Choosing Plants for Water Gardens

Stocking a pond is such fun. Water plants, especially the ones that bloom, are so gorgeous. They're not at all hard to grow, and you can purchase many of them from retail or mail-order garden suppliers. When your water garden is set up, their main need — water — is already fulfilled. Before start looking for water plants, here are a few tips for success:

l Always keep water plants in pots while they're in your water garden (except for floaters). This move controls their growth and makes maintenance easier. If you use tap water and plan to add fish, wait 48 hours before adding the fish, to allow chlorine in the water to dissipate. The chlorine won't hurt your plants.

1 Use heavy garden soil in your water garden, never bagged potting soil mix, which is far too light and drifts off to make a mess. To keep the heavy garden soil from getting away and muddying the pool, top off each pot with an inch or so of pea gravel.

1 Use plant tubs or pots with no drainage holes. This step ensures that the heavy garden soil doesn't get loose in your water garden.

1 Proper planting depth is usually 1 to 6 inches below the water's surface. So elevate the pots on blocks, bricks, or overturned pots. Some pools have shelves along the sides that are meant to support potted water plants.

1 Buy and pot water plants in late spring, lowering them carefully into warmed-up water. Hardy water plants can go in water that has reached 50° F; tropical ones have to wait for at least 70° water.

1 Don't overplant, or your plants will crowd one another and require constant pruning or even eviction (packed-in waterlilies do a desperate and unattractive thing called pyramiding, where their leaves rear up into the air). Your goal is two-thirds coverage of the water surface; this amount looks nice, prevents algal growth, and still allows some open water for reflections.

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