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By Daniela Rizzo

Having a pond is a dream for a lot of people- a corner of the world where enjoying plants, fishes, frogs, birds, and the amazing show of nature is an everyday occurance. For aquarium hobbyists, a pond is a natural progression, an outdoor extension of indoor aquaria. I’m a Central American cichlid lover, and in my tanks, I don’t keep a lot of plants. I limit myself to the toughest ones, such as Anubias and Vallisneria, but in my pond, I love to maintain all the plants that I can grow in it! Talking with other pondkeepers, I’ve noticed the problem is always the same: the lack of time. We all have to balance work, the family, sports, hobbies, walks with dogs, aquarium maintenance, etcr... Where can we find the time to dedicate to the pond and the energies to work in it, transplanting, fertilizing, and caring for the naughty rare tropical Nymphaea,  which doesn’t produce any leaves?

The answer is simple and obvious: Since the least exciting task is caring for pond plants, let’s choose species that are undemanding, easy to cultivate and readily bloom and reproduce. So if you don't have a lot of time, you should avoid exotic and delicate Nymphaea, or plants  that need to be winter- grounded. And to save time and have success in cultivating any plant, here are some useful tips:

Buy the plants only in the right season: if you’ve read (reading BEFORE buying  is a wise habit) that Sagittaria need to be planted in September, don’t do it in December!

When you arrive at home with the new specimen, usually sold in plastic pots, don’t settle them immediately. Take two or three days  to check if the chosen position is really  the best.

What are some hardy, easy-to-care-for species? Here are just a few:

Alisma plantago-aquatica (Alismataceae) is diffused in the European temperate zones. This bog plant offers a weak resistance to the intense cold. During the winter the aereal part disappears but in the early spring new leaves sprout again. You can plant Alisma in a mix of  coarse sand and soil at a depth between 5 and 25 cm,. Place the plant in a mid-sunny position, but possibly far from fountains, as strong surface movement can damage the leaves. To reproduce, you can subdivide the plants, paying attention to the roots.
  All Hedychium (Zingiberaceae) species originate from India and south-eastern Asia. They have beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers like orchids, but don’t tolerate temperatures below 7°C. Not real swampy plants, they can be settled on the banks in a rich soil. In the autumn, it is important to cut off floriferous stalks. These plants reproduce by stolons, but you can also divide the rhizome.
Hibiscus (Malvaceae). Many species belong to this genus, but some are too big for a pond, like H. syriacus. H. moscheutus (syn. H. palustris) is obviously the most suitable for a pond. Indigenous to south of the USA loves sunny places where grow up to 2.5 meters. The flowers are pink with a darker inner part. They remain open only during the day, but there are many flowers. The plant is in full bloom during the summer. H. coccineus comes from southern United States, and needs protection during the winter, otherwise the leaves will die. This plant has amazing buds that become beautiful big red flowers from July to September. If you want to reproduce Hibiscus, you can sow in the spring, but if you divide the plants in autumn, you’ll have a wonderful blossom next June. Cultivate them in a mix of soil and sand.

Hosta lancifolia (Liliaceae) is a perennial plant coming from China and Japan. This species is sought after for it's decorative green leaves. The plant loves shady places, but needs sun for several hours a day to bloom. You can plant Hosta in fertile soil in March or October. From June till September,  you’ll enjoy the graceful lilac flowers. Hosta rarely produces seeds, so to reproduce, it’s better to divide the plant.

Houttuyinia cordata (Saururaceae) comes from China and Japan and has very beautiful green leaves, red or white-edged. Strange for bog plants, Houttuyinia spreads a delicate scent that attrracts butterflies. In March or September, you can plant this species eight centimeters deep, laying the rhizome horizontally. During the summer, the flowers will bloom, but if the season is warm, we can have two flowering periods each year. This plant will reproduce without problems; you have only to wait. H. cordata can live in a shadowy corner of your pond, but to maintain the red leaf edge, it needs intense light, so let the sun shine directly on your plants.

