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4- Container Water Garden :

- Constructing and Caring for Container Water Gardens

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Pond in a Pot: Create a Container Water Garden :

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Do you want to add a water feature in your small garden? If yes, then create a pond in a pot. Learn how to make a container water garden full of water lilies and irises blooming, fountains bubbling and fishes swimming.

Pond in a pot is a combination of potted plants. It is easy to maintain and needs less care. You can arrange plants whenever and wherever you like.


Choose a container :


Take as large as you can, a tub, bowl or container, whichever you can use. Ceramic and Plastic containers of 15-25 gallons are best or use your old wash tub, porcelain container, old wine box or whiskey barrel (check out its leakage). Choose Container painted with dark color from inside by this your pond will look more spacious and deep. If possible take container more than 16 inches wide and 10 inches deep.

Decide place for it


Your container water garden will provide a serene ambiance to garden so place it wisely after deciding, whether the source of water is near to it or not and it will receive sunshine of about six hours but shade in afternoon or not, then you will need to check its how it’s looking from different angles. It can become a beautiful focal point of your garden.


Plants you need


Choose three to five plants according to the size of your container, take different types of aquatic plants: Erect plants like ‘yellow flag iris’ and cattail, floating plants like water hyacinth and broad leaf plants like giant arrowhead or calla lily.
If your container’s size is more than the diameter of 16 inches and 10 inches deep (ideal size), then you can grow deep water plants like lotus and water-lily, too. These aquatic plants need at least 10 inches of water over their roots and some space to spread their foliage.

Setting up your water garden


Once you’re done with choosing container, placing it in suitable spot and picking plants, you’re ready to set up your pond in a pot. Just fill up the container with general tap water and dip the potted plants you’ve bought. All you need is to place them up in certain depths of container, for this use bricks to vary height to make a picturesque arrangement, see the diagram below for better insight. You can also install fountain and add fish in pond.



It is easier than planting in grounds: no need to worry about soil, over watering and weeds. Partial shade and moderate temperature is optimum for the growth of water plants. Restore water after every couple of days. Algae is the problem and to prevent this, paint dark color inside your container and occasionally drain the water when decomposed matter populate on the bottom.
Mosquitoes can be a problem too; to avoid their larvae to thrive install bubbler or fountain or add gold fishes.

Additional Tips :


In colder parts to overwinter it, you have to keep it indoor.

Use plants in diversity but don’t overcrowd.

For fishes, you need to de-chlorinate water using chlorine removal tablets.

Water Gardening in Containers :

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By Jamie Beyer, Contributing Writer

Published on February 28, 2015 in Pond Content, POND LIFE, Water Gardening 

Since most of these containers do not have much fish excrement and/or decaying organic matter for plant uptake, we need to add nutrients. Liquid aquatic plant fertilizer can be added to the container to keep these plants looking good.


Potted plants also work well. Two varieties of water lilies, Helvola and Indiana, are very small, hardy varieties that I like because they stay small and are very floriferous. Lotuses of various sizes can be used. A variety of lotus called “small bowl” is suitable for the smaller containers, and the larger varieties of lotus can be devoted to a container all by themselves. Water lilies and most lotuses can safely be placed directly on the bottom of the container. Their leaves will be able to reach the surface.

There is a style of water feature for almost every garden, no matter how small. All a person needs is some space outside that receives sun most of the day. But how do you build a water garden without a hole in the ground? Just find a container!



Even large landscapes will benefit from the addition of container water gardens. A water garden in a container is one of the easiest types of water features to create—and can be very satisfying. We will want to keep this type of water feature simple, which we’ll discuss later. And they’re versatile; they can stand on their own or be placed on top of a table. For many, this less-permanent type of water garden can be the first introduction to the world of aquatic plants. The lushness and tropical look of aquatic plants has an appeal that most people really enjoy. The plants can attain this richness due to their access to an unlimited amount of water.


Choosing Containers


Choosing a container is the first and most important consideration. Anything that is glass, plastic, ceramic or sealed wood could work. Of course, if the container has holes, the holes will need to be sealed. A container that does not have holes is even better. There are containers made just for use as water gardens.

Most of these are thick plastic or pottery that is heavily glazed on both the inside and outside. I have heard that these heavily glazed pots are called “jars.” They can be pricey, but are very decorative. Containers glazed just on the outside are commonly available and they will work fine if properly sealed.


In fact, most people do choose to use a container designed for other purposes. Good examples of interesting containers are urns, crocks, half whiskey barrels (a plastic liner placed inside will seal it, if necessary), and even glass pie dishes. Try to avoid anything made of metal. Of course, steel containers can rust. New galvanized containers and any copper container can be toxic to life, although old galvanizing that has been dulled with weathering should be fairly safe. Containers as small as a quart of water work well, but may only hold one kind of floating aquatic plant. These small containers do require more attention due to the need to add water more frequently.


Picking Plants :


Displaying beautiful aquatic plants is the reason the container is set up, so what types of plants work best? Almost any kind of floating plants are excellent for containers— especially the small “floaties,” like my good friend, Deb Spencer, calls them. They do not require being planted in a pot and they obtain 100 percent of their nutrients from the water. They are easy to plant, too—just toss them into the container! Good examples of floaties are Water Hyacinths, Salvinia, Azolla and Floating Heart.



