Container Water Gardening

A seed of an idea

Words fight injustice and soften troubling times. They conjure emotion and inspire thought. Only the rarest word can stand alone. Many sit idly by, destined for phrases or speeches or poetry. The luckiest become a story, passed down through generations.

Plants are much the same, each with its own role in a garden. Specimen plants remain alone in their beauty. Others form a hedge, comrades at attention. Special plants become the liquid still life of a water container garden. At their most beautiful alongside others—tall, small, creeping, floating and climbing—they are thrown together in a mixture of colors and textures that wake up the most dormant of senses.

Container water gardens are magic, a miniature ecosystem of plants, water, and, for the boldest, fish. Each element becomes relevant, their interplay subtle but meaningful.

Begin with the container itself. From a plastic bin to a metal trough to a concrete bowl. Whatever style, whatever budget, there’s a perfect planter for the project. If it’s not in your basement, or your back deck, it’s on the shelves of the local supply store. Look for a manageable container that also allows for growth and flexibility—a container that holds roughly 15 or 20 gallons of water, give or take, will work.

Be aware of location—each gallon of water weighs roughly 8 lbs., an important factor. If the chosen container is made of wood, use a plastic liner. Wood has toxins that can ooze into the water and wreak havoc. Most aquatic plants need roughly 6 hours of sunlight—another consideration when choosing a location.

Which plants to choose may be the most personal aspect. Guiding principles to consider—integrate plants with contrasting shapes to create attractive compositions. Unpredictable combinations can be the most impactful. Think contrast. And don’t feel the need to begin with mature plants—with patience, seeds and bulbs will do.

Plants should remain in individual pots in aquatic soil, where they will derive most of their nutrients. But do remember to regularly add fresh water. Include bog, marginal, floating and submerged plants. Each have their role.

Pond pots also attract birds and butterflies—a bonus for nature lovers.

Plant Combinations to Consider

  • Horsetail & Creeping Jenny

  • Purple Water Lilies & Variegated Sweetflag

  • Chameleon Plant & Pink Water Lily

  • White Lilies & Variegated Cattails

  • Canna Bengal Tiger & Purple Pickeral Rush

While a container garden is sure to bring color and beauty to your landscape, make sure it doesn't bring mosquitos, too. Install a pump to ensure water circulates and prevents mosquitos from calling your water garden home. When choosing plants, take note: some are more compatible with moving water, others less so.

Container water gardens are a sort of artistic expression that allows anyone, living anywhere, with almost any budget, to create. It is often the first step to more ambitious projects and a lifelong passion for water gardening. Experiment, take risks, challenge and grow your personal style.