How To Create A Container Water Garden

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This article provides information and instructions for creating a container water garden
by Brett · All Zones · Container Gardens · 1 Comments · September 09, 2013 · 9,272 views

Looking for a new and fascinating way to grow and enjoy plants? How about exploring the small world of container water gardening? The color and fragrance of container-grown aquatic plants can transform even the smallest space into a living work of art. Don't let lack of experience, space or time put a damper on this gardening project. All you need is an hour or two, a suitable container, some lovely aquatic plants, and a sunny place on your patio, deck or porch.

Getting Started


Choose a container

The first step in planning your water garden is to decide on a container. Just about anything that holds water qualifies. Container water gardens can range from a small ceramic bowl holding a few gallons of water to a much larger tub, pot, basin or wooden barrel.

As a general rule, the container should hold at least five gallons of water, be 18 inches wide at the top and 18" deep. When choosing your water container, consider size, weight, location, mobility, price and types of plants you want to grow. If you want to use a favorite vessel with drainage holes, just plug them up with an inexpensive cork or a piece of heavy plastic liner spread with caulk. Wooden containers can be lined with heavy duty plastic film or flexible pond liner.

Some good container choices are:

  • Terra cotta planters
  • Galvanized buckets or tubs
  • Oversize dishes and bowls
  • Livestock watering troughs
  • Half-whiskey barrels
  • Plastic planters

Pick a location

Container water gardens permit you to get close enough to appreciate the spectacular flowers and vibrant scents of aquatic plants. Pick a spot on your deck or patio, where you can keep an eye on the container and its contents. Tub-type containers can also be tucked into a bed of flowers, or placed on the porch near your front door.

Many aquatic plants require a good dose of sun, and should receive from four to six hours of full sun every day. That being said, there are some aquatic plants that like life on the shady side. So pick a sunny or shady spot. Lilies, lotus and other blooming water plants prefer morning sun, as do plants growing in small or shallow containers. Also, try to select a spot that's protected from wind.

Place your container on a level surface for both visual effect and to maintain proper water level. If necessary, use bricks or garden stones to provide a level, stable foundation for heavier containers or to level pots that will sit on the ground out in the garden. If you are planning to use moving water, make sure there is a convenient supply of electricity and fresh water close by.

Select plants...keep it simple...

The most pleasing designs can be created with only a few plants. Start with a focus plant, such as a miniature water lily, water poppy, floating heart or water snowflake. Some other good focus plants include pigmy lilies, teacup lotus and dwarf lilies. You'll be surprised how many flowers you'll get from just one of these surface-blooming plants.

Next, consider a floating plant. Water lettuce, water chestnuts, fairy floating moss and water hyacinth are all good choices for containers because they help suppress algae and catch debris floating in the water. Be aware that most floaters reproduce rapidly and need to be culled from time to time.

Depending on the size of your container, you may want to include a vertical growing plant to show standing leaves above the water. A few favorites of mine include water iris, horsetail grass, umbrella palm, cattail, cardinal lobelia, Japanese arrowhead and juncus(Rush). As you gain experience, you can experiment with greater numbers and varieties of plants.

Go to next page for instructions on how to pot up water plants that will go in your container water garden


Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Nice article. I have enjoyed creating several water gardens to enjoy on my patios and in the gardens. Besides plants, rocks, and figurines I have used small water pumps to add the sound of running or splashing water. A simple tube set vertically in the middle of the water garden can make a simple fountain. Water running over taller rocks make a nice small water fall that produces a pleasing sound as the water slowly falls into the garden. Adding small underwater lighting really highlights the plants and draws much attention in the evenings. Like the article said small fish can add interest to your water garden. I like using the small mosquito fish. They not only eat the mosquito larvae but keep the garden clean at the same time add nutrients for the plants. I believe most states in the U.S. have cities or special districts responsible for Vector control of multiple cities. I have found these vector control districts more than willing to give homeowners these mosquitos fish for free if they have enough available. The mosquito fish multiply quickly which allows me to net many at times to return to vector control. The vector contol district has always appreciated these fish as they are then given out to others to use in their ponds and water gardens. Its a small but nice way to help with the control of our mosquito pests.

3 years ago ·
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