Iris (Iridaceae). There are hundreds of species and varieties of IrisIris laevigata, Iris pseudoacorus and Iris kaempferi are suitable for ponds, where they live in 15 - 45 cm deep water. Iris kaempferi comes from China and Japan, is a strong plant, and during the winter, can live in dry soil. The flowers, which are white, violet, and pink, appear in June. The plant produces many stolons but if you want to reproduce Iris by seeds, you have to wait April. Remember: this plant doesn’t love hard, alkaline water or sunny places. Iris can grow up to 80 cm, and are perfect for a second border, planted in tuft.

Lysimachia nummularia (Primulaceae) This genus is distributed throughout Europe, America and Asia, where they colonize bogs and inundated  shores. L. nummularia can live in any position, but needs sun to produce yellow flowers. The leaves are rounded and lie on the water surface in “branches” long up to 40 centimeters. Don’t submerge Lysimachia, it lives well in very shallow water, at a depth of 5-10 cm. From May to September the plants bloom, in September you can divide the pot contents into new plants, using soil mixed with sand.

Mentha aquatica (Labiatae) is a perfect plant for every pond! You can cultivate this lovely plant for years without problems. During harsh winters, the leaves die but will spring up again durig the first warm days.This plant prefers shady positions,and if the sun is strong, the leaves become pale green. The little white or lilac flowers bloom from May to the end of  the hot season,  Mentha is quite hardy, and soon you’ll have new nice plants (without doing anything!) invading your pond.

Mimulus ringens (Scrophulariaceae) is found in North America, and is rather strong. This beautiful plant with small violet flowers thrives in shady positions and in shallow water up to 10 cm deep. It can reach 50 cm in height, and is a good plant for covering the banks and the edge of the pond.  In September, don’t forget to plant Mimulus. The next year, you’ll have many tufts of this plant to divide. Last year, I transplanted young Mimulus blooming plants during a hot July (no fun) and they continued producing flowers and new leaves without any trouble!

Pontederia cordata (Pontederiaceae) is found in the temperate zones of North America. This tall plant (up to 1 meter) is reccomended for a rather big pond,  where it prefers sunny places in warm, stagnant or low-current waters. You have to plant them at a depth of 20 cm maximum in a rich soil. From June to September, the flowers bloom. In April or May, you can cut the rhizome (always use a sharp knife to avoid mold and rot) and plant its portions in 6-7 cm deep water. If all goes right, the plant will produce many stolons. Pay attention if you keep turtles with this plant. Mine have eaten a 60 cm high Pontederia in only one day!

Sagittaria sagittifolia (Alismataceae) comes from Europe, but many other species of this genus live in America and Asia. This plant has big, ornamental, sagittated leaves (hence the name).When the water is deep, the submerged leaves are different, ribbon-like. In June, you can plant only young specimen while adult ones could be disturbed by sun and wind. During the summer the plant blooms, masculine flowers don’t ripen at the same time with feminine ones, to avoid self-pollination. The stolons of all species of Sagittaria carry small light-blue or green tubers (regarded as edible in Asia) in which the plant stores reserves of nourishing matter for the cold winter. To reproduce this species, you can subdivide the rhizome in March or cut off from the mother new small plants.

And now for the floating plants, to be successful with their cultivation we need warm air and water, low flow, and rich soil in the pond to release nourishing substances to the floating roots. Remember: goldfishes and turtles love small floating plants as meal.

Eichornia crassipes (Pontederiaceae) originates from Central America, but by now has infested warm water in all of the temperate world. In the wild Eichornia  creates floating islands that give harbour to thousand of fishes ( perfect plant for Cichlid lovers). This plant can live also in very shallow water with the roots in the ground. It rarely produces seeds,  but new plants grow during the summer when temperature reaches 25°C. If you haven’t success with Eichornia the main problem is the poorness of the water.

Pistia stratiotes (Araceae) is diffused through the temperate zones in all the world where the temperature flows between 20° and 30°C. Loves sunny and shady places but needs high water quality. If the velvety, nice leaves turn yellow, iron is needed. In the summer, Pistia will produce new plants.

Salvinia auriculata (Salviniaceae) native to Tropical America and absolutely wants sun, warm air and fertil soil. If the light is enough, the leaves crowd together, lifting their edges from the water similar in appearnace to an ear, hence the name auriculata. Salvinia reproduces by spores.

And now you have only to try  and enjoy your pond!

Pond Plants on WWM

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