You’ve been dreaming of a water garden, but can’t find a place in your budget for such a massive installation? Or you just don’t have the space? Well, here’s a water garden that won’t cost and arm and a leg, plus it takes up almost no space: a container water garden.
It can fit in anywhere, even on a balcony or terrace. In fact, even on a table! And all you need is a container without a drainage hole, a few pots of aquatic and marginal plants (raise the latter on inverted pots if necessary) and some floating plants. The final but invisible touch is to add one or two submerged aquatic plants, also called oxygenating plants. Their role is to filter the water and keep it clear.
The only maintenance for a container water garden is to add water when the level drops. You don’t even need a pump! There is probably no garden easier to maintain than a water garden in a container!
Any size container is suitable, from a kitchen casserole to a half barrel. Still, a larger container means you can add more plants and increases the design potential. Water depth too is of little importance: you can use a deep container or a shallow one, as long as it is deep enough so you don’t see the pots you place in it.
As long as water is about 40% covered in vegetation (floating plants multiply at an incredible rate, so you’ll reach 40% in no time), there will be no algae and the water will stay clear. Don’t put fish in your container garden, however: they dirty the water with their dejections and they will stimulate algae growth. Besides, container water gardens aren’t very fish friendly, as the water heats up considerably, causing the fish to suffer.
You’ll discover that flowering aquatic plants, including the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes, photo), bloom much profusely in a container water garden than in an in-ground pond. That’s because the water in a container warms up much more than pond water and warm water stimulates bloom.
Most of the aquatic plants you’d want to grow in a container water garden are of tropical origin and will not survive winter outdoors in a cold climate. Nor are they easy to keep indoors over the winter (floating plants, especially, need 12 hour days of strong sun to do well, not easy to replicate indoors during the short days of winter). So it’s usually best to consider container water garden plants as annuals and to buy new ones each year. I’m not saying not to try and keep them, just not to be disappointed if they don’t survive.
So, what are you waiting for? Nights have now warmed up in most climates, so it’s exactly the right time to start your container water garden. Just dig around in your attic for a suitable container and head off to your local garden center or water garden nursery for a few plants: you can have your summer water garden up and running in less than an hour!