Lousiana Hybrid Iris

Bog plant: a colorful Lousiana Hybrid Iris “Black Gamecock”

There is nothing more refreshing than a water garden in the landscape. But some people do not have the time or the space to fuss with a pond or a bog garden. You can make a container water garden that is easy to care for, ornamental and will fit even on a patio or a balcony and still enjoy your own private water feature.

Just like creating a flower or vegetable garden in individual planters, you can use all kinds of containers whether they are pots, buckets, tubs or recycled oddities like an old sink or bathtub. Just make sure you use something that will look interesting and decorative and can hold water without leaking. If you plan to add fish, you will need to make sure you don’t use any material that could prove toxic. Some metals and plastics will leach into the water, polluting it.

Larger water gardens with fish should be equipped with some aeration like a fish tank system or a little, recirculating waterfall or water sprinkler attatchment to keep the water oxygenated. Unless you have a 1000 gallon container or larger, don’t try raising Koi fish, but stick to some of the smaller fish like mosquito fish or goldfish. (There are some very ornamental varieties of goldfish.)You could also keep small turtles in a larger garden offering them some decorative rocks for sunning. Any container garden with living creatures has to be set up wisely so the water does not become polluted. And you will need to check this artificial environment daily to keep it clean and functioning.

To make sure you don’t get uninvited mosquito larvae moving into your container garden water drop in a ‘mosquito dunk’ that will biologically keep mosquito eggs from hatching. Mosquito dunks are available from pond stores and many garden centers. Most fish will also eat the mosquito eggs and larvae – and most turtles will eat small fish. So plan your water population accordingly.

Then there comes the fun part; the plants. Use containers that are deep for growing miniature lotus and miniature waterlilies. Bog plants like Pickerel Weed and the showy Lousiana Hybrid Iris can be set in shallow water. And floating plants like duck weed, azolla or Parrot’s Feather will be fine anywhere. The floaters tend to multiply fast so you will likely have to keep them regularly thinned out.

Sun will encourage plants to flower, but it will also make green algae grow. The algae can clog your water garden and look unsightly. There are liquid additives you can buy to kill off algae or you can hand pull much of it to keep it under control.

Having a container water garden is fun for the whole family, soothing to look at, and makes a fine focal point for big and little landscapes alike.