Almost all water plants prefer a sunny location. Four to five hours (minimum) of direct sun is needed before most water lilies will bloom. It is also preferable to avoid overhanging tree limbs if practical since they can cause extra maintenance with dropping leaves and or branches.
If blooms are not a major concern, your water garden will adapt fine to any location with at least filtered sun. In fact, light shade during mid-afternoon is desirable during extreme heat spells.
Most aquatic plants are hungry feeders and appreciate a good supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. Unless indicated otherwise, Green Vista aquatic plants have already been fertilized when you receive them. A second application with a slow-release aquatic fertilizer tablet (we recommend Aquatic TabsTM brand) about July 15 will improve the performance of most plants, especially lilies, lotus and other heavy feeders. Waste from fish will provide supplemental fertilizer during the season. .
Any spent flowers and yellow leaves should be pinched off near the base of the plants on a regular basis. It is normal for water lilies especially to shed older leaves throughout the season.
Some submerged water plants (i. e. hornwort) do not produce roots and are simply weighted down to the bottom of the pond with lead weights or stones.. However, others (i.e. anacharis) need to be placed in a small pot with field soil or a mixture of sand and field soil (no potting soil) in order for them to flourish. The pots should be topped off gravel/stone etc., to prevent fish from digging into the pots and disturbing the soil. If the tops grow too large and come to the surface, they can be pinched off as needed to control their size. Please note that any potted submerged plants (such as anacharis) should not be fertilized since we want them to draw all their nutrients from the water.
Keep no more than 2 small (2-5”) fish in your patio garden. If you wish to keep more fish you will probably need to add a filter system to your garden. As they grow it may become necessary to find them a more spacious home. I would recommend common goldfish, black moors, or a variation on the common goldfish. Japanese koi are large growing fish that do not adapt well to patio water gardens.
It is best not to feed your fish in a patio garden on a regular basis so that they will scavenge on their own for natural food such as insect, algae etc. they will find in the pond. If you do wish to feed them, try feeding them about the same time 2-4 times a week but remove any food not consumed within 10 minutes. Do not be surprised if it takes your fish a few weeks to come to the surface at feeding time. Discontinue feeding if your water begins to clouds or if you suspect your fish are suffering from high ammonium or nitrite levels (test kits are available). Also, stop feeding whenever water temperatures drop below 45-50 degrees (usually about late-October in Ohio).
Pump & Filter Care
Your pump (if included) should run 24 hours to help keep the water well oxygenated. This is especially important during hot summer days. Your filter (sponge or lava rock) should be cleaned whenever water flow to the pump is noticeably restricted (generally once every 2-3 weeks). If your pump stops running or has a reduced flow, check all connections and for debris blocking the intake or outlet of the pump. It may be helpful to ‘reset’ your pump by allowing it to run dry for 5 seconds then returning it to the water.
Water temperatures above 85 degrees can be detrimental to fish and plants. During extreme heat spells (90 degrees +) it is best to partially shade your garden during mid-afternoon. Placing a few potted plants around the perimeter to shade the sides of the pot is also effective. A more permanent solution is to sink your garden into the ground or cut an insert into a wooden deck to lower the sides out of direct sun.
Your water garden may go through a ‘green pea soup” phase before your plants become well established. This is normal, harmless to fish and plants and will clear up as your plants grow and absorb the nutrients algae needs to survive. Do not drain your garden and put in fresh water, it will just repeat the same green water phase until a balance is reached. To speed clearing of the water add more competition for the algae (more submerged plants), discontinue feeding the fish and reduce the number or size of fish (fish waste is a natural fertilizer for algae).
The green film you may see form on the sides of your pot below water is normal, desirable and a sign of a healthy pond. Once balanced, your pond should remain clear enough to see to the bottom of the water garden. Any excessive string algae can be scooped out occasionally. We do not recommend any commercial algaecides for patio gardens. However, natural products such as Barley Bales (a natural algaecide) or beneficial bacterial products can help reduce the amount of algae. Tadpoles and snails (Trapdoor) may also help.
Trim back all hardy plants to about 3-6” after November 1st and then, ideally the entire pool is best moved to a location with natural light but where temperatures stay above freezing. An unheated Florida room or enclosed patio is a good choice.
The pump should be disconnected from any spouting ornament and placed about 4-6“ below the water surface so that the moving water helps prevent total freezing of the surface. Another option is to replace the pump with an inexpensive birdbath de-icer during the coldest winter months. Once the chance of prolonged freezing spells are past, you can move your garden to its summer location.
If you have tropical plants you can bring them indoors as houseplants over the winter or discard and replace them next spring. Another option is moving them to an unheated Florida room etc. that doesn’t freeze and using an aquarium heater set at 75 degrees, keep them through the winter. (In fact, an aquarium heater can prolong the growth and bloom of many tropical lilies till Thanksgiving (or later) in a bright, protected area!) Umbrella palms do especially well indoors over winter.
Tropical water lilies and floating plants are best replaced each year unless you have access to a greenhouse that stays 65-70 degrees through the winter. Any tropical plants you do wish to save be sure to move to a warm or protected location before the first frost. Floating plants killed by frost should be immediately removed so that they do not add to the plant debris in your garden. Tropical plants should not be placed back into the garden in the spring until water temperature reaches 65-70 degrees (usually about late May to June 1).
Once or twice a year you should give your garden a good cleaning. Early spring or late fall while you prepare your garden for winter are the best times. Drain your pond and place your fish in a separate container (of pond water), remove all plants and clean out any debris that has collected at the bottom of your garden. Refill your garden with fresh water and return all plants. Before adding back your fish, give them a chance to adjust to any change in water temperature and treat the water to remove any chlorine that may be found in tap water. We recommend a chlorine neutralizer for this purpose. Water can be added to replace evaporation as needed during the summer. Adding a couple inches of tap water weekly does not require use of a chlorine remover unless your water supply contains chloramines (usually found only in large cities).
Cleaning can be repeated any time during the year your water becomes “dirty” with floating debris or waste. However, with a proper balance and care it should not be required more than once a season.