those found in our Water Lily and Water Lotus Planting Kits. To transplant, fill your tub with clay and a clay/soil mix, and add some aquatic planting media on top. Position the tuber inside the soil with growing tip pointed up. Submerge the pot so the plant’s tip is 3 to 6 inches deep. Once the plant starts to grow and its leaves reach the water’s surface, place the pot in a deeper area of your pond.

Feed for Healthy Growth
Your newly planted plants will need nutrients for beautiful blooms, so don’t forget the fertilizer! Aquatic plant fertilizers come in two forms: spikes and tabs.

Fertilizer spikes, like Laguna Plant Grow Fertilizer Spikes, slowly release plant food over a 12-month period. The balanced nutrients encourage foliage growth, root growth and flower production, while their low phosphorous and no-copper formula ensures no adverse effects to fish, plants or water quality. Spikes are easy to use: Push them into the soil (one for every 1 to 2 gallons of planting container space) and forget about them until next year.

Tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™, feed aquatic plants throughout their growing season. As with the spikes, the balanced nutrients in tabs encourage greenery and bloom production, but they need to be added to the soil every 2-4 weeks for best results. Use one tablet to two tablets per gallon of potted soil, and push it deep into the media 3 inches from the crown of the plant. Pack the hole with dirt to prevent the fertilizer from being released into the water, and you’re good until next month.

Pond Talk: How do you choose what plants to add to your water garden?

Essential Nutrients for Your Plants - CrystalClear® Thrive™ Plant Fertilizer

I just bought a plant package. What should I do now? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Q: I just bought a plant package. What should I do now?

Rick – Winchester, NH

A: Congratulations! For water garden enthusiasts like us, opening an aquatic plant package is like celebrating Christmas in spring. A box of colorful flower tubers, oxygenating plants and algae-eating snails arrives at your doorstep, and you get to look forward to a season of fun in your backyard playground.

Depending on the package size (small, medium or large) you received, you’ll get:

  • Water lilies
  • Floating plants, like water hyacinth, water lettuce and parrot’s feather
  • Bog plants, like blue flag iris and dwarf cattail
  • Pond snails

These pond plants work together to shade the pond, aerate and filtrate the water, provide habitat for wildlife and insects (and your snails), and beatify your landscape.

Ready to get growing? Here’s how to care for – and play with – your Christmas-in-spring present.

Pond Snails

After traveling all those agitating miles to your doorstep, the Black Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snails may appear lifeless or even dead, but don’t worry: They’re most likely hiding inside their shells. Wake them up and welcome them to your garden by filling the bag halfway with pond water, and then floating or holding it for a few minutes while the gastropods acclimate to the new environment. Then place the open bag in a shallow area and let them work their way out and into the deeper section of your pond.

Plant Care

Before your plant package arrives, purchase some planting containers (like baskets, bags or pots) and aquatic planting media. Use soil designed for water gardens; avoid using bagged potting mix and other lightweight soils from your local garden center, as they will float and cloud the water in your pond.

  • Water lilies: With your pots and plant media ready, take out your water lily tubers and place one inside a pot with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with the aquatic planting media, making sure the roots are well spread and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface. Place the planted pot in a shallow area of your pond to encourage faster growth. Once leaves have reached the surface, you can move the water lily to a deeper part of your pond.
  • Floating Plants: These plants are easy to propagate. Simply place in the water! They will float freely and take up nutrients from the water through their root systems.
  • Bog Plants: Like the water lilies, these around-the-edge plants require a pot and planting material. Position the tubers in the media so that the cut end of the tuber is against the side of the pot, not in the middle. Why? Because the roots need as much room as possible to spread through the soil and across the container. Once it’s planted, submerge the container on a shelf that’s up to 6 inches below the water surface.

Keep Them Growing

Like the plants growing in your vegetable garden, your aquatic plants will require fertilizer to help them grow healthy and strong. Spikes or tabs, like CrystalClear® Thrive™ tablets, can be pushed into the soil at planting time. They’ll slowly release into the media, feeding your lilies and irises the nutrients they need to thrive. From April through August, continue to feed your plants, following all manufacturers’ recommendations for fertilizer application rates.

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Pot Your Plants with Beneficial Bacteria - Microbe-Lift(r) Aquatic Planting Media

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months?

Can I enjoy my plants indoors for the cooler months? Josh – Speed, KS

With winter on the way, you are probably starting to wonder how to go about protecting your plants through the colder months. Just as each plant is unique in looks and application, different types of plants require different means of protection to survive winter. You will want to properly identify which types of plants are present in your pond and proceed accordingly. If you are willing to go the extra mile and care for your plants indoors you will be able to enjoy them all season long and dodge the expense of re-buying plants to garnish your pond next Spring.

