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How to plant up your pond


There’s nothing like a garden pond for bringing a garden to life during the summer months and now is an ideal time to add new plants and stock-up with fish. Choose a mild, sunny day and the job will be a pleasure. Most pond plants are easy to look after, requiring only the occasional word of encouragement to look their best. However, if you pick a brute that’s too vigorous for your pond, you’ll spend all your time hacking it back. The secret of success is to choose a mixture of floating and submerged plants that are suited to the size of your pond. Marginal plants provide the finishing touch and an adjacent bog-garden should be viewed strictly as an optional extra.

Floaters and sinkers

As a rule of thumb, include sufficient floating plants to cover around a third to a half of the surface area of your pond. The floating leaves will help shade the pond in summer preventing the growth of algae that can turn the pond green. Floating plants include waterlilies, so you won’t need that many. In a small garden pond, choose well-behaved examples, such as ‘Rose Arey’ with rose-pink flowers, or the sumptuous plum-red blooms of ‘Black Princess’. In a really tiny pond, the dwarf form ‘Pigmaea Rubra’ is hard to beat for its sparkling, starry red blooms. Combine waterlilies with other orderly floaters, such as hornwort, water milfoil, water soldier and water hyacinth, but avoid the invasive fairy floating moss (azolla) or Canadian pond weed that would soon clog-up small ponds. Underwater plants help aerate the water and give fish and other water creatures somewhere to call home. One of my favourites is the water violet which has the unexpected bonus of floating to the surface as it comes into bloom – producing attractive lilac flowers during May and June.

Colourful margins

In the shallows along the edge of a pond you can indulge yourself by combining a range of flowering plants that like to have their feet permanently wet. If you take into account their flowering times, you will be able to have colour and interest throughout the summer. In deeper water you can include delights such as the sweetly fragrant water hawthorn with exotic-looking, orchid-like flowers.
Pond plants

Planting pond plants

In ponds with liners, marginal plants should be planted in special aquatic containers with micro-mesh covered, lattice work sides. It is also important to use special aquatic compost which releases nutrients slowly – this prevents excess nutrients leaching into the water, encouraging algae and turning the pond green.   
  • Position the aquatic plant so that it is at the same depth in the lattice basket as it was in its pot, then top up with aquatic compost and firm.
  • Cover the surface of the compost with a layer of washed gravel to keep the compost in place and prevent fish and other pond creatures from disturbing it.
  • Plunge the basket in a bowl filled with pond water until air bubbles are no longer coming from the compost. Then transfer the soaked container onto the marginal shelf of your pond.

Deep-water plants

Unless you own a pair of waders, positioning deep-water plants can be tricky. One method of doing so is to thread a couple of long cords through the mesh sides of the aquatic container. Then, with the help of a willing bystander, lift the plant and container by pulling the cords taught between you. Carefully, manoeuvre the container over the pond and lower it into position. Then pull out the cords from the safety of dry land.

Positioning waterlilies

Stand new waterlilies on bricks so that their leaves are just below the surface. Then, as the leaf stalks elongate, gradually lower the basket by removing bricks one at a time until the basket is on the floor of the pond. The other option is a bit more drastic; trim off the mature leaves and position the basket directly on the floor of the pond. The new leaves will then eventually grow up to the surface.