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By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

The pond is built and the waterfall flowing now comes one of the most satisfying aspects of having a pond, adding the water plants. Most pond owners will be amazed at the many plant varieties available for water gardening. The choices range from the queen of the water garden, the water lily, to graceful rushes and grasses. In addition gardeners will rejoice, when unlike most plants that need good drainage to survive the water plants can thrive right in the water, with the roots completely submerged.

Water plants can be divided up into two main groups. The first is the floating water plants. This group can then be divided into two sub-groups; those with their root anchored in soil, with the foliage floating on the surface; and those whose roots dangle in the water like the water hyacinth and water lettuce.

Since water lettuce cannot be sold anymore the water hyacinth is the only commonly sold floater with roots dangling. These easy to grow plants are valuable not only for their beauty, but also because they’re dangling roots help to absorb the nutrients in pond water that cause algae bloom. You buy water hyacinths at the garden center where they are put in a plastic bag for the trip home. Simply remove them and place in the pond.

The rooted varieties of floaters include water lilies, floating clover, and parrots feather. These plants, as well as all the other types, except water hyacinth, are sold in nursery cans that are filled with water. With the floaters you can set the cans in one foot or more of water, with the plants completely submerged. In a couple of days the foliage will reach to the surface and start spreading.

The second group of water plants would be the Marginal or Bog plants. These plants tend to do best around the edges of the pond, with the roots submerged, but the foliage waving in the breeze. Set the can so the top of the pot is submerged by as much as four to five inches of water. Often ponds are built with a shelf around the edge just for the purpose of placing the marginal water plants. The marginal plants are important in a design perspective as they help provide a smooth transition from the pond to the rest of the garden landscape.

Some of the fun marginal water plants available are water cannas, umbrella plant, both full size and dwarf, marsh marigold with it’s pretty yellow spring blooms, horsetail, water iris, cattail, dwarf cattail, and the tiny cattail, which produces miniature cattail flowers on a plant that only grows about a foot tall.

The majority of water plants grow and flower best in full sun. If your pond is in the shady portion of the garden, fear not, as quite a few water plants that will grow in part sun to shade. Water forget-me-not, pickerel, water calla lily, lizard’s tail, and Japanese arrowhead are some of the shade loving plants that will grow and even flower in the shade.

Water plants can be planted in special pockets that are designed into the pond bottom. When installing the liner it will dip into these plant pockets that are then filled with aquatic soil in which the roots of the plant are placed. The entire bottom of the pond is then layered with small, smooth gravel, which will help prolong the life of the liner as well as creating a natural look. Plants will then be able to absorb nutrient that falls into the pond naturally and filters to the bottom, through the rocks into the root zone. If plants are left in the containers and placed in the pond you should feed them with aquatic plant food a couple of times a year. This is in the form of tablets that are shoved into the soil inside the can. They can feed for up to three months.

Water gardening is something that everyone can enjoy. From an apartment deck with a tub garden, to a large pond and waterfall, these beautiful features will enhance any garden.

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