How to plant up a pond

How to plant up a pond

With so many aquatic plants to choose from, planting up a garden pond can be a daunting task. And what's all this talk about planting zones? Floaters? Oxygenators? The list goes on!

How to plant up a pond

With so many aquatic plants to choose from, planting up a garden pond can be a daunting task. And what's all this talk about planting zones? Floaters? Oxygenators? The list goes on!

Don't be put off by the terminology of water plants. Planting up your pond is not as tricky as it sounds and getting it right will create one of the most diverse and fascinating habitats in your garden.

Browse our online range of aquatic plants for ponds - you'll be spoilt for choice! Reassuringly, all of our aquatic plants for sale are given a planting zone and planting depth on each individual product page, to help you make the right choices.

Take a look at this guide to pond plants to help you select the best plants for your pond and learn exactly how to grow aquatic plants.

The importance of aquatic plants in ponds

Aquatic plants are vital for providing shade and using up nutrients in the water which would otherwise lead to a build up of green algae. They keep the water clean and well oxygenated, providing shelter for fish and other wildlife. If you are trying to encourage wildlife to your garden then you may prefer to stick with native pond plants.

Pond plants are a diverse group with an infinite range of form and habit. Aesthetically they are essential for softening the hard edges of your pond, adding texture and reflections that will make it a real beauty spot in your garden. Why not add a few evergreen pond plants to keep your pond colourful all year round.

Choosing the right plants for your pond

Different aquatic plants require different depths of water, so it is well worth doing a little research and choosing plants that will best suit the conditions that your pond offers. Most ponds will have a variety of water depths created by shelves built into the edge of the pond.

Think of the pond as 5 distinct zones...

Zone 1: Moisture loving/ bog plants

This diverse set of plants bridge the gap between water and dry land. Although most of these species are not actually aquatic plants, they will enjoy reliably moist or even boggy soil around the edge of ponds, lakes and watercourses. These plants should not be submerged in water as they are likely to rot in such circumstances.

Zones 2 and 3: Marginal aquatic plants

Marginal aquatic plants

These plants thrive in the shallow waters at the inside edge of your pond and are often referred to as emergent plants. Some prefer the shallowest shelves (zone 2) while others can cope with slightly deeper water (zone 3). Check the depths of your pond margins to help you choose the right plants.

Zone 4: Deep water aquatic plants (including Water Lilies) and submerged oxygenators

Deep water aquatics (including Water Lilies)

These deep water pond plants flourish in the deeper recesses of the pond. With the crown fully submerged beneath water, many (such as Water Lilies) produce foliage on long stems that floats at the waterâ??s surface. Check our top tips below for advice on planting deep water aquatics.

Submerged oxygenators

Submerged oxygenators

Once planted, you will rarely see these plants but they are some of the most important. Submerged oxygenating plants will create a healthy pond with well oxygenated water which is essential for fish and wildlife to flourish. Many submerged aquatic plants are sold as bunches of stems that can be weighted or planted into pots to anchor them at the bottom of the pods. Try to aim for 4 to 5 bunches per square metre of water surface.

Zone 5: Floating aquatic plants

Floating pond plants create cover for wildlife and shade across the water's surface. They don't require planting - simply place them on the water's surface and leave them to float there.

Top Tips for planting aquatics

When - Between spring and early summer when the water is warming up and the plants are springing into life.

Compost - Use a heavy loam which won't float to the surface of the pond. You can buy specialist aquatic compost or use heavy garden soil, provided that it is free from fertilisers and contaminants such as herbicide.

Aquatic containers

Aquatic containers - These special containers have mesh-like walls which allow free movement of water and oxygen. Most gardeners will prefer to plant into containers as this controls the spread of the plants and makes maintenance easier. In larger ponds you can plant directly into the silt at the bottom of the pond.

Anchorage - Add a deep layer of stones at the bottom of the container for extra stability and to help anchor the plant in place. This is particularly useful when planting tall pond plants or when planting into flowing water.

Grit - Apply a thin layer of grit or fine stone across the top of the container to prevent the soil floating out when you submerge it. Saturating the soil with a hosepipe prior to planting will also help to keep the soil in place.

Planting Deep Water Aquatics

  • Planting: Water lilies and other such plants need time to adjust to deep water. When newly planted they will need raising on bricks wrapped in some spare pond liner, or a submerged temporary platform within the pond. Gradually lower them in stages until they reach their final positions - at each stage the foliage must have grown to reach the surface before they are submerged to the next depth.
  • Positioning: Unless you have very tall wellies or don't mind a dip then it can be hard to position deep water aquatics in the pond. However it is possible without ever getting your feet wet! Find a friend to help you, and thread some twine through the mesh sides of the container. Take one end of the twine each and gradually lower the plant into position, before gently tugging the twine from the container.

Sue Sanderson T&M horticulturalist

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.

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