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The Water Lily & Other Aquatic Or Water Garden Plants For Your Garden Pond ... An Introduction

It's possible to split the subject of aquatic plants up into 6 different types of plant behavior depending. These are ...

  1. The deep water pond plants and typically the majestic, colourful, flowering and sometimes fragrant water lily is the best known. By deep water we mean ponds between 2 and 6 feet deep. The water lily is often called a Lotus and the group is also well known under its group name Nymphaea. Some of the more interesting varieties or species of water lily only bloom at night. Night bloomers normally have serrated leaves and start opening in the early evening and will continue to flower until mid morning the next day. If you want a spectacular night-time pond attraction spotlight your night bloomers. Waterlilies come in a wide variety of colours and an infinite variety of colour shades ... pink, red, white, blue, yellow, mauve. Some water lilies are tropical but many are hardy.

  2. The plants that add vital oxygen to pond water in relatively large quantities ... these are called oxygenators or oxygenating plants. They normally are completely submerged and on a day when the sun is shining brightly you'll notice small bubbles of oxygen attached to the plant's leaves and stems. Canadian Pondweed and Hornwort are good examples. Fish like to nibble and breed within this type of plant.

  3. Floating pond plants like water hyacinth ... this is a pest by the way and is declared an invasive plant in most countries. When floating plants find their way into streams and rivers they can quickly populate a lake or reservoir to the detriment of all other aquatic life in that environment. Some examples are Duckweed, Fairy Moss, Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce.

  4. Marginal plants ... these do their best in shallow water at the edge of a pond.  They are available from tall reeds to low growing ground cover. The Marginal plants are simply planted by lowering the crates onto the marginal shelves round the edges of the pond. This is the largest class of aquatic plants.

  5. Bog plants (also called shallow water marginal plants) ... such water plants are often happy to live in an area where the ground is damp or even swampy but they prefer a couple of inches of water covering them. They don't need to be covered by water. Many of these have spectacular flowers and one of the classics is the Marsh Marigold. Examples are Arrowhead, Cattail, Parrot's Feather and Yellow Flag.

  6. Other deep water (excluding the water lily) plants that like to root in mud and only protrude in part from the water surface.

A pictorial description of the different types of pond plants.

Look at the sketch of the plant relative to depth of water and how the leaves behave and whether they root deeply into the soil or compost or not?

This picture looking left to right shows the deep water type as exemplified by waterlilies. The second image shows the oxygenator type ... notice the complete submersion of the plant. And the third is a picture of floating plants ... notice no soil is in contact with the roots.

The picture above going from left to right shows emerging plants then marginal pond plant types and finally bog plants which tend to be smaller than marginals and are happy to live in wet areas and can even tolerate limited drying out.

Planting Methods For Use In Ponds

Planting crates Normally pond plants are planted in crates, pots (containers) or pockets made from hessian sacking, shade cloth or something similar. Pockets are often used in marginal areas where space lends itself to being able to "mould" the planter to the marginal edge area as distinct from using a rigid planting crate. At Bradshaws we have a product called the "Edging Bag Plant Holder". It's a strong and durable hessian planter with weave backing. The planter is 1 metre wide and 60cm deep with two planting pockets 50cm x 20cm each.

Crates are probably the most popular (example shown in picture) and they are low cost. These crates are moulded meshes to intents and purposes. Many people just use normal planters, pots or low cost growing containers. It's often a good idea whatever you do, to place pebbles on top of the soil in the planter so that foraging koi do not continuously disturb the soil and make the water muddy. The stones or pebbles also help to keep the planter a bit more stable.

Fertilizing Pond Plants

You need to take care here since adding too much nitrate will encourage massive algae growth and even blanketweed invasion. The types of fertilizer available can be granular, liquid (added directly to the water and benefits floating plants most) or in aquatic tablet form. The last mentioned type is added directly to the container at the time of planting.

Choose Your Plants To Have A Purpose

Choose the plant to add colour, to add height, to create shade, or to deter algae for example. Use a variety of plants to make an interesting focal point. Remember some plants grow very tall and do this very quickly. Plants create breeding areas for your fish. Eggs stick to the stems and leaves and when the baby fish hatch these plants prove essential cover to prevent all the eggs being eaten ... most will be eaten but generally a few lucky ones survive to become adult fish. A rule of thumb for well established ponds is to provide plant leaf cover for about 50% of the pond surface area. Waterlilies are best for this. The extra shade and cover benefit both the fish and clear water since algae growth is reduced. Algae are also pond or aquatic plants albeit very small water plants. 


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