Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Pond Maintenance

Autumn Pond Plant Chores

The seasonal change from summer to fall is apparent by the beautiful, multi-colored leaves and the dip toward cooler temperatures. How will that chill you feel in the air affect the plants in your aquatic paradise?

Hardy Marginals

As with terrestrial (plants outside the pond), perennial plants, dropping temperatures signal your hardy aquatic plants to prepare for their winter dormancy. At this time, you should stop fertilizing them as you see leaves begin to yellow and brown. It’s ok to leave these plants where they are in your pond to weather the cold of winter, just be sure to trim the dying foliage of your marginal plants down to 2” above the water level.

Tropical Marginals

Water gardeners who live in Zones colder than 8 or 9 (Mich igan is zone 5), will need to treat these plants as they would any garden annual by replacing them each season. A fun alternative to this is to treat them as tropical houseplants and bring them in for the winter. Most tropical marginals will do well potted in heavy garden soil in a sealed clay pot with no drainage holes. When kept wet, the plants will do well in a sunny window or sunroom.

Water Lilies

Water lilies will also begin to show their dislike for the cold with yellowing leaves and fewer flowers. When this happens, the leaf and flower stems of hardy water lilies should be cut back to about 2 to 3” above the base of the plant. If you have tropical lilies and you live in zone 5 like me and where freezing is likely, plants should be overwintered indoors. This can be a difficult task, therefore many gardeners choose to simply buy a new plant each season.


As with the marginals in your pond, the foliage of your lotus plants will need to be trimmed back after they have died back and turned brown. It’s important not to cut the leaves while they are still green because the freshly cut, hollow stems are susceptible to disease which can spread to the plant’s tuber, possibly killing the plant. Lotus tubers will not withstand freezing, so any plants that are growing in the shallow areas of your pond should be moved to the bottom, away from freezing water.
Caring for your aquatic plants in the fall will mean less work and healthier plants come spring. And if you live where it gets cold in the winter, use some of your tropical aquatics to water garden indoors!

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