Water Garden Plant Care

Overview

One of the undeniable attractions of a water garden is that it brings a natural element to your own yard. Water attracts birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your garden. But left unattended, water garden plants can quickly overcome a pond and prohibit the growth of amphibians and beneficial insects. Caring for your water garden plants takes time and commitment, but the payoff is a tranquil, natural environment in your own backyard.

Water Quality

Maintain water quality and levels in an established water garden to maintain healthy plants. Use collected rainwater that is rich in nutrients and does not have added chemicals such as chlorine to top off your garden pond during summer months when evaporation is high. Don't use tap water. Green algae can form if your water has too many mineral salts. The algae will die off on its own usually, once mineral salts are gone. You can also purchase a chemical agent from your garden center to eliminate the green algae. If you have fish in your water garden, the fish can churn up mud from the pond bottom leaving fine particles suspended in the air, causing the water to turn brown. Flocculators cause the fine particles to clump together and fall to the bottom of your pond. Changing the fish in your pond also is a remedy. Dark or black water is a sign of excess rotting vegetation on the pond bottom. Trim back plants, and remove rotted matter. Changing about one-third of the water in the pond every 6 weeks also will ease the problem. Rotting organisms at the bottom of a water garden will cause milkiness in the water. It's likely a dead animal such as a frog or rodent. Remove the organism if possible. Rotting and dying water lilies can cause an oily sheen on the top of the water. Avoid this problem by keeping water lilies trimmed of dead or dying leaves. Laying newspaper on the surface of the water will absorb the oil. Remove the papers after 30 minutes and repeat the procedure if needed.

Fertilizing

Most water gardens attract natural elements that create nutrients in the water. But fertilizers can be added to enhance the growth and development of your plants. Each plant might require different needs, so be careful when applying fertilizers. Overfertilization can encourage algae growth. Slow-release tablets or granular fertilizers (20-10-5, 5-10-5, 10-6-4 or 12-8-8) can be used.

Growth Control

Aquatic plants grow rapidly and can result in plant overgrowth if not controlled. Cut back excess vegetation, particularly if the bottom of the pond is mud. Use rakes to pull roots of submerged oxygenators such as diamond milfoil or cabomba to ease overcrowding. Lining the bottom of the water garden or pond and using containers for the plants also allows you to control growth.

Pests and Disease Control

Fish can keep pests off of plants in a water garden setting. But in cases where you do have pests that the fish or amphibians in your garden have not eliminated, use natural remedies to avoid chemicals that could kill fish and other vegetation. Treat diseased plants by removing them from your water garden and treating them with fungicide in a bucket. Return to your pond or water garden after you rinse thoroughly.

Overwinter

To store hardy plants, remove the plant containers from the pond. Trim off dead leaves and stems. Place pots and plants in large plastic bags to retain moisture. Store in a a cool place with temperatures no warmer than 50 degrees F. During the winter, check periodically to ensure that the plant stays moist. Another method is to remove the plant rhizomes from pots or garden bed after the first frost of the season. Cut off all leaves and stems. Place sphagnum moss that has been sprayed with water and is damp in large plastic bags, and place rhizomes in the bags. Replant in spring. To store tropical plants, before the first frost, remove from pots and containers. Trim off leaves and trim roots. Repot in smaller pots and place in a glass tank, like those used for aquariums, to allow light. Store at a temperature of about 68 degrees F.

Keywords: water garden plants, aquatic plants, backyard pond care

About this Author

Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Florida. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Oklahoma Gazette, the Amarillo Globe-News, and eHow.