Even really small containers work easily for aquatic plants. This frog container holds approximately 1.5 cups of water. Since it is so small, water needs to be added every day. Water Lettuce and Salvinia work well in this situation. (Click to expand)

Marginal plants like Cannas, miniature cattail and Taros are also excellent candidates for containers because they add the vertical element and give a very lush, tropical look. The most difficult aspect of using marginal plants in containers is getting the plant at the proper water level. Most marginals look and do the best with only an inch or two of water over their crown (over the top of their pot). Of course, the plant pot needs to be completely immersed in the container; otherwise, with the pot showing, you will have a faux pas. Very tacky. To get the plant at the right depth, I recommend using a “stand” under the plant pot. I like to use fired bricks (not concrete since it will alter the chemistry of the water) or small, black plastic storage crates that can be cut to the right height if needed. Wind can create problems with upright plants, so I also recommend using wide plant pots for tall plants. 

Variety is Key :


The most important aspect of using aquatic plants in containers is to include two or three different forms so that the container has balance and interest. This is just plain good garden design. Be sure to include an aquatic plant that has leaves that float directly on the surface, like a water lily. Then add an upright marginal plant, like a miniature cattail. Finally, you can add a floating plant, like Water Lettuce. Containers with only one plant can also look great, depending on the container and the plants. Miniature cattail in an old-fashioned crock looks very nice, as both the crock and the cattail have upright forms. A lotus in a container that is buried in the landscape can look magical…like a miniature pond.


All but the floating plants should be planted in individual pots placed within the container. Use the style of pots without holes; they will not leak soil into the water. These pots are commonly available from water gardening retailers. Remember, a wide pot should be used fo rtall, marginal plants to keep the plants stable in windy conditions. Narrow, deep plant pots are not a good choice for aquatic plants. Most terrestrial plant pots are the narrow and deep style. They can work, but are not the best choice. Pots with holes can be used, but do cover the holes with landscape fabric to retain the soil. Use regular topsoil, to which aquatic plant fertilizer tablets have been added, as a planting medium. Do not use potting soil, which can have additives that float or can cause anaerobic conditions underwater. After the plant is planted in its pot, cover the rest of the top of the pot with a one-inch layer of pea gravel to keep the soil in the pot.

Livening Things Up


In containers that have a volume of 15 gallons or more, it’s fun to add a couple of goldfish that you can purchase for only a dollar or two. As long as you only add one or two small fish (one inch or so) in this size container, you do not need to aerate the water. The plants are critical in keeping the water fresh and aerated enough for this kind of fish population. These fish will eat all mosquito larvae, as well as other insects that may show up. In smaller containers, or if you choose to not add fish, then you will want to add Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunks to the water. These floating wafers contain bacteria that will kill many kinds of aquatic larvae, including mosquito larvae. The water is still safe for pets, people and any other life.

Normally, I would not add a water pump. The pump is not necessary to keep the water fresh as long as we have the plants, which are critical in keeping the water fresh. Of course, the reason we are setting up the container in the first place is to display aquatic plants. You can add a pump, but most water plants do not do well when water is constantly splashing over the upper surface of their leaves. So if a water pump is added, then a much larger container should be used so that plants can be kept away from the splashing water. Adding a pump to create the sound of water is appealing, but when plants are present it is more appropriate for larger features.


Easy Care


The ease of maintenance is the best part of a water feature without a water pump. Keep it filled and make sure to add chlorine remover if adding more than an inch or two of treated water at a time. If you are just topping it off, then the chlorine remover is not necessary. The chlorine dissipates quickly and is diluted in the rest of the volume of the container. You will need to add chlorine remover when first filling the container or when adding a lot of water at once.



These companion jars (containers) have Helvola hardy water lily in them. The small jar holds about 1 gallon of water and the larger one holds about 2.5 gallons.

Place the container in a spot that is “up close and personal,” as I like to say, for easy viewing. On a deck, next to a sitting bench, on either side of a door or along a path are ideal places. The container needs to have direct sun for at least 50 percent of the available daylight for the plants to do well. You will get full potential of blooms from the lilies, along with the lush, tropical foliage. If given less sun, the blooming plants will not have as many blooms. Yes, you may get a couple of blooms, but the plants will be more “leggy” as well. It is also absolutely necessary for the container to be level. If it is not level, it will not look good. The uneven water level in the container will highlight the unevenness of the container.


Debris that may fall into the water will need to be kept to a minimum. Tree leaves or decaying water plant leaves need to be removed. A lot of decaying organic matter or uneaten fish food can cause the water to have a green, single-celled, free-floating algae bloom. So, feed the fish only a very small amount. They will also supplement their diet with natural foods. When feeding, all the food should be gone in less than a minute. Some fish owners will not feed their fish anything, but if you do feed them they will be friendlier. You are the giver of food and they will love you and want to be close to you when you peer into the water. If you don’t feed them then you will hardly ever see them because then you are a “predator” to them.


