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Home > Types of Gardening > Water Gardening > Selection of the Spot & Plants
Selection of the Spot & Plants
Selection of the  PlantsPerhaps the most important consideration in water gardening is to choose the right spot. Most aquatic plants and fish need plenty of sun, so a site that gets 6-8 hours of direct sun is best. Choose a site away from tall shrubs and trees for best light and to prevent the accumulation of leaf debris.

Plan your water garden using some basic principles. Consider the size of your property and the ability to maintain the water garden. Small ponds are best for small properties. A container on a deck may be all that is needed and add just the right feature for your space. Features like waterfalls, rockwork, lighting and fountains depend on your budget, style of your landscape, and purpose of the garden pond.

When choosing aquatic plants, keep in mind that the plants should cover no more than 50 - 60 percent of the water surface. There are many types to choose from. Some are free floating while others are marginals to submerged. Selection depends on the size of the pond and the kind of look you want. Water lilies can add drama and fragrance even in small tubs. Some plants provide oxygen and help keep the pool healthy. Fish can be a beneficial addition, because they are good scavangers, cleaning up debris. They also can help control mosquito larva, and other insects.

All garden pools regardless of size will need maintenance throughout the year. With proper planning you can ensure a healthy balance between living and decorative features of a water garden that can almost care for itself with simple maintenance inputs from you.

You can keep a variety of fauna in your water garden. Often the reason for having a pond in your garden is to keep fish, often koi, though many people keep goldfish. Both are hardy, colorful fish which require no special heating, provided you live in an area which does not have extremes of temperature that would affect the fish. If fish are kept, pumps and filtration devices usually need to be added in order to keep enough oxygen in the water to support them.

Snails: Small aquatic snails are usually in ponds which have plants. Some people purchase Apple snails to keep in their water garden.

Frogs: Ponds located in suburban and rural areas often attract frogs and turtles, and the occasional snake.

Predators: Garden ponds can attract attention from predators such as raccoons, heron, snakes, and domestic cats. These predators can be a danger to fish. Owners of koi are often particularly upset by this as some varieties of koi can be very expensive.

Don`t be too eager to put your fish in the water as soon as you have the pond filled with plants. Wait four or five weeks for the water plants to do their thing before you add your fish. The idea is to let the plants first get established.

When picking your plants, you`ll no doubt be wowed by water lilies of the tropical persuasion. These aquatic wonders lord it over their hardier cousins with knock-out fragrance, big blooms day or night - depending on the variety - and a habit of blooming every day during the growing season. They love their warmth, though, so unless you live in a year-round, warm-weather climate be prepared to hasten them into a greenhouse. They will definitely bite the dust at freezing temperatures, but give them night-time temps of at least 65F and daytime temperature of 75 degree Farenhit or warmer, and your love affair with tropicals will only grow that much more torrid.

Hardy water lilies are also a good options. Their big advantage is that they can stay in the water year `round unless it freezes so deeply the rootstock is affected. And being the tough guys they are, you can plant these deeper than the tropicals, some living it up in depths of 8 to 10 feet.

Both hardy and tropical water lilies are real sun worshippers. At least 5 to 10 hours a day is what it takes, along with regular fertilization, to keep these plant happy. Almost every body with a water garden wants a lotus plant. These water-lily relatives come in hardy and not-so-hardy strains, so make sure you know what you`re buying. Much bigger than water lilies, lotus have huge, famously splendid blooms that not only will knock your socks off, but make you forget you have feet altogether. Their leaves and seed pods are so breath taking, they`re a favorite in costly cut-flower arrangements. Big, bold, and beautiful, with water-depth needs of 2-3 feet, these shouters are really better off in big ponds that get plenty of sun.

Marginals (sometimes called "bog" plants) are grass-like plants that strut their stuff in shallow areas no deeper than 6" that border the water garden. They also do well in mud. Cattail, bamboo, rush, papyrus, and many other plants fall into the family of marginals and grow best with a minimum of at least three hours of jolly old Sol.

Some plants are there but not seen, working stoically under water and without fanfare to fight algae, oxygenate the water, and provide food for fish. (In lieu of these plants, if your pond is small, you can fake it fairly adequately with an aquarium pump.) Easy on the wallet, varieties of these plants can be bought in bunches and like their soil sandy and/or gravelly. Like hardy water lilies, they, too, will warrior it through the winter.

Water hyacinths have become a recent rage, especially for the lazy among us. No soil is required for these beauties. Toss them in the water and they`re "planted." A water hyacinth ain`t just another pretty face, though; these plants do their part in the war against algae and blanket weeds by keeping sunlight scarce on the water`s surface. But one note of caution: This plant may take over the world if allowed. A water garden isn`t a garden without plants. Take your time, know your climate, and choose wisely. Your rewards will be great in return.
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