Choosing Pond Plants
A pond without plants is like cake without icing. Pond plants
fight algae, give fish a hiding place against predators, and
beautify our own little slice of paradise to plunk down in at the
end of a tiring day.
Don't smother your pond with plants, however. Start with half the
surface area, and don't let them cover more than two-thirds to
three-quarters at their growing peak. Overcrowding stresses them
out, and hey - it just looks bad!
Don't let the terms "hardy" and "tropical" throw you when
choosing plants for your pond. Just remember that these terms
refer to the environment in which the plant has originally been
adapted - and not to whether it can be thrown across the room or
how well it looks in a fancy mixed drink.
Hardy pond plants, as a rule, can handle cold temperatures and
frost. Of course, this is relative to your USDA agricultural
zone, found here: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html.
Ask your plant professional or check the plant's label before
taking home that plant that does great in Hawaii, but not so
great in Maine.
Tropicals, on the other hand, pretty much hold true to what
they're called: They will take a nosedive if temperatures get
much below 70 degrees, turning into a messy mush if it freezes.
But, ah, Grasshopper, there are ways to save even those hardy
plants that aren't quite up to a northern blizzard, as well as
those tender-toed tropicals with which you've fallen madly in
Bury hardy pond plants, pot and all, into a south-facing part of
your yard and cover with a thick, warm blanket of mulch. Or put
them into a garage or basement, making sure they're kept wet and
have good air circulation.
Tropicals, on the other hand, need light and moisture year
'round. If you don't have a greenhouse, place tropicals in your
sunniest window and keep misted, several times a day if possible,
to provide the humidity they crave in order to flourish. "Grow
lights" do a fabulous fake of the sun, however, and many tropical
pond plants thrive under them.
Marginal pond plants - those that grow around the edges, or
margins, of a pond - can be either hardy or tropical. Some hardy
marginals are cattail, plantain, and rush. Tropical marginals
include taro, spider lily, and water hibiscus. Of course there
are legions more to lust after in both hardy and tropical
marginals. Place marginals with their pot tops one to six inches
under water. Very tall plants, like cattail, can be moved as deep
as a foot beneath the surface one they've gotten full-sized.
Water lilies, however, like their water deep - between 18 and 30
inches - after starting the season in the 6"-12" shallower end.
This gives them a nice, springtime shot of sunshine to get going
again. And when the plant pro recommends those funny-looking pots
with all the little holes in them, go for it. Pond plants poke
their toes (roots) through them to develop tiny,
nutrient-extracting feeder roots. Meshing with one another, these
roots provide stability and protection against wind, kids, pets,
and adults that have a tendency to stumble into them.
Fertilize pond plants when they need them. "Ha!" you say. "And
when is that?" Well, go back to your plant pro, the Internet, or
the plant label you so wisely saved. Each plant may have
different requirements, but one rule of thumb: Plants need much
more fertilizer in warm-weather months than when it's cool
So go have fun with your pond and your plants!
Brett Fogle is the owner of MacArthur Water Gardens and several
pond-related websites including www.macarthurwatergardens.com">macarthurwatergardens.com and
www.pond-filters-online.com">pond-filters-online.com. He also publishes a free monthly
newsletter called PondStuff! with a reader circulation of over
9,000 pond owners. To sign up for the free newsletter and
receive a complimentary 'New Pond Owners Guide' for joining,
just visit www.macarthurwatergardens.com">MacArthur Water Gardens