It’s the amazing aquatic plants that put the “garden” in “water garden.” From colorful water lilies that dance on the pond’s surface to aquatic Forget-Me-Nots that hug the edges of your water garden, aquatic plants play an important role in the eco-system and put on an ever-changing show while they’re at it. When adding aquatic plants, you can apply many of the same tips and guidelines you use to create your terrestrial flower beds. Color, height, and planting conditions are things you’ll want to consider when it comes to naturalizing your pond with plants.
We gardeners vary as much as the plant material we choose. While some may want to strategize their plan before shopping for aquatic plants, others buy what they like and figure out where to place them when they get home. These tips will be helpful either way.
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Create Interest with Variety
Random placement of aquatic plants with varying textures and colors will create more interest than using plants that have all the same growth habit or leaf shape.
Play with Aquatic Plants Colors
Choose colors you like best and consider the type of lighting your pond receives. Yellow, orange, and white help brighten shady areas, while cool blue and violet tone down the intensity of the sun’s rays.
A soft, calming space is created by using different textures and shades of green foliage. The combination is effective on its own, but also looks great when accented only by white flowers. Aquatic plant foliage is available in a range of green tones including variegated leaves and also an array of other colors such as red, purple, blue and yellow. The combinations are endless!
Know Your Aquatic Plant Size
One of the biggest mistakes novice water gardeners make is failing to realize how big their pond plants might grow. Be sure to take height and width of the mature plant into consideration and allow enough space for future growth.
Short Plants in the Front, Tall in Back
This might seem like a no-brainer, but always put shorter plants in front of taller ones. Most likely, you’ll spend most of your time viewing your water garden from a deck or patio, so keep that sight line in mind when planting your pond.
Group Aquatic Plants Together
Interior decorators tell you to group like objects together when decorating your home, to create visual impact. Use this same principle when planting your pond. Plant a grouping or cluster of marsh marigolds along a stretch of the ponds edge, as opposed to scattering them all around the koi pond. Be mindful of how much sun your aquatic plants require, along with their planting depth. If a plant requires full sun, that’s a minimum of 6 hours of unobstructed sun per day. If you’re not sure what your plant need are, ask a pro for information. You’ll want to ensure an interesting mix of aquatic plant types for your water garden. Plant marginals at the koi pond’s edge and along the stream, include colorful water lilies or even a lotus, add floating plants like water hyacinths, and include submerged plants to help add oxygen to your pond. Variety is the spice of gardening life, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Lastly, our 15 plus years of experience and experimentation has taught us a few additional things worth mentioning about Koi Ponds and Aquatic Plants:
Water Lilies do not like water moving quickly around them, so do not place them at the base of a waterfall. Generally speaking they prefer depths of 12-24”. They vary in size so choose appropriate size plants, especially if your koi pond is small.
Marginal plants vary with planting depth, some tolerating 6” of water, while others like moist soil only. For instance, Pitcher plants or carnivorous Sarracenia prefer moist soil only and tolerate very little water at their crown, so be sure to plant them in shallow water such as the edge of a stream. They require little to no soil or fertilizer to thrive.
When planting a stream, stagger plants from side to side rather than lining one side, and combine upright plants with cascading varieties. If the first shelf in the pond is too deep for some of the marginal plants you would like to include, create a planting area by adding some extra rock and/or gravel a do a nice grouping of plants. Squeezing plants in between the rocks surrounding the edge of the pond is another opportunity for adding more marginal aquatic plants. Remember, more plants means better water clarity. Create views of your pond from your favorite vantage points such as a patio, and especially from inside the house looking outdoors. Consider your pond and surroundings a living canvas to paint that will change a little each and every day. For many this is truly the joy of water gardening!
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