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I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Dan – Newnan, GA

A: In ornamental ponds, water lilies planted in pots are prized possessions—but in a shallow farm pond or lake, lilies living wild can be an invasive species that takes over the water surface in no time.

Of course, water lilies aren’t all bad. Their leaves and roots provide food for beaver, moose, muskrat, porcupine, and deer. Their seeds are gobbled by waterfowl, and their leaves provide protective coverage for largemouth bass, sunfish, and frogs. Left unmanaged, however, water lilies can restrict lake-front access, eliminate swimming opportunities and quickly take over shallow areas.

But before we get into how to control these beautiful but troublesome aquatic plants, let’s learn a bit about them.

Habitat, Growth

The water lily is a floating-leaved aquatic perennial herb that grows rooted in mucky or silty sediments in water 4 to 5 feet deep. It prefers quiet waters like ponds, lake margins and slow streams. When unmanaged, the plant tends to form dense areas covering hundreds of acres.

Each spring, new shoots appear from the rhizomes and grow up through the water until they reach the surface. The flowers appear from June to September. Each blossom opens in the morning and closes in the early afternoon for two to five consecutive days. After the flowers have closed for the final time, the flower stalk corkscrews and draws the developing fruit below the water.

The plant over winters underground as the rhizome. These rhizomes, along with the plant’s seeds, are how it reproduces. A planted rhizome can grow to cover a 15-foot-diameter circle in just five years!

Limiting Those Lilies

You can control water lilies with several different methods.

  • Mechanical Control: First, you can cut/harvest the water lilies or dig up the rhizomes to create open areas of water. If you cut the lilies, you must do so several times a year as these plants thrive in shallow water and grow rapidly. If you dig up the rhizomes, it can be an intrusive and costly though permanent process; they can be difficult to dislodge, but it can be done via rotovation (underwater rototilling) or excavation. Either way, mechanical control is a difficult method because the plant will likely regrow from seeds or remaining rhizomes.
  • Chemical Control: Another more effective method is to use reactive chemical treatment, like Shoreline Defense®, to manage lilies that are actively growing and have reached the surface. When applied directly to the foliage—along with some Treatment Booster™ PLUS to break down the plant’s protective surface—the herbicide’s active ingredient penetrates the lily and makes its way to the rhizome. Once it has turned brown, use a Weed Cutter to remove as much of the decomposing plant as possible to prevent an accumulation of dead material and muck. If you use this method, treat your pond in sections, dosing only half of the lilies at a time; if the weather is hot, decrease that to a third or quarter, waiting 10 to 14 days between treatments.
  • Preventive Control: In addition to mechanical and chemical control, you can also prevent—or at least slow down—the growth of water lilies by treating the pond’s water with Pond Dye. By blocking the sun’s rays early in the season, the lilies will not get the light they need to develop.

Controlling water lilies can be a challenge. But these methods, you can manage them and keep them contained in a particular area, making them a beautiful addition to your landscape.

Pond Talk: How do you control wild water lilies in your farm pond or lake?

Kill Water Lilies and Emergent Weeds - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense(r) & Treatment Booster(tm) PLUS

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 bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?| Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Q: I bought bullfrog tadpoles for my pond. What do I need to know about them?

Iris – Kirkland, WA

A: Those big croaking amphibians sure love living in a water garden. Bullfrogs gobble pesky bugs and nibble on nuisance algae while entertaining their human hobbyists with their leaping prowess and trance-inducing ribbit-ribbit songs.

When they’re adults, bullfrogs are impressive creatures: As one of the largest frogs in the world, they grow to 8 inches long and weigh up to 1½ pounds. When they’re tadpoles, they’re impressive, too. The dark green swimmers measure up to 6 inches long, which is larger than most other frog species, and sport a dorsal fin that begins behind its arrowhead-shaped body.

Caring for your tadpoles involves understanding their habitat, diet and developmental stages. Here’s what you need to know to grow your baby bullfrog into a beefy bug-eating adult.

Healthy Habitat

Bullfrog tadpoles like to swim in shallow water on fine gravel bottoms. As they grow, they tend to move into deeper waters. They have speckled-skin camouflage to help protect them from predators, but you should still plan to provide a wide variety of floating and submerged plants, like parrots feather, frogbit and water lilies, as well as rocks and other hides to your pond. The little guys will hang out among them should a hungry bird or fish fly or swim by for a bite to eat.

