Care of Freshwater Aquatic Plants


Water gardens, whether grown in a large container or a backyard pond, add a new dimension to your landscape. Most water gardens near the home are freshwater, containing plants such as water lilies and anacharis. Freshwater aquatic plants have different cultural requirements than the plants grown in a traditional garden bed. Caring for them properly ensures they continue to thrive and grow, adding a lush appearance to your water features.

Step 1

Transplant aquatic plants into pond baskets if they are in regular pots or nursery containers. Pond baskets have mesh sides that allow the water to seep into the soil evenly from all possible angles.

Step 2

Fill pond baskets with a heavy clay soil or a potting soil formulated for aquatics. These heavier soils hold on to moisture and do not float out of the baskets like traditional potting soil.

Step 3

Cover the top of the soil in the pond baskets with a 1- or 2-inch layer of gravel. Gravel helps hold the soil in the basket and prevents fish from digging up the roots or rhizomes of the aquatic plants.

Step 4

Set the plant in the water at the depth recommended for the particular plant. For example, place water lilies so they sit with the top of the basket 12 to 18 inches beneath the water's surface and place lotus so it sits 4 to 6 inches beneath the water's surface. Place bricks or upturned pots under the pond basket to elevate it to the proper depth if your pond is deeper.

Step 5

Set hardy aquatic plants in the pond once temperatures are above 50 degrees F in spring. Place tropical aquatics outdoors when the temperatures are over 70 degrees F.

Step 6

Fertilize plants with aquatic plant fertilizer pellets. Fertilize with 4 oz. 20-10-5 analysis pellets per cubic foot of soil in the basket in spring. Fertilize lilies and lotus monthly at this rate until late summer. Fertilize all other emergent plants with 2 oz. 20-10-5 analysis pellets in spring and again at midsummer.

Step 7

Bring aquatic plants indoors to overwinter after the first fall frost. Trim off any dead or damaged leaves; then place the plants in plastic bags. Seal the bags and store at 40 to 50 F until spring replanting.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid using more than the recommended amount of fertilizer for your plants. Too much fertilizer in a pond or water feature leads to algae growth.

Things You'll Need

  • Pond baskets
  • Soil
  • Gravel
  • Bricks
  • Fertilizer
  • Plastic bags


  • University of Illinois: Water Gardening: Planting Aquatic Plants
Keywords: freshwater aquatic plants, water gardening, aquatic plant care

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.