A simple container water garden offers an easy way to incorporate the beauty of aquatic plants to any size garden. Start by selecting an appropriate container without drainage holes. Look for a container that will hold 15 to 25 gallons of water and is at least 10 inches deep. Containers with a dark interior color will give the impression of depth and can also work towards limiting algae.
Remember, a gallon of water weighs eight pounds so you want to be sure your container is in place before you fill it. Also make sure the location you select for your container can support the weight. When looking for a good location for your container water garden consider sun exposure. Most aquatic plants require a minimum of 6 hours of full sun each day. Some bog plants can get by in a more shaded location if sun is limited in your landscape.
Before planting it is important to consider your water source. Many municipal water supplies contain chlorine. If you are using a city water supply, let the water sit for 24 to 48 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Some cities are using a more stable form of chlorine called chloramine. If this is the case, you will need to purchase a product from your local garden center or pond supply dealer that removes chlorine from the water. It is also important to avoid using water that is treated by a water softener.
Many types of plants can be grown in a container water garden and each serves a different function. Submerged plants are called oxygenators and help clean the water and supply oxygen. Plants that float on the surface provide shade which cools the water and also helps control algae. Other plants are selected for aesthetic reasons, such as those that emerge above the water surface. Several different plants can be combined to create a beautiful mixed container planting. Start with a focal point on the water’s surface such as a water lily, lotus or poppy. Add an emerging element such as an iris, arrowhead, elephant ears or papyrus. Incorporate a variety of plant forms and textures to create an interesting planting. Plan for plants to shade 50 to 60% of the water surface to help manage temperatures and algae.
Think of a container water garden as a miniature ecosystem. A balanced water garden ecosystem includes water, plants, and animals such as insects, fish or frogs. Add a couple fish such as mollies, guppies, goldfish or platys to eat mosquito larvae. Once you add water to the landscape, expect many new visitors. Watch for birds, dragonflies and frogs enjoying your new miniature ecosystem.