Algae, Please

When they’re young, bullfrog tadpoles are herbivores that love to nibble on the string algae that forms along your rocks and under plants. Though they have been observed eating frog eggs (gasp!) and other newly hatched tadpoles, the algae should keep them more than satisfied – at least until they become adults. That’s when they become carnivorous critters with a hankering for bugs, rodents, reptiles, birds, small fish and even an occasional bat.

From Tadpoles to Adulthood

While they’re in their tadpole – or pollywog – stage, these tiny gilled critters live exclusively in the water. But after about one year, the tadpoles will start to grow legs. Shortly thereafter, they grow arms. As their tails shorten, they develop lungs and their gills disappear. The tadpole, now several years old depending on where it’s growing up, has finally transformed into a froglet that can make the leap from water to dry land.

Once your tadpole has grown into an adult, you can expect that bad boy to be around for 8 to 10 years. Enjoy your new pond pal! Ribbit!

Pond Talk: Have you ever been to a frog-jumping contest? If so, tell us about it!

Maximize Blooms and Beauty - CrystalClear(r) Thrive(t) Plant Fertilizer Tabs

I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Q: I have a lot of water lilies in my 1/2 acre pond. How do I control them?

Dan – Newnan, GA

A: In ornamental ponds, water lilies planted in pots are prized possessions—but in a shallow farm pond or lake, lilies living wild can be an invasive species that takes over the water surface in no time.

Of course, water lilies aren’t all bad. Their leaves and roots provide food for beaver, moose, muskrat, porcupine, and deer. Their seeds are gobbled by waterfowl, and their leaves provide protective coverage for largemouth bass, sunfish, and frogs. Left unmanaged, however, water lilies can restrict lake-front access, eliminate swimming opportunities and quickly take over shallow areas.

But before we get into how to control these beautiful but troublesome aquatic plants, let’s learn a bit about them.

Habitat, Growth

The water lily is a floating-leaved aquatic perennial herb that grows rooted in mucky or silty sediments in water 4 to 5 feet deep. It prefers quiet waters like ponds, lake margins and slow streams. When unmanaged, the plant tends to form dense areas covering hundreds of acres.

Each spring, new shoots appear from the rhizomes and grow up through the water until they reach the surface. The flowers appear from June to September. Each blossom opens in the morning and closes in the early afternoon for two to five consecutive days. After the flowers have closed for the final time, the flower stalk corkscrews and draws the developing fruit below the water.

The plant over winters underground as the rhizome. These rhizomes, along with the plant’s seeds, are how it reproduces. A planted rhizome can grow to cover a 15-foot-diameter circle in just five years!

Limiting Those Lilies

You can control water lilies with several different methods.

  • Mechanical Control: First, you can cut/harvest the water lilies or dig up the rhizomes to create open areas of water. If you cut the lilies, you must do so several times a year as these plants thrive in shallow water and grow rapidly. If you dig up the rhizomes, it can be an intrusive and costly though permanent process; they can be difficult to dislodge, but it can be done via rotovation (underwater rototilling) or excavation. Either way, mechanical control is a difficult method because the plant will likely regrow from seeds or remaining rhizomes.
  • Chemical Control: Another more effective method is to use reactive chemical treatment, like Shoreline Defense®, to manage lilies that are actively growing and have reached the surface. When applied directly to the foliage—along with some Treatment Booster™ PLUS to break down the plant’s protective surface—the herbicide’s active ingredient penetrates the lily and makes its way to the rhizome. Once it has turned brown, use a Weed Cutter to remove as much of the decomposing plant as possible to prevent an accumulation of dead material and muck. If you use this method, treat your pond in sections, dosing only half of the lilies at a time; if the weather is hot, decrease that to a third or quarter, waiting 10 to 14 days between treatments.
  • Preventive Control: In addition to mechanical and chemical control, you can also prevent—or at least slow down—the growth of water lilies by treating the pond’s water with Pond Dye. By blocking the sun’s rays early in the season, the lilies will not get the light they need to develop.

Controlling water lilies can be a challenge. But these methods, you can manage them and keep them contained in a particular area, making them a beautiful addition to your landscape.

Pond Talk: How do you control wild water lilies in your farm pond or lake?

Kill Water Lilies and Other Emergent Weeds - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense(r)

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Q: My lilies are growing outside the pots! How do I divide my water lilies?

Susan – Centreville, MI

A: Lackluster growth or blooms on your water lilies last season is and indication that it’s time to divide them. Early spring is the best time to divide your water lilies but most varieties of hardy water lilies can be divided anytime during the growing season.

