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Five Tips for growing Aquatic Plants

Five Tips for Growing Aquatic Plants

I have been growing and selling water plants commercially for over 26 years and as a professional in my trade and with the skills I have acquired over the years, I would like to share some of that knowledge with you.   When it comes to planting pond plants, whether that be planting into a natural clay bottomed pond or planting into aquatic baskets and planting bags, then I’m your man!



All lead weighted bunches of oxygenating plants are sold throughout the whole aquatic industry as plants that you can simply throw into your pond.  Yes, that’s fine if you are lucky enough to own a natural clay bottomed pond or lake, but for everyone else with a lined, concrete or fibreglass pond this is very misguiding,  With the exception of Ceratophyllum Demersum, all bunched oxygenating plants in artificial man-made ponds require being planted into planting bags or aquatic baskets.  As all plants grow roots that would naturally root into clay or sediment absorbing beneficial nutrients, this may explain why I continually get told by customers that their bunched oxygenating plants bought from other aquatic retailers, have turned yellow and died.   The truth is, they have simply starved and die.



All pond plants require nutrients, although this is with the exception of some ‘Carnivorous Species’ such as free floating Utricularia and some ‘Carnivorous Bog Plants’ which happen to be True Bog Garden Plants.   All wild ponds and lakes over time will develop rich silt at the bottom which provides plenty of essential nutrients into the water to maintain a healthy Eco-balance where as man-made ponds will take a long time to develop the same or may not even ever do so.  So, it’s therefore essential to feed all your aquatic plants with special formulated fertilizer.  It’s also a myth that formulated aquatic soil low in nitrates, will provide all the essential food requirements for aquatic plants even if the consistency and weight is correct.   All wild species of aquatic plants would naturally be rooted into very rich, foul smelling, black looking rich sludge and this sludge is made up from decomposing waste from dying autumn plants, algae and leaves, dead aquatic wildlife including the waste products from various fish, birds and other visiting wildlife.  So, to sum it all up, an  essential  combination for a good Eco-balance.




Some ‘professional gardeners’ or so called ‘professional gardeners’ claim that it’s fine to plant aquatic plants straight into gravel.  I have personally experimented with the idea and can assure you that planting into aquatic soil will give far greater results.  Aquatic soil will always have some nutrients in it whereas aquatic gravel used alone, will have absolutely none.  The only exception to this would be if you had a pond stocked well with fish as the fish waste alone, would provide enough nutrients.   Also, aquatic plants are designed with specific root systems to take hold in soil and not in gravel!!!



So, I’m talking here about Waterlilies, Nuphars, Pontaderias, Acorus, Iris, Butomus and Typhas as species plants and all their cultivars.  All these plants will develop and spread out on Rhizomes (or hard tubers).  All can be planted naturally straight into clay and silt bottomed ponds without any problems as they will have the room they need to grow and to expand in all directions. However, when planted into baskets, there is a very simple useful technique that can be applied to allow for maximum growth.   If you are buying and planting these species and cultivars as bare rooted plants, they will all have been cut as ‘Division Plants’.  Simply plant them up keeping the one golden rule in mind (placing the sliced end directly against the inside edge of your planting basket rather than in the middle), as this will allow the plants to grow into large clumps and fill your aquatic baskets rather than becoming pot bound after a month or two.



There seems to be a lot of confusion on this topic, so I’m going to set things straight as I do with any confused customers visiting and purchasing from my retail nursery.  Firstly, the traditional way of lining aquatic baskets is by using Hessian Liners.   I would only ever recommend these if you don’t have any water movement from fish, (especially Koi Carp) or any movement of water from pumps and filtration systems.  Any water movement will wash out the soil straight through Hessian Liners, so Hessian Liners, in my mind, should only be used for Wildlife Ponds.  For ponds with fish in or which have any kind of water movement, I would recommend using our Aquatic Cloth Liners as they have a fine woven fabric which makes soil loss virtually impossible.  Also our very popular Aquatic Planting Bags which are designed to be used as a complete material planting container (thus doing away with any baskets or liners), and can be used for all aquatic planting whether you have moving water or still without again, virtually any soil loss whatsoever.  Aquatic Gravel has four useful functions for e.g. –


1) – It gives a finer finishing touch on appearance.

2) It stops aquatic soil dusts rising to the surface of the water from newly potted plants.

3) – It is particularly effective in deterring larger fish (especially Koi Carp), from trying to uproot newly potted plants as most Koi Carp usually find this activity irresistibly amusing.              

 4) – It gives valuable extra weight to planted aquatic baskets planted with tall marginal plants that can blow over in the wind.

All our expert advice is free and I hope this blog helps answer some of those tricky and rather perplexing questions that everyone who would like to or has already taken up water gardening, may need to ask, or, for those who just wish they had!

To see more articles on all aspects of water gardening and the wildlife that water attracts and to see over 750 pond plants and water garden plants available to buy online or from our retail nursery, please visit our website