Water gardens make a charming addition to your patio, poolside or Japanese-themed garden. With beautiful pots and lighting (and artfully concealed hoses) you can even create a very relaxing “Zen corner” in your own home (check out this great video example).
So you may not have a lake on your property (or if you live in an apartment you may not even have soil!) but with these steps you can have water lilies, lotus and other beautiful water plants thrive in soil-filled containers submerged under water. Follow these simple but detailed tips.
Containers for your water garden
You can get small or medium-sized containers that you can sink into decorative pools and large pots, water-filled tubs, or galvanized containers. IF you’re using a single large plant in a big tub, you can plant in the bottom of the container and then fill it up with water.
You can also get preformed plastic or fiber glass pools and sink it into a hole in the garden. If you want a more permanent water garden you can dig a hole about a foot deep and then make a small concrete pool.
Planting in your water garden
Fill the containers with garden loam and incorporate slow-release fertilizer. (Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the package.) If you plan to grow lotus flowers, add clay to the mix. Never use compost, peat moss, or dry manure in soil that will be used for a water garden. Plant the seeds, and then cover the soil with a layer of sand.
Plants you can include in a water garden
One of the most beautiful additions to a water garden is the water lily. These exquisite flowers bloom in early summer and last till late frost. It’s best to plant these late spring. In general, you should plant one standard per 20-inch tub. If you have a small water garden, choose the pygmy variety which only requires an 8-inch pot. Press the soil firmly around the tuber and position the crown of the plant above the soil line. Sink the container into the pool, making sure that the soil and sand layer are about 6 to 8 inches below the water surface. In the late fall, dig out the tubers and store them in the basement till spring.
Tropical water lilies can also turn your water garden into your own corner of an exotic island paradise. The blue, pink white and yellow blooms are breathtaking. It’s best to plant these in warm weather. Set tubers in the center of the planting pot with the crown at the soil line. Sink to 6 to 8 inches below water. These are to be treated like annuals and must be replaced every year.
The lotus is a very beautiful flower that also has deep spiritual symbolism. Since it grows to be quite big use just one per tub. The tuber is delicate and must be handled carefully to prevent bruising or breaking the pointed tip. Plant the tuber horizontally so that the tip breaks past the soil surface while the rest is blanketed in thin soil. Sprinkle sand over the soil, avoiding putting pressure on the tip. Then, cover the tip with about 4 inches of water, increasing the water level to 8 inches only when the plant has established.
Other plants can thrive in very shallow water gardens. These include water iris, water poppies, pickerel week, sinensis, cattails, marsh marigolds, and dwarf papyrus. Plant the roots just below the soil surface and add just 2 to 4 inches of water. During winter store the roots in pots in a cool basement and replant in the spring.
Photo from apartmenttherapy.com