Water gardens don't have to be a complicated undertaking with hours of digging, special plumbing and wiring. A small water garden adds the soothing sound of water to a balcony without worry about the added weight since the container is smaller. The portable mini-pond is a focal point for a patio. Add a little pizzazz to your pond with a theme.
Full-size water lilies require at least 24 inches of water and direct sunlight, so they won't do well in a small water garden placed on a patio. Pygmy water lilies can be planted in a shallow tub in dappled shade. Try dauben, which has pale lavender blossoms; Patricia, which is bright pink or royal purple. During the evening, float a few candles in the tub.
Place a wooden half barrel with a water-proof plastic liner in a shaded corner of the patio. Add a small fountain to trickle in the middle of the barrel. Add horsetail, a plant with upright stems that grows in shallow water, and floating heart, which has round leaves about 2 inches in diameter and yellow flowers, and lucky bamboo. Surround the barrel with large round river rock.
Compose a miniature garden in a low container using plants that have tiny leaves but resemble full-scale plants. For example: Baby tears looks like ground cover. Moss resembles a lawn. Lobelia and alyssum have tiny flowers but could be "flower covered bushes" if trimmed. Place a shallow pan of water in the garden and add floating water plants such as duckweed, azolla or salvinia. These plants all have tiny leaves and float on the surface of the water. Surround the edges of the shallow pan with rocks to hide the edge. Cover the bottom of the pan with the same small rocks.
Choose a square or rectangular container for the garden that is at least 6 inches deep. Fill the bottom of the container with black smooth stones or river rocks. These can be purchased at an aquarium supply store. Place one striking specimen of water plant in the center of the container. Try glyceria, which grows to 2 feet tall and has slender variegated leaves. Variegated sweet flag looks similar to glyceria but has narrow leaves and grows 12 inches taller.