Plant a Water Lily Container Garden | Living the Country Life
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Plant a Water Lily Container Garden

Create this simple pond-in-a-pot to enjoy water lilies on a sunny deck or patio—or anywhere you want a water garden.
  • Photography by Bob Stefko

    Mini Water Lily Pond

    This mini pond will bring the tranquility of a water garden to your patio or deck and provide months of beauty during the warm season. To create it, you will need plastic aquatic crates (sold at the garden store where you buy the plants) and an assortment of lilies, floating and bog plants, as well as an oxygenating plant which will clean the water and add oxygen.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Water Garden Materials

    • Watertight basin: Try a half whiskey barrel, vintage bathtub or sink, concrete trough, or a galvanized livestock tank—any basin that’s at least 12–15 inches deep with a diameter of 24–36 inches. If adding fish, make sure the basin’s material is nontoxic.
    • Topsoil: Use a heavy topsoil (not potting soil) that contains clay.
    • Aquatic crates: These plastic crates have lattice sides that allow roots to penetrate into the water and exchange gases and chemicals. Match the crate size to the size and type of plant.
    • Granular aquatic fertilizer: Maximize plant growth and health by fertilizing these heavy-feeder aquatic plants.
    • Pea gravel: Hold soil in place with pea gravel (rather than crushed limestone, which changes the alkalinity of the water).
    • Clay pots or bricks: Place beneath aquatic crates for the desired water depth.
    • Water lily: For the biggest show and most blooms, choose a tropical variety such as this day-blooming Nymphaea ‘Pink Platter’. Alternatively, consider a night-blooming tropical to enjoy flowers in late afternoon through the evening.
    • Fanwort: Submerged plants, like this fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana), act as oxygenators to help clean the water and add oxygen.
    • Floating plants: Water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) and other floating plants provide protection for fish and shade to minimize algae bloom.
    • Bog plants: At 3–5 feet, this umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius) adds height to the water container garden. Other options include papyrus and colocasia.
    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 1: Container Location & Soil

    Select a sunny location (minimum six hours of sunlight) for the container garden and fill the basin with water. Aquatic plants are heavy feeders, so be sure to add granular fertilizer to the topsoil before filling the crates. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 2: Plant Crates

    In a 9-inch square crate, dig a hole in the soil and plant the water lily. Add water and firm the soil around the plant. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 3: Add Gravel to Plant Crates

    Add a half-inch layer of pea gravel to hold the soil in place and keep critters from digging it up. 

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 4: Submerge Plants

    Slowly submerge the planted crate beneath the surface of the water and rest it on the floor of the container.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 5: Add Height with Plants

    Repeat the same steps to place the umbrella plant in an 8-inch circular crate. Submerge it in the water, this time only 1 inch deep, using a clay pot or bricks to raise the crate to the correct level.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 6: Add Floating Plants

    Float water hyacinths on the surface of the water.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 7: Add Oxygenator Plants

    Plant the fanwort in an 8-inch circular crate and fully submerge it in the basin.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017
  • Step 8: Maintaining Water Plants

    Add more water to fill the basin. Initially the water may turn cloudy with algae, but it should clear in a couple of weeks. To maintain the container water garden, weed and prune water plants as necessary, especially aggressive floating plants.

    Date Published: June 22, 2017
    Date Updated: July 5, 2017

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