Water plants

Any expanse of water in a garden, however small, is greatly enhanced by a good selection of floating and marginal aquatic plants.

Plants add greatly to a pond’s decorative appeal and help create a healthy environment for fish. Aquatic plants are divided into four groups:

Marginals such as sweet flag grow with their roots below water level and their leaves above. They usually start growing in spring, provide a spectacular display in summer, and die back in autumn. Deep-water plants such as Cape pondweed are planted at a greater water depth. Their leaves usually float on the water surface.

Waterlilies are by far the most popular deep-water plants, and there are miniature varieties for shallow ponds. They are useful for shading the water, and their bold rounded leaves and perfectly formed flowers are one of the great joys of the water garden. Floaters such as water soldier float in the water, from which their trailing roots and foliage obtain nourishment. They have an important role to play. In a healthy pond, at least 60 per cent of the water surface should be covered with foliage in the growing season, to provide shade for aquatic wildlife and fish, and to discourage algae. Submerged plants (or oxygenators) such as hornwort grow beneath the surface of the water. They help to keep the water clear and provide food and cover for fish.

Aquatics can either be bought in containers or as bare-root plants. Container-grown specimens can go in at any time of year, but bare-root plants should only be put in during spring – at the beginning of the growing season.

Plant aquatics in a special crate or basket and lower this into position; use loamy soil or special aquatic potting compost, topped with a layer of shingle. Throw floaters straight into the water.

After planting, lift, divide and replant aquatics every few years, and fish floaters out with a net to thin out.

Aquatics are not very disease prone and, if you keep fish, pests should not present a problem.

Waterlily aphids sometimes attack the leaves. Wipe them off by hand or spray them with a garden hose – don’t use insecticides.

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