Water Gardening in Containers Saves Money and Labor

Water gardening is on the rise and many people are attracted to this type of activity. This can be done in established ponds or a large water garden can be fabricated on your property. However, if you don’t have a pond and the idea of building one doesn’t appeal to you, there is no need to give up the idea of having water gardens.

Water gardening in containers is a fun way to try out this form of gardening without a commitment of large labor and equipment costs. With only a container and a few plants, you can make a water garden that creates an oasis of calm on your porch or patio. By the addition of a Bamboo Water Spout you can add the sound of running water to add tranquility to the garden area.

Choosing a Container for Your Water Garden

Color is important when choosing a container. Containers with interior colors such a black, brown and dark green are recommended. There are several reasons for this choice. Darker colors discourage algae from forming. If you do have algae growing in your container, it will be less obvious in the darker colored interior. Darker colors also give the impression of greater depth as you can’t see as clearly to the bottom of the container.

Notice that I mentioned darker interiors. Choose any colors that are pleasing to you for the exterior as long as the color doesn’t detract from the beauty of your plants.

A large surface area is important, which is why a round shape is often chosen over a long narrow area. A container with a capacity of 15-25 gallons is a good size and it should have a depth of at least 12″. Some choices for containers are wooden whiskey barrels, old bathtubs, or ceramic sinks. Plastic commercial forms are available and you might even consider a plastic kiddie pool.

Clay and ceramic pots are also suitable for planting water gardens. If you use clay pots, be sure to fill them with waterand leave them to soak overnight before planting and be sure they are throughly saturated. Otherwise, they will be absorbing water from the soil, your plants will suffer, and you will be constantly refilling your container until the pot has absorbed all the water it can hold.

Whatever type of pot you decide to use, be sure it is throughly cleaned with hot, soapy water before you begin planting your water garden. Seal containers on the inside with a concrete sealer, spray urethane, or mastic sealer (used to seal aquarium tanks). Plug any holes in the bottom of the container using a waterproof adhesive and callk with silicone.

Preparing a Wooden Barrel for Planting

Whiskey barrels are meant to be watertight since they are made for the storage of liquids. However, since they have been cut in half and stored in garden centers, the wood has shrunk and must once again be made to hold water. Because whiskey barrels create attractive water gardens, here are some hints on making them watertight and suitable for an aquatic garden:

Fill the barrel with water to swell the wood and seal the joints. Keep topping off the water for a few days until the barrel no longer leaks. For barrels in good condition, this should be all the treatment necessary.
If the barrel continues to leak, empty the water and allow the barrel to dry again. When dry, fill the joints with mastic sealant. This is a sealer used in aquarium tanks and is available where aquarium supplies are sold. When the sealant is dry, repeat step one.
When all else fails, line the barrel with a rubber pool liner, using a rubber adhesive around the rim to seal the edges.

Locating Your Garden Container

Since these water containers are heavy, you’ll want to locate your water garden before assembling. Choose a site away from overhanging trees that might drop leaves and debris into your water garden. The location should have at least six hours of sun a day, which is the requirement for blooming aquatic plants. Less sun than that will affect the blooming ability of your plants.

Be sure to locate the container in a stable area that can hold the weight of the completed garden.

Choosing Plants for Garden

It is important to consider both the ornamental qualities and the practicality of each plant when deciding upon which plants to use in your container garden. You will need a combination of plants that will oxygenate the water, help keep the algae cleared, and balance the water garden’s ecosystem.

The number of plants you can use will be determined by the size of your container. As a rule of thumb, the plants should cover no more than 2/3 of the water’s surface. Do not overcrowd your container as good air circulation is important for growing healthy plants. Water plants grow quickly, so be sure to allow for growth of new plants when planting your water garden.

Grow at least one floating-leaved plant such as a water lily or water hawthone. The leaves will cover some of the water surface and prevent the buildup of algae.


Choose some Oxygenating plants and also some Floaters to balance out the ecosystem of your aquatic garden.

Aquatic plants come in both flowering and foliage varieties. Flowering plants come in every color and have various blooming times. Foliage plants add height and textural interest to your garden. They are available in greens, browns, and metallic shades of copper and bronze. Many are also variegated.

Lotus are good aquatic plants to grow in a container. Dwarf cattails, dwarf baby tears, dwarf water lilies and umbrella palms are all good choices for a container planting. More and more aquatic plants are becoming readily available to the home gardener. Check this listing for dwarf species of water plants suitable for container water gardens.

Whatever plants you decide on, examine the plant to be sure it’s healthy and free of diseases and insects. Remove the plant from the pot and check the roots. They should be firm and white. Bulbs should be full and firm. Avoid bulbs that are soft and shriveled.

Make sure plants stay wet or damp during the journey home; do not allow any part of the plant to become completely dry. Plants can be wrapped in damp newspaper and placed in a plastic bag or styrofoam cooler to keep damp and cool for the trip home.

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