INTRO TO WATER GARDENING
By: Nanette M. Winowiecki
Watergarden plants can provide many hours of enjoyment to an avid gardener or watergarden hobbyist. To be considered a watergarden or aquatic plant the plant must be able to grow in water. Watergarden plants are broken down into several categories: marginal or emergent plants, bog plants, submerged plants or oxygenators, floating plants, water lilies and lotus.
Marginal or emergent plants have their roots growing under the water and their foliage will emerge above the waterline. These plants are typically found growing in topsoil, clay-based soils, marshes and swamps. Examples of marginal plants include: Arrowhead, Bluebells, Cardinal Flower, Cattails, Papyrus, Pickerel Weed, Rush, Swamp Hibiscus, Sweet Flag, Taro, Umbrella Palm and Pennywort.
Bog plants, which are often confused with marginal or emergent plants, grow in x a distinctive type of wetland area with highly acidic soil. Because most man-made bogs do not properly simulate a true bog area, marginal plants are placed in a man-made ornamental bog area.
Submerged plants or oxygenators grow completely under the water. These plants are very valuable in creating a balance eco-system in your pond because they produce oxygen during the day and compete with the green water algae for available nutrients to help create a clear pond. Examples of oxygenators include: Cabomba, Hornwort and Anacharis.
Floating Plants grow on or near the water’s surface and have no attached root system. Examples of floating plants include: Water Hyacinth, Duck Weed and Water Lettuce.
Water lilies grow from the bottom of the pond where their roots are planted in a plant basket or planting pocket and the leaves and flowers grow up to the water’s surface where they leaves open and flowers blossom.
Lotuses are a very exotic tropical looking plants with large beautiful leaves and flowers, but they are actually perennials and hardy in Southeastern Michigan. They need to be grown in a large pot to protect the fragile tubers and can grow 2 to 5 feet in height.
When purchasing watergarden plants, there are several key questions to ask: Is the plant hardy or tropical? Tropical plants will need to be brought inside or placed in a greenhouse for the winter. Most hardy plants can handle winter. However, it should be noted that the term hardy could be misleading. You need to follow-up this question by asking, in what zone range is this plant hardy? We live in Zone 5, so plants with a zone higher than 5 will in all probability not weather well in a Southeastern Michigan pond. They will need to be treated as a tropical for the winter.
You should also ask how much sun the watergarden plant can handle or requires? For example, some watergarden plants require partial or full shade and this can be a problem if your pond is in full sun.
In you are interested in learning more about watergarden plants, I recommend reading Plants for Water Gardens – The Complete Guide to Aquatic Plants written by Helen Nash and Steve Stroupe or attending one of the Watergarden Plant Workshops held at The Pond Place.