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Five FAQs and Answers for Growing Pond Plants!

Five FAQs and Answers for Growing Pond Plants!

I’ve been passionate about the plants that I grow for 30 years and throughout my career I have been bombarded with frequently asked questions on how to grow pond plants.  So, I have decided to write this article in the hope that it will answer some of those much asked questions.


1.)  Should I Feed My Pond Plants?


 Just the other day I read a very miss-leading instruction on a website telling people, as quoted, to “Never add fertiliser to your pond”.   This couldn’t be further from the truth as all pond plants are extremely heavy feeders.  In every natural long established pond or lake, you will find a good 6-12 inches of greyish-black sludge which is rich in nutrients from a build up of years of decaying leaves, dead and living creatures, fish and wildfowl excrement!  Sounds horrible, but when broken down over time by micro-organisms, this becomes an essential food supply for hungry aquatic plants.  In a new man-made designed fibreglass or lined pond without nutrients, it is essential to add fertiliser, or your pond plants will struggle and eventually turn an un-healthy yellow colour and or even die!  However, if you have an established pond with that essential sludge or lots of fish that are continually adding natural fertiliser to your pond, your plants with thrive and be happy and healthy.  So my answer is yes, I definitely do recommend to anyone with new ponds or ponds without fish, that they add plant food when planting pond plants. Aqu feed.jpg


2.)  How Many Marginal Plants Should I Plant Per     

       Square Foot or Metre?


 I have read so many articles on this subject and unfortunately I have to say, they are all very miss-leading.  However, I should emphasise that there is no ’Golden Rule’!  The reason I say this is that all marginal plants and their cultivars have totally different growing habits.  For example, Phragmites Australis is totally invasive and great for colonising lakes and, is most commonly used commercially for phyto-filtration in filter beds.  On the other hand, marginal plants like Orontium Aquaticum are very slow growing and clump forming!  I guess what it all boils down to in the end is a simple fact that some people want plant impact within the first year of planting and in their growing season, while others, are prepared to wait 2 to 4 years to see the results.  So my answer and recommendations are to thoroughly research your plant choices individually, then consider if you are prepared to wait or want immediate impact.  To help you with your plant choices, we have a facility on our website called “Advanced Search ” built especially to help you make those all important choices.  You can simply click on “Invasive Box” or a “Non Invasive Box” to suit your planting needs!  You can find this extremely important online tool on our homepage.Typha Shuttleworthii


3.)  Do All My Pond Plants Need To Be Planted Into

       Aquatic Baskets?


The answer is no and the explanation for this is simple.   pond plants are sold to enhance your pond and there are three types of pond, Fibreglass, Lined and Natural, then there are two types of streams, Lined and Natural, for this reason why we don’t supply plants pre-potted in aquatic baskets.  At Lilies Water Gardens we do our very best to try and cater for everyone needs and to do this, we supply our plants in solid black pots or bare rooted or even sometimes, as plug plants and that way, if you have a natural clay bottomed pond, stream or lake, you are not wasting money on unnecessary aquatic baskets. On the other hand, if you have a man made pond then you will need to buy planting baskets and aquatic soil, etc.  It also makes no sense to buy pond ready plants if they are in anything smaller than a two litre basket as they will have no stability,  and varieties that grow taller than 12 inches will simply blow over in the wind, they will also require immediate re-planting into bigger baskets within a matter of weeks.  It is for these reasons that here at Lilies Water Gardens, we only stock aquatic baskets in sizes of 2 litres and above. There are a few plants but not many, that don’t require aquatic baskets and they are categorised as “Free Floating Plants”.  Another exception is ‘Ceratophyllum Demersum’, known more commonly as ‘Hornwort’ This plant has no root systems and can simply be thrown in your pond. Aquatic Baskets


4.)  How Many Oxygenating Plants Should I Put In My



 I’m just going to have to set the record straight on this question! The wrong advice is evidently clear throughout the whole water garden industry.  The answers that are often given always baffle me e.g.,” three bunches per square metre”, or “one bunch per square metre”, etc.  Ok, here is the correct answer – all oxygenating plants are Species rather than Cultivars and they grow in the wild in very different conditions, different climates, seasons, water depths, in sunny locations or partial shade, some in full shade, some having plenty of nitrates whilst others, a lack of them, and the list goes on.  So guessing the speed of growth for your chosen plants is like predicting lottery numbers!   So now you can see, there is no possible way of recommending the correct amount of plants per square metre or square foot and not just that, half the varieties of oxygenating plants are not even sold in bunches!  The most important factor here is to research individual plants and find out their individual needs and growing habits.  The other aspect of answering this difficult question is, some people might want to achieve growth spread in one season, while others are prepared to wait 2 or 3 years.  My advice when choosing the correct oxygenating plants that are suitable for your pond, lake or stream, try to remember that sometimes, less is best as you can always add more at a later stage!Myriophyllum Brasiliensis


5.)  Do I Need To Use Aquatic Soil And Top Gravel?


The use of aquatic soil is very important, not so much as it is low in nitrates, that reduces blanket weed and algae, but more so because aquatic soil has been screened which makes it free from any pollutants such as soil used straight from your garden or from next doors garden where a wandering cat may have visited!   Aquatic soil is heavy and will provide good anchorage for all aquatic plants plus stability for those taller growing water plants planted into aquatic baskets that might otherwise topple over in windy locations.  There is however, no need whatsoever to purchase aquatic soil if you have a natural clay bottomed pond, lake or stream.  Never ever use ordinary potting compost to your pond as the soil and your plants will simply float away and may never been seen again!Aquatic soil 4

Aquatic gravel is used as a dressing on top of your aquatic soil, usually about 1 inch thick, and it serves three functions:-

A)     Will add weight to your baskets therefore, giving more stability, which is especially useful when growing taller plants or where ponds are located in exposed windy areas.

B)      Is a great deterrent to large pond fish, especially Koi Carp that are curious and nosy and love nothing more than to poke around in newly potted aquatic plants and seem to enjoy trying to uproot them.

C)      Aquatic Gravel also functions as a finishing touch and is far more attractive than just leaving the tops of your baskets as bare aquatic soil.


For masses of more information on all aspects of water gardening and also for articles on attracting that all important wildlife, please visit our Blog/News tab that can be found on our Homepage at

Hope you find this information helpful.           Happy water gardening!