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Water plants make a garden more attractive

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by Colour Your Life • Friday June 10, 2016

There’s no doubt about it - water makes a garden even more attractive! A pond, bog, watercourse or water feature adds a lively element to any garden. A pond makes a garden feel more spacious and brings in extra life.


Birds can bathe in it, and frogs, toads and lizards are also drawn to the water. Create a pond with a boggy edge zone. Small creatures will find shelter amongst the plants where they can easily climb in and out of the water. For other animals (hedgehogs, birds, bees) a sloping bank is an ideal drinking place.

Unusual plants

Water plants are unusual because they grow in water or a very wet environment. There are also bog or marginal plants which like soil which is constantly wet and may even like standing in shallow water.

Between damp and wet

A lot of garden plants like soil which is constantly damp to wet. These are plants for areas of the garden which are fairly soggy, but not so wet that you can’t walk on them dryshod.  If the ground is even wetter, then it’s the place for true bog plants.
In nature that transition is usually gradual, but in the garden there is often a clear division between dry and wet created by a liner or some other sealing layer which keeps the water in the pond or (artificial) stream.

So if you are creating a pond with a bog garden edge, you will need to make the transition through the careful selection of plants – from garden plants for dry soil through to bog and marginal plants. Plants with grass-like foliage go particularly well with water plants.

No wild plants

Please note, it is essential never to introduce wild plants into your pond. There is a high risk that something will go wrong. Many native water plants are also protected. Only use cultivated plants. Read the plant label before buying so that you know precisely what requirements the plants have, since they can vary considerably between varieties.


Water lilies :

Depth of water lilies

When making your choice, pay particular attention to the depth that these plants need. For example, there are water lilies which are happy with fifteen to twenty centimetres of water, but there are also varieties which require a water depth of a metre or more.

Lotuses (Nelumbo)

The lotuses (Nelumbo) which strongly resemble water lilies do not do well in an outdoor pond in our part of the world because they require fairly warm water and cannot tolerate frost at all. They rarely flower. They share that with tropical water lilies, including those with blue flowers.


Most plants with floating leaves, especially water lilies, loathe having water splashing on their leaves constantly. Its best not to place them near a spraying fountain or in fast-moving water.

The native water lily (white, Nymphaea alba) gets too big for garden ponds. Large-flowered cultivated forms also soon need a water area of at least 2 x 2 m². The rhizome grows significantly within a few years. An adequate depth of water is required - 60 cm or more. This protects the rhizome from freezing.

There are also small-flowered (dwarf) water lilies. These require less space (approx. 1 m²) and shallower water (20 to 40 cm). Some have attractively marbled leaves.



Most important plant group

Oxygenators are usually fairly inconspicuous, but they may be the most important plant group in a pond. Here’s why:

  • Oxygenators purify the water
  • They consume nutrients from the water
  • They bring oxygen into the water
  • In warm weather you can often see the bubbles rising from the leaves. That oxygen is vital in order for the conversion processes in the pond to function healthily.


What to do with oxygenators:

  • The most common varieties, such as water weed and hornwort, can be thrown straight into the pond.
  • They are usually sold in a clump in a cup. Reckon on four to five clumps per square metre of water area.
  • Such clumps are often already weighted in order to prevent the plants from floating at the surface. If the weight provided is made of lead, it is a good idea to replace it with a stone, since lead is not really good for the pond.
  • Other types of plant or oxygenator sometimes need to be planted in soil.


Floating plants

  • These float on the water and can move around the entire pond.
  • Just like plants with floating leaves, they provide shade in the water.
  • Floating plants also provide oxygen.
  • Ground roots will develop if the roots of floating plants come into contact with the bottom of the pond in shallow water. However, floating plants should never be planted in baskets.
  • If they multiply too vigorously, a net is the best solution.
  • When autumn comes, it is best to remove them before they die. The less organic material there is decaying in the pond, the less mud and marsh gas will be produced.
  • Floating plants such as water chestnut (Trapa natans), largely die off but overwinter as residual winter tubers on the bottom.
  • A variety like water soldier (Stratiotes aloides) sinks deeper into the water as it gets colder, and rises up again when it gets warmer.
  • Varieties of (sub)tropical origin which cannot survive our winters, like water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and the blue-flowering water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).




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