Planting A Pond: A Beginner’s Guide Part 2

When Should I Plant My Pond?

People often contact us at Water Garden Plants asking if it is too early or too late to plant up their pond, but in fact you can plant up your pond at any time of the year. The optimum time for most plants is late winter/early spring, as this means that they go in their new pots with fresh soil and food just before they start to grow, so they get the most benefit from this. However, this is preferable, not essential, and it also depends on what qualities you have chosen the plant for. For example, if you have chosen a plant which flowers in very early spring, it may be better to get it planted up and established the previous autumn so that it is not moved and trimmed while the flowers are forming.

Floating plants are not usually available in the winter as they disappear down to small buds or shoots on the bottom of the pond and we don’t sell them as we think people might be disappointed with how they look. If you want these plants, you will usually have to buy them between April and September.

At Water Garden Plants, all of our plants are used to living outside in the British climate, and can be put into your pond at any time of the year.

How Many Plants Do I Need?

This is really up to you and your budget. If you add lots of plants and fill up most of the available space, your pond can look mature and established almost immediately, but you will probably need to start thinning some of them out within about three years. If you space them out more, it will take longer for your pond to look full, but it will cost less. Apart from running out of space, it’s not possible to add ‘too many’ plants. If you are trying to combat green water or blanket weed, add as many plants as you can, in order to really fight the algae.

How Do I Choose?

People often ask us what plants they should have for their pond. If you have fish, then having plenty of oxygenating plants and plants with floating leaves (such as waterlilies or Aponogeton, the water hawthorns) will improve the environment for them and also help significantly to combat algae and green water (which are much more common in fish ponds). In this case, try to have between one-third and two-thirds of the water surface covered with a mixture of oxygenating plants and floating leaves. But if you don’t have fish, then you can really choose whatever plants you like.

To make the pond look pleasing, you might want to consider choosing plants that give different colour flowers and/or flowers at different times of the year (Caltha for yellow flowers in spring, Lythrum for pink flowers in early summer, Pontederia for blue flowers in late summer etc). Foliage is also important – try to choose one or two things that are evergreen, such as Acorus, or Equisetum, so that the pond has some winter interest. For a balanced look, choose both tall slender plants and low bushy plants. If you are trying to hide the edge of the pond, choose plants with creeping stems, such as Menyathes trifoliata (bog bean) or Mentha aquatica (water mint). Plant heights, flower colour and flowering times are all given on our website on each plant’s page.

If you want to use plants to encourage wildlife, the single most important thing is to choose plants from each category so that you have a range of habitats within the pond – plants with underwater foliage, such as oxygenating plants, plants with floating leaves, and marginal plants around the edge. It is also helpful to emphasise British native plants, as they are overall more likely to be useful to our local wildlife.

If you specifically want to encourage dragonflies and damselflies, make sure you have some marginal plants with tall stems that the larvae can crawl up as they emerge from the pond before flying away. If you are interested in butterflies and bees, try to choose plants that are on the RHS ‘Perfect For Pollinators’ list, such as Lythrum salicaria (loosestrife) or Myosotis (forget-me-nots) – search this site using the keyword “pollinators”. Finally, try to place some of your marginal plants and marsh plants around the pond’s edge in such a way that it blends with the vegetation of rest of the garden, to give cover so that small animals can enter or leave the pond without coming out into the open.

About Water Garden Plants

Water Garden Plants supplies pond plants by mail order. The nursery is registered with the RHS Plant Finder as a specialist nursery. The nursery is run by Anna. Anna has worked professionally in the aquatic industry for over 25 years. She has authored or contributed to several books, written numerous magazine articles, and has consulted for international aquatic companies. She has a BSc and is also RHS qualified.
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