How to Plant and Grow Aquatic Plants

Aquatic Plant

How to Plant and Grow Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants not only add beauty to ponds and water features, they are essential to creating a viable water-based ecosystem. They filter the water to remove wastes and add nutrients, as well as provide habitats for animal life. When growing aquatic plants, you have a whole new set of factors to think about, other than those you may be used to when doing land-based gardening. Water quality, depth and temperature are some of your first considerations. What, if any, creatures do you have living in and around your pond? Fish and animal waste will be absorbed into your plants and converted into other beneficial chemicals, but critters may also damage the plants by trampling or eating them. Do you want to create a naturalistic ecosystem, or are you planting for aesthetic reasons only? Getting a clear idea of what your aims are will give you a far greater chance of success.

Don’t assume that all water plants will do well in every aquatic environment. They typically have a specialized location and type of water body in which they thrive. Attempting to grow the wrong plant in the wrong place will result in disappointment and possibly a dead plant. The four basic categories of water plant are:

  • ​Emergent: The roots are in the water, but stems and leaves emerge above the water’s surface. Rushes are often emergent, like Spike Rushes or Soft Rush.
  • Floating: Plants with a lot of floating leaves. Think of water lilies, where many floating leaves and flowers are connected under the water by a single root system.
  • Shoreline: Grow at the water’s edge, like Sweet Flag and Wild Iris.
  • Submerged: These plants are almost completely or are fully under the water’s surface.​

Procedures for Planting Water Plants

Depending on the type of water body you have, you can either place your plants directly into it, or use potted plants.

Plants can be transplanted directly into your pond and will gradually acclimatize. This method is riskier, as the survival rate is lower and growth is slower. If they do too well however, they can start to take over you pond and you will have to manually pull them out. The benefit is that these will create a more naturalistic ecosystem within your pond. Place your transplants a few feet apart at the base of the pond, taking care to place them in an appropriate position (emergents often grow at the edge of a pond, for example). You may like to culture your plants in pots before transferring them to the pond. Direct planting is obviously easier if your pond isn’t filled with water yet!

Potted plants are easier to manage and care for, and they won’t be able to choke up other species by growing out of control. They also have a higher expected survival rate. On the other hand, they may not seem as natural to the pond environment.

Plastic pots are generally the easiest to use for this. Get ones without holes, as your water plants don’t need the drainage of land based species. Fill you container about two thirds full of loamy, clay soil (not conventional potting soil). The soil should be damp. Place the plant or rhizome into the soil, then add more soil. Directly after planting, water it so that the soil is thoroughly wet. At any point, add a small amount of gravel over the surface of the soil to keep it in place after you submerge your plant.

When you feel your plant is ready to be placed into your pond, simply choose a location and submerge your pot. Be aware that your plant may receive reduced sunlight and that growth may therefore slow down. If possible, submerge your plant spring a sunny spring or summer for the best chance of successful adaptation.

Growing aquatic plants is a rewarding experience which can add a whole new dimension to your gardening knowledge and personal life. Bodies of water are universally acknowledged to be soothing and tranquil places, so bring a pond to life in your own backyard with water plants.