About Garden Ponds, Part 2
The previous article in this series discussed some of the possibilities and requirements for water gardening success. This month, we explore some gardening tasks and plant selections.
Aquatic plants grow rapidly when they’re happy—they need inspection and dead-leaf removal at least weekly to look their best. Fertilizer tablets that are formulated specifically for pond plants should be generously applied two to three times a year.
Waterlilies are the stars of ponds and can be found in a variety of sizes to suit almost any space. Their flowers open in the sun and close for the evening. Hardy lilies stop blooming by early fall and lose their leaves until spring. Tropical lilies keep their foliage and continue blooming until days get short and water temperature cools. Night-blooming tropical lilies show off their flowers from evening into midmorning. Surprisingly, many waterlilies will adjust their sizes to fit the pond in which they are grown. If leaves are growing above the water surface, the plants are too crowded.
Some particularly beautiful and easy varieties:
Mrs. Martin E. Randig is freely flowering; blooms are violet-purple and fragrant. It spreads up to 3-5 feet, but will adapt to containers.
Yellow Dazzler is a medium-sized plant with intensely yellow blooms.
Pink Capensis has rose-pink, fragrant blooms. Medium to large, it will adapt to smaller ponds.
Wood’s White Knight is a lovely night-blooming lily that spreads up to 6 feet.
Antares is a big plant with deep-red, fragrant flowers that open at night.
Arc en Ciel is a soft pink flowering hardy lily grown for its beautiful variegated foliage.
Chromatella is a miniature hardy waterlily with canary-yellow flowers suitable for small containers. Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to find.
For shallow (1-4 inches) water, try these:
Louisiana Iris varieties keep their sword-shaped foliage year-round. Showy flowers appear in late winter or spring in South Florida.
Taro Black Magic has purple-black heart shaped leaves. Tropical in appearance, it will grow to 5 feet and fill a large pot or tub. The variety Royal Hawaiian Black Coral with ruffled, jet black leaves is even more spectacular.
Sagittaria latifolia, or Broadleaf Arrowhead, is a Florida native with attractive green leaves and showy white flowers to 4 feet. It tends to go dormant in winter.
Various tropical aquarium plants, such as Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum), Hornwort (Ceratophyllum), and Guppy Grass (Najas), are excellent as floating oxygenators that also remove excess nutrients and help keep the water clear. If happy, they all grow quite fast and need frequent thinning.
There are several excellent aquatic plant nurseries in Florida. Some will sell retail, or you can search for online sellers. If your local garden center stocks aquatics, perhaps they can order specific plants for you.
An important point: Many aquatic plants can spread and become severe pests if dumped into lakes and canals. Some of the world’s worst weeds are water or bog plants. Never discard any pond or aquarium plant into a waterway or swamp. Treat it as trash, or toss it on the compost pile.
Harvey Bernstein is the horticulturist at Pinecrest Gardens.