For easiest access, you may want to divide your water lilies during your spring cleanout. Hardy water lilies should be divided every 2-3 years to ensure your lilies are producing beautiful blooms season after season. Dividing lilies may seem complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container. Carefully move the plant to a workspace and remove from its container. You may need to cut open the basket depending on how root bound your lily is.

Step 2: Rinse off any old soil and remove roots that are 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.

Step 3: Cut the tuber down to size. You can safely cut the tuber down between two to three inches on the growing part with a sharp knife. This can be increased to five to six inches on longer plants. Remember to also cut off new buds and older leaves, so that the new root system has a chance to grow.

Step 4: Use Plant Bags or Plant Baskets to replant your water lilies. Plant each tuber with the growing tip facing outward. Fill in around the tuber with aquatic planting media, such as Microbe-Lift®, making sure the roots are spread well and the crown is sitting just below the soil surface.

Step 5: If using a plant basket, place in shallow area of pond to encourage faster growth.

Step 6: Once new leaves have reached the surface, lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

Don’t forget to fertilize your water lilies monthly during the growing season to keep your plants healthy and gorgeous. Remove spent blooms and old leaves to encourage new growth.

Pond Talk: How often do you divide your water lilies and other aquatic plants?

Flexible Pond Planters For All Your Plant Needs - The Pond Guy® Plant Bags

Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them?

Q: Why do I need aquatic plants in my water garden? When should I get them?

Melissa – Sedalia, MO

A: It’s a water garden, not a vegetable or flower garden, right? So why do you need plants in your pond? What purpose do they serve? Well, even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are some very good reasons why plants belong in your pond—four of them, in fact.

  • Fish Cover: First of all, floating plants like water lilies and water lettuce provide your pond’s inhabitants cover from predators and bright sun. Your koi and goldfish will appreciate the safety and shade those leaves provide, particularly when a heron comes to visit!
  • All-Natural Water Filter: Bog, floating and underwater plants, like water hyacinth, parrot’s feather and irises, naturally filter the water, too. They’re nicknamed “nature’s water filter” for a reason: They remove excess nutrients from the water while releasing oxygen during photosynthesis.
  • Habitable Habitat: Plants also create a perfect habitat for your aquatic life—both above and below the waterline—by providing food and shelter. Fish and snails hang out around the leaves and stems, frogs hunt for bugs and hide in the shade, and birds and insects flock to the flowers for nectar.
  • Aesthetics: Aquatic plants’ flowers and greenery make for some nice scenery for you, too. Imagine water lilies and irises bursting with color, and curly corkscrew rush and lizard’s tail softening the outline around the pond. Not a bad view while enjoying a balmy spring evening!

Even though Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, it’s still cold outside—too cold for plants. But you can still start thinking about cultivars you’d like to grow in your water garden!

You could head down to your local water garden retailer and check out their selection, but a better option is to order plants via mail order. Simply flip through your favorite mail-order nursery catalog or check out the assortment of aquatic plants at The Pond Guy®. Place your order and voila! Your aquatic plants will be delivered in the spring.

In many cases, if you place your order early the nursery will hold your order until the weather in your area is suitable to grow the plants. Another benefit of having your plants shipped: They’ll be less expensive because you’re not purchasing a full-grown potted plant. Once they arrive, they’ll need some time to grow—but once they get growing and blossoming, you won’t even know the difference!

Pond Talk: What’s your favorite aquatic plant?

Add Color To Your Pond - Grower's Choice Hardy Water Lilies

How Do You Divide Water Lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

How Do You Divide Water Lilies?

Cindy – Galesburg, IL

Dividing lilies may seem somewhat complicated, but our step-by-step process will explain exactly what you need to do. Try to plan it so you divide them during your spring cleanout, which would give easy access to tubers. Dividing is necessary every two to three years, and it is helpful if you notice the lily grew mostly pads and few lilies over the past season.

Step 1: Remove lilies from pond or container and rinse off. Plant baskets are ideal containers until they are ready to be moved to the pond.

Step 2: Trim away root growth and old foliage.

Step 3: Cut the tuber down to size. You can safely cut the tuber down between two to three inches on the growing part with a sharp knife. This can be increased to five to six inches on longer plants. Remember to also cut off new buds and older leaves, so that the new root system has a chance to grow.

Step 4: Plant each tuber separately or discard if you wish to reduce the lilies’ quantity in your pond. Use plant fertilizer and planting media for best results and a continuing healthy pond.

Step 5: Replant them shallow in the pond until new growth begins.

Step 6: Upon new growth lilies can be moved deeper into the pond.

TetraPond® LilyGro™ Aquatic Plant Food

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