Trim the plants back if they overgrow the container—give excess plants to friends or add them to the compost pile.

Adding Mosquito Dunks into small water feature containers is an easy way to kill all mosquito larvae. If fish are in the containers, then adding these doughnut-like dunks is not necessary. 

Avoid the Deep Freeze


Overwintering your plants, fish and containers is the last step to consider. If you want to save any tropical plants, they will need to be removed before any threat of frost and placed in a greenhouse or in a lighted environment. Most of the time, it is more practical to throw these away. I know, it’s tough throwing healthy plants away! All floating plants can be composted, and they are inexpensive to purchase again in the spring. The right time to actually dismantle the container is after the water really starts to cool down and before the container freezes. Hardy marginal plants can be moved into a garden spot and buried in the soil to the pot’s rim. They can freeze solid in the ground and still survive.

Hardy water lilies and lotus are easy to overwinter. They can either be placed at the bottom of a 30-inch or deeper water garden, or they can be brought inside. If moved inside, cut off their surface leaves (do not cut the new leaves at the crown) and place the plants in a black plastic bag while still dripping wet. All they need is to be wet and cool. Tie the bag at the top and place in the coolest spot in the basement. The cooler you can keep them (as long as they’re above freezing), the better. If a cool spot is not available then ask a friend for a spot in his basement. If kept warm, they will want to grow. Check the bag in the middle of winter to make sure that the plants are still wet. In early spring, move water lilies and lotus back out into the outside container. They may start growing early, depending on the temperature at which the bagged plants were kept.


Your fish can be brought in for the winter and placed in an aquarium or tub or can be taken back to the fish store, although some people have a tough time giving away their pets.


Keeping Things Fresh :


Your containers can have an entirely different look from one year to the next, depending on the plants used.

This relatively small container is plastic but has the “terra cotta” look. Red-stemmed Thalia is a fast grower, especially when nutrients are added to the container every week. Here, shepherd’s hooks are holding onto the container to keep it from tipping over in the wind. 

Changing the location where the container is placed will also change the look and provide new interest.


Containers are a popular addition to any garden, and when you use them as miniature water gardens they are especially attractive. They are simple and have a very lush, tropical look to them. Plus, the variety of containers and aquatic plants to choose from makes the container water garden an even more attractive feature that will enhance any outdoor space!

Planting the Water Garden Container


For healthy plant growth, each water garden container must be able to hold enough water to cover each plant to its preferred depth. For example, let's take an aquatic canna growing in a six inch tall nursery pot that prefers less than three inches of water over the crown. If it is set on the bottom of a 24 inch deep container, the plant will drown. If the same canna pot is set on some bricks or upside down pots so that it is raised up and the crown of the plant is near the water's surface, the plant will thrive.



The term water garden container encompasses the small pot that holds a single plant to a large one that holds many plants, fish, and fountains. The single plant pot is easy to create and maintain. If it holds an underwater plant or a floater, just fill it with water, add the plants, and you are done.


If it holds a shoreline plant, add some heavy clay soil, up to an inch of gravel on top to keep the mud in place, add the plant and water, and you are done. Don't use potting soil as many of the ingredients are too light and they will float, causing the water to always be a mess. If you don't have any clay soil, you can use generic kitty litter - it is made from clay. Do not use any that have deodorizing crystals or other ingredients.


Many aquatic plants look good all by themselves in a single pot. Dwarf lotus and water lilies can be planted in table top bowls. Larger specimens look nice in large oriental ceramic vases.


Larger pots can be planted just like the small one with several types of plants all growing together in the container. Large containers can also hold smaller pots to make a water garden arrangement that is easily changed as the plants grow or as the gardener decides to rearrange it. If the plants used prefer different depths of water, some can be set on pedestals to raise them to the proper level. Bricks, stones, and flower pots can all be used. Solid pedestal materials like bricks replace water volume, so if fish are being added, they will have less water available. Plastic pots will float and be difficult to use. Upside down clay pots often work very well.


A mix of container sizes and planting configurations can be used to make a flower pot arrangement on the patio. Just like with other patio pot arrangements use various sizes, shapes, and colors of containers to make your own personal style.


A mixed aquatic container can have the same style as many terrestrial potted arrangements; for example, a tall, spiky plant in the center or in the background, surrounded by showy flowers or brightly colored leaves, and as a final touch, plants that cascade over the edge of the container. Many aquatic plants have brightly colored foliage. Use them side by side for contrast and to attract attention.


Tall, spiky plants include cattail, yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), rushes, papyrus, and canna. Broad-leaved plants include lotus, taro, arrowhead (Sagittaria), calla lily, and lizard tail. Flowering plants include water lilies and water bluebell. Cascading plants include parrot feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), aquatic mint (Mentha aquatica), houtuynia, and water celery. If the container has enough surface water showing, then the addition of floating plants is always welcome. Add water lettuce, Pistia stratiotes, or water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes.


Many plants fit into more than one category. Don't crowd too many plants into a container. Aquatic plants are often very fast growers. If there is too much fertilizer in the water, the floaters will grow rapidly. It is easy to take a few out from time to time and toss them under some shrubs for fertilizer or add them to the compost pile.

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