Plants are typically categorized by hardiness which gauges their survivability in specific temperature ranges. Some plants, like Bog Bean are rated from zones 3 to 10 which means they can withstand very cold temperatures but can also thrive in warm weather. Tropical plants like the Antares Lily are hardy only in zones 10 and 11. For help, see our Plant Hardiness Zone Map which breaks down temperature lows in each zone. With this being said you will now understand that some plants may need to be stored earlier and longer than others and may require a little more attention depending on their warmth and light requirements and if you maintaining the entire plant or only storing tubers.

Hardy Lilies and Lotus can be trimmed back to about an inch` away from the top of the planter as they brown. To over winter these plants you simply sink the baskets to a depth in your pond that will not freeze solid, normally at least 12” in water depth. As the temperatures warm back up you can move the basket closer to the surface and let nature take its course. If your lilies aren’t potted, they are more than likely planted into lily pockets that are already 12-18” in depth and simply trimming them back will suffice. Any tropical plant, however, will have to come inside for the winter. These plants can be maintained if placed in a warm and sunny area or under a full spectrum light and the root of the plant is kept submerged.

Submerged Plants that are hardy in colder climates can just be sunk to deeper regions of your pond that will not freeze solid in the winter. If they require warmer temperatures you can bring them in and store them in an aquarium with full spectrum lighting.

Floating Plants like Water Hyacinths and Water Lettuce are sensitive to colder weather and are a little more difficult to over winter. If you choose to bring them in for the winter, they require a warm sunny location or under full spectrum lighting. You will also want to add some liquid fertilizer like Microbe-Lift® Bloom & Grow™ to keep them healthy.

POND TALK: Tell us how you over winter your aquatic plants.

Easily maintain your plants!

Do I Need To Fertilize My Plants And If I Do Will It Encourage Algae Growth? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Do I need to fertilize my plants and if I do will it encourage algae growth?

Do I need to fertilize my plants and if I do will it encourage algae growth? Ben – Shelley, ID

Here We Grow Again

Behind the scenes your Aquatic Plants are working hard to filter nutrients from the water in your pond, provide shelter for its residents, and keep algae blooms to a minimum. While this may seem impressive to some, it is hard for most pond owner to get excited about aquatic plants unless they can do all of this work while looking good. Whoever coined the phrase “Looks aren’t everything” obviously never owned a water garden.

If your aquatic plants are failing to impress you can use some plant fertilizer to give them the boost they need to ensure your pond has more buds and less duds this season. The type of fertilizer you use will depend on the type of plants in your pond and how they are implemented.

Liquid fertilizers like Microbe-Lift® Bloom & Grow™ are mixed directly into your pond water, providing a readily available food source throughout the entire pond. This type of application is great for ponds with an abundance of scattered plants, Floating Plants, and plants that are in areas lacking Planting Media.

Concentrated fertilizers like TetraPond® LilyGro™ Tablets and Laguna Fertilizer Pond Spikes are used for potted plants or plants with roots planted in media. Simply push these fertilizers into the planting media and they will gradually release nutrients that your plants. When you are using concentrated fertilizers in your pond, carefully read the directions for each individual product for specific application instructions and warnings. For example, when using LilyGro tablets you will want to place them about 3” away from the crown of the plant to ensure the fertilizer does not burn the roots or stem.

The amount of fertilizer you need and intervals at which you re-apply them will depend on which type you are using and variable factors such as average water temperatures and how many plants are in the pond. Applications can range from once a season to ever 2-4 weeks. Whichever type or brand of fertilizer you use in your pond make sure it is low in or completely free of phosphates which can encourage algae growth. Microbe-Lift Bloom & Grow is an entirely phosphate free product.

Fertilizing your plants will encourage increased growth and color in healthy plants to push them to perform at their best. Fertilizers will not be an effective substitute for gardening know how. If your plants are constantly dieing make sure they are being planted in the right Temperature Zone and are being used in the correct applications. Bog Plants like Dwarf Cattails for example should not be entirely submerged in your pond, tropical plants like Antares should not be planted in cold climates and so on.

Do some homework, read the descriptions and text included with your plants and fertilizers to ensure you select the correct products for you unique water gardening scenario. Once your aquatic plants are established and growing, you can then decide if you need fertilizer to give them a kick in the bud to bloom at their best.

Pond Talk:What aquatic plants do you use in your pond and which types of fertilizers do you use for them?

Fertilizer Pond Spikes

Why Are My Aquatic Plants Dying? – Water Garden Q & A

Picture of Water Hyacinth
Q: My aquatic plants that I bought are turning brown and soggy around the edges. What could be the problem?
-Shelly of Jacksonville, TX

A: This is a very good question and it starts with testing your pond’s pH levels. The nuetral pH level in water 7.0, but if the pH gets up to 8.5 or higher it will have a harmful effect on plants. If your pH is high, you can use pH Drop to slowly bring it back down. Another thing to do is to test your tap water’s pH level. If this level is high, you may want to count on using pH Drop every time you do a water change or after it rains.

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