Pond Plants Question and Answer
Question: Do I have to have plants in my pond?

Answer: Yes, you must have plants if you want to have a naturally balanced ecosystem and a low maintenance pond in which Mother Nature does most of the upkeep. Without aquatic plants, algae will have a field day on the nutrients that are in your pond, and you'll be unable to see beneath the green surface all season long. Also there is nothing like the smell of excessive algae rotting your pond, so the presence of aquatic plants is an absolute must in the eyes of knowledgeable water gardening enthusiasts everywhere.

Question: Will the plants survive through the winter?

Answer: Aquatic plants are the same as terrestrials in which the perennials can be expected to survive, and the annuals can be expected to die, unless you pull them (the annuals) out of the pond, place them in a bucket of water, and store them in a warm place. Unless of course you are one of the lucky ones that lives in a near tropical climate. The perennials or hardy water plants, on the other hand, are like the proverbial Timex watch. They just keep on ticking season after season.

Question: Why do marginal plants work better than lilies when aiding in pond filtration?

Answer: Marginals are most commonly bare rooted into the pond and therefore they pull their nutrients directly from the water, which in turn competes with algae growth. Water Lilies on the other hand almost exclusively draw their 'flower power' from the soil pocket or pot that they are grown in unless they are planted directly in the gravel on the bottom of the pond which is what we always recommend.  If water lilies are in pots they do not compete with the algae for the nutrients in the water column.

Question: How many plants should I have in my pond?

Answer: Ideally, 40%-60% of your pond should be plant covered. The majority of these should be marginals and floaters, which will soak up the available nutrients and minimize algae problems. Lilies can add shade and aesthetic value to your pond, but they do not have the filtering power of marginal plants.

Question: Where can I purchase aquatic plants?

Answer: Generally speaking, any local nursery will carry a mix of lilies and marginal plants for you to choose from. With the popularity of water gardening growing by leaps and bounds, the odds of finding a good selection of aquatic plants to choose from is getting better every season.

Question: Can I grow lotus.

Answer: Yes. They are very hardy, and beautiful plants. We always recommend that they be grown in a pot.  They can be aggressive so be sure to put them into a large shallow and round pot of their own. Otherwise you could end up with a little too much of a good thing. During the summer the top of the pot should be within and an inch or two of the surface of the water. In winter the pot should be dropped down to the lower area of the pond to protect the tubers from freezing.

Question: What role do terrestrial plants play in having a clear pond?

Answer: They play an indirect role by helping to filter rainwater when it comes running down into your pond. On the other hand, terrestrials play a very direct role in beautifying and naturalizing the area surrounding your pond. This is where all the vibrant colors in the spring and the summer come from, right?

Question: The leaves on my water lilies are too small. What can I do about that?

Answer: This is an easy fix that just requires a little monthly maintenance. Lilies are very hungry plants that require a lot of fertilizer to grow to their fullest potential. Most varieties will do best with a feeding about every 30-45 days. All you need to do is use your finger to poke a hole in the soil or media around the plant and insert an aquatic fertilizer tablet. Be sure to cover over the hole in the soil to keep the fertilizer close to the plant. Plant size will determine how many tablets to use, but most mature lilies will require about three tablets. You will not only see larger leaves but even more importantly there will be tons more blooms.

Question: Last year my pond looked great. But this year my plants are overwhelming the entire thing. Have I done something wrong?

Answer: The good news is that you have a healthy ecosystem in which the plants are thriving. Now you just need to do a little pruning  to regain the balanced look that you want. Aquatic plants are usually very easy to separate and transplant, but each different type has its own requirements. Invest in a good aquatic plant book, and you will have all the information you could possibly need. Then go have some fun separating your plants. When you're finished, you will likely have some extra plants that you can use to decorate a less-crowded section of the pond. If there's no room for any of the extra plants, then this could be a great time to build another pond, a container garden, or just to give the plants to a friend with the same hobby. Maybe that friend will have a special variety of plant to trade.  A local school with a pond or your local water garden society might also be a good place to trade plants.

Question: My pond gets too much sun/shade. Is that bad?

Answer: For water gardening enthusiasts the sun is both friend and foe. The plants that we love to grow and watch bloom, require a certain amount of sun to thrive. However, algae loves the sun too. Trying to build your pond in the perfect location where it gets enough sun for the plants, but not enough for the algae, can drive you crazy. Just build your pond where it best suits your landscape and viewing requirements, and then adjust your plantings to match the solar pattern. There are many varieties of plants that are shade tolerant and will provide a beautiful pondscape, while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. On the other hand, too much sun can be countered by adding additional plants to create shade.