Plants for the container pond

People usually want small plants in a container since there is such limited space. We will talk about some of the plant choices and how to care for them.


Water lilies

These are always pond favorites, The floating lily pond leaves with a beautiful flower a few inches above the lily pad create a classic pond scene familiar to everyone, the flowers vary in size, shape and color depending on the variety. The size of the plant is measured by the diameter of the lily pads which range from just a few inches in diameter in the dwarf varieties to the more typical dinner plate size, and all the way up to several feet in the most exotic tropical varieties.

Lilies are divided into two types: cold water hardy varieties that can be held over the winter to come back in the spring, and warm water tropical varieties that will only last one spring and summer. Most lilies are part of the Nymphaea genus.

Planting instructions: Use a five inch diameter pot or bigger. Containers with no drainage holes are best. Otherwise, line the pot with burlap to keep the soil from seeping into the water. Cover the bottom third with large pebbles which will help to weigh the pot down under water. Add a layer of soil. Avoid potting soil or mixes with components that float easily, such as perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Add an aquatic plant fertilizer tablet. Plant the tuber against the side of the pot, with the growing tip pointed upward and angled about 45 degrees toward the center of the pot. Cover the soil with a layer of rock or pea gravel to keep the soil in the pot. Water lilies need to be set so the base of the pot is 12-18 inches below the surface, allowing the leaves to float to the surface.


Floating plants

Sensitive Plant (Neptunia aquatica) Small delicate fern like leaves that float on ponds surface. Grows to height of 6″ and spreads to 36″. Native plant of the USA. At night the sensitive thin and narrow leaflets fold up, and it also closes slowly when touched or injured. This species has been widely introduced as an ornamental plant. This pond plant propagates by seed or by cutting. Sensitive Plant blooms in summer with yellow Sweet Pea like flowers. Set out after the pond water has reached 70 F. Needs full sun to partial shade.

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) This plant is free-floating with lots of spongy, light green leaves. No planting is necessary. The leaves are covered with tiny hairs and arranged in a spiral pattern from the center of the plant. The leaves are 1-6″ wide and are ribbed with veins through their length. Water Lettuce will grow under full sun but prefers partial shade during the warmest part of the day and will multiply quickly in warm water. Flowers are seldom seen and hidden between the leaves. Water lettuce is a very fast grower and will form thick floating mats. It should be thinned out so they do not cover the entire water surface to prevent oxygen depletions.


Reed/Rush type plants

SWEETFLAG, VARIEGATED DWARF (Acorus gramineus variegatus) This hardy marginal plant is ideal for container ponds. Its green and white leaves are very attractive and reach a maximum height of twelve inches. Place in small pots with a layer of rock, soil and gravel on top. The leaves and roots grow from a thick horizontal root called a rhizome. This should be left exposed as much as possible with only the dangling roots covered.

Eleocharis montevidensis (Sand Spikerush) – Hair grass or spike rush is related to Cyperus and bulrushes and prefers to grow in shallow water under full sun. The hair like or straw like leaves grow erect to almost two feet tall in thick clumps. If not confined to a pot, the plant will spread out by rhizomatous runners.

This is only a sampling of the many different plants suitable for container ponds. Consider the size and care requirements of any plants before choosing them and you will have an attractive water garden to enjoy.