Just like your car, regularly scheduled maintenance will keep your plants in top performance. From start up to shut down, we have tips to help you check off your to-do list.
Divvy in Spring
When the ice starts to melt, it means that spring is just around the corner. Start the pond season off by thawing your green thumb and dividing your aquatic plants so they have some room to stretch their roots. In general, bog plants should be divided every one to two years; water lilies and lotus are usually divided every two to three years. Below is a simplified how-to guide, so grab your pruning tools, gloves, extra planting bags, planting media, and garden hose and let's get to work!
Bog plants include species like Corkscrew Rush, Dwarf Cattail, and Blue Flag Iris. These types of plants have clumping roots, runners, or rhizomes and the dividing process will vary slightly based on which type of root mass the plant has. Here's what to do:
- Lift the pot out of the water and gently remove the root mass.
- Wash the soil off the mass with your hose and trim any dead foliage.
- Divide the root mass depending on the type of root system. For plants with clumping roots like corkscrew rush, separate the roots into sections with some roots intact in each section. Dwarf cattails have runners, so cut the runner and leave the root base with each section of the plant. For rhizome plants like irises, simply divide them into sections.
- Replant each section in its own container and dispose of any overgrowth.
Water Lilies & Lotus
Lilies – both tropical and hardy varieties – and water lotus are also relatively easy to divide. These plants have a tuber root system, similar to a potato. You will know that it is time for the tubers to go their separate ways when you notice fewer pads, reduced blooms, or splitting pots.
- Lift the container out of the water, locate the tuber and gently remove it.
- Rinse off the soil and trim any root growth or dead leaves.
- Identify the crowns, or buds where the pad will sprout, and cut between them with a sharp knife. These sections will become a new plant, so you will want each piece to be 3"-4" in length.
- Plant each section separately at a 45-degree angle with the growing tip exposed above the planting media.
- Place your repotted plants in a shallow area with 3"-6" of water above the growing tip.
- After the leaves are above water, you can move the plant deeper.
Fertilize & Tend Through Summer
Ensure your plants are getting the nutrients they need to produce vigorous blooms by adding fertilizer tablets every two weeks during the growing season. To keep your colorful beauties looking their best, regularly remove any dead foliage. Lastly, don't forget to enjoy your water garden!
Bring on the Winter Chill
As the temperatures cool and you shut down your pond, you will want to give your plants some final attention. If you live in a frost-free zone, congratulations, all you need to do is follow your summer routine. But for those who get a bit frosty, below are a few pointers to help you prepare your plants for the winter ahead.
Know your Zone: Like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants are sensitive to varying temperatures. The Hardiness Zone Map is based on the average minimum winter temperature and is the basis for determining which plants will thrive in a particular location. Start by identifying which plants are and aren't in your zone. What to Do:
- Hardy Plants: Hardy water lilies, submerged plants, and other plants geared for your hardiness zone are pretty easy to winterize. Remove the foliage after the first hard frost, then gently sink your hardy plants to the deepest part of the pond and they will go dormant until spring. For bog plants, bring them back up as soon as the ice permanently thaws so they can keep growing.
- Floating Plants: Water Lettuce and other floating plants are most susceptible to frost. It is best to treat them as annuals and discard them after the first frost. Luckily, they are inexpensive to replace and will quickly grow when added in spring.
- Tropical Bulbs: Lilies, canna, and other plants with bulbs or tubers that prefer temperatures above your climate should take a winter vacation from your water garden. These plants can either become dormant or you can try your hand at growing them indoors.
- Tropical Bog Plants: The Yellow Snowflake – ironically not tolerant of snow – and other tropical bog plants can be treated as annuals or you can bring them inside to test your gardening skills. If you decide to try wintering these plants inside, you will want to keep them wet, but standing water is not needed. Keep in mind that with the shorter days you will likely need to provide supplemental light so they can get their 10-14 hours.
Taking year-round care of your plants will ensure they last through the season and over the years!