Container Water Gardening
Most people, especially in the urban setting, do not have the room to construct a large water garden. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the tranquility and calm that moving water brings to a space. Container water gardens are easy to make, portable, and can be completed in an afternoon. Place one on a balcony or deck, and they are perfect for the office or sunroom.
Check out the steps below to create your pond-in-a-pot:
- 15 inch or larger decorative container (i.e. 24 inch half barrel, choose the size based on the space and what you can reasonably handle)
- Plastic Liner - use any durable plastic liner, some liners are made to fit perfectly inside pond containers, or use flexible PVC liners. Both types are available at many garden centers and home improvement stores. Liners are only needed if your container is not water tight.
- Bricks or empty Pots – to vary the height of the plants
- Rocks of varying size
- Water – you will want easy access to water even after the pond-in-a-pot is complete
- Water Plants
Make sure your container starts out clean.
Container water gardens can get very heavy, so assemble in its permanent location. Most water plants do best in full sun, placing your container in a location that gets 6 or more hours of sun daily will help your water garden thrive.
Determine how your pot will be viewed. Plant placement will be governed by whether the pot is viewed from just a few angles or from all sides.
Choose your water plants:
- Start out with only a few plants and keep it simple.
- Choose plants that are in scale with your container. In other words, don’t pick plants that are too big or small for your pot (check tags for plant height and width).
- When creating your container design use plants with contrasting shapes, colors, and size. Consider combining tall spiky plants (i.e. cattail, yellow iris, or sweet flag) with shorter broad leafed varieties (i.e. cranberry taro and houttuynia).
- Select one or two floating plants, such as water hyacinth or water lettuce.
Most water plants can remain in their original pots and placed directly into your water garden container. If you wish to pot up a size, use aquatic pond media, and a container with lots of drainage holes (you can buy one or make it yourself, use an inexpensive plastic pot and, using a drill, make lots of small holes all over).
- Place your container in its permanent location.
- If needed, line your container.
- Fill your container 1/3 full of rocks.
- Fill your pot half way with water.
- Determine how your container will be viewed. If the container is to be viewed from only the front and sides, place your tallest plant near the center rear of the pot. If viewed from all angles, place it dead center.
- Place your plants at the appropriate water depth. The plant tag will provide you with this information.
- Use bricks or empty pots to vary the height.
- Insert your tallest plant first, creating the backdrop for your water garden.
- Next, place your shorter broad leafed plants, placing them in front of, but off to the side, of the tallest plant. Use bricks to adjust the height or your plants.
- Strategically place more rocks to help hide bricks and pots.
- Fill container to the top with water.
- Finish with your floating plants.
Keep your container filled with water. Usually a topping off every few days is adequate.
After your water plants have started to show signs of new growth, provide some nutrients with fertilizer tablets specifically made for water plants.
In colder regions outdoor containers will require a bird bath type heater to prevent the water from freezing. Or, you can dissemble the container for the winter and bring the plants indoors.
If needed, divide the plants in spring, sharing the extra plants with your neighbor or start another container water garden.
Rooted Floating Plants – or deep water plants, have roots at the bottom of the pond (or in a container, at the bottom), with their leaves stretching up to the water’s surface. Examples of rooted floating plants: lotus, water poppy, nardoo, water hawthorne, golden club.
Marginal Plants – grow in the shallow margins, around the edge of the pond. Examples include: arrowhead, cattail, water plantain, water iris, yellow flag, lizard’s tail, horsetail fern, dwarf papyrus, aquatic mint, pickerel rush, houttuynia, vietnamese mint.
Floating Plants – as the name suggests, these plants float on the water’s surface. They get their nutrients from the water, helping to control algae. These plants include: water lettuce, water hyacinth, duckweed, fairy moss.