Consistent bad luck with water lilies/water gardens in general...


Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Hi everyone! I have yet to have a water garden with good growth from anything other than water lettuce (which grows like a weed), hornwort, and pest algae...everything else (including the water lilies) fares poorly or outright dies in my water gardens. I want to try water gardens again next year, and wanted some advice how to do better. Here are the specs for my planned water garden next year;

Container; A large resin pot that will be on my patio and that holds about 15 gallons of water. There would most likely be 12-14 inches of water over the crown of any water lilies present.
Sunlight: About 6-8 hours a day during the summer
Aeration: A VERY slow air line from an aquarium air pump, perhaps producing roughly 1-2 small bubbles a second. I want to oxygenate the water without aggravating any water lilies present (this would be the first time I tried to use any electrical equipment on a water garden). May add an air powered filter on the end...?
Planter: Likely a round container that holds about 2 gallons and which will be filled with 1-1.5 inches of a pool filter sand/top soil mix
Fertilizer; 1/4-1/2 water lily tab a week?

Anything I can do to improve this water garden? Except for the air line, all my prior water gardens have been similar to this and yet have fared poorly. Thank you :)
 
Last edited:
Ad

Advertisements

mrsclem

mrsclem
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Messages
3,230
Reaction score
2,811
Location
st. mary's county, md.
Hardiness Zone
7A
Country
United States
Water lilies can spread and need surface area for the leaves. the leaves will die if they dry out. I would not fertilize every week, maybe once a month but really think if you want lilies, your container needs to be bigger.
 

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Is there any particular reason adding all the fertilizer once a month would be better than adding it over the course of a few smaller doses?

Bummer about the container size...not sure I could get a bigger container (mom doesn't want me to use any animal watering troughs...only resin planters. I can understand and respect that, but it is undeniably limiting). I don't think this is what was giving me trouble in the past, though...the water lily leaves have consistently died faster than the plant could grow, rather than outgrowing a small container.
 
Joined
Jun 5, 2015
Messages
596
Reaction score
501
Location
Chicago (W suburbs)
Hardiness Zone
5b
Country
United States
Maybe you want to look at a lotus instead? They seem to do well in wet pots and will give you vertical height too.

Edit: I didn't catch that you had a pot inside the container. Why not just do whatever you do with some soil on the bottom and let the plant grow? I don't see the point of two pots in such a small container.
 

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Maybe you want to look at a lotus instead? They seem to do well in wet pots and will give you vertical height too.
I have thought about lotus...how would I overwinter them, though? I live in an apartment, so I cannot simply bury the pot outside...

EDIT: I can do that...it would certainly be simpler and would probably allow more soil space for the water lily or whatever winds up getting planted in it.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 28, 2013
Messages
8,670
Reaction score
9,311
Location
Northern IL
I feel your lack of success is directly related to the size of your container - these aren't really "water gardens". But if you choose plants which are appropriately sized, you will find more success. For example a teacup variety of lotus would do very well in your small container. Or, as @EricV suggested, add more substrate and plants things that need just a few inches of water, like a small papyrus with some small marginals.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
I feel your lack of success is directly related to the size of your container - these aren't really "water gardens". But if you choose plants which are appropriately sized, you will find more success. For example a teacup variety of lotus would do very well in your small container. Or, as @EricV suggested, add more substrate and plants things that need just a few inches of water, like a small papyrus with some small marginals.
I was using dwarf water lily varieties the whole time, though...Helvola, Perry's baby red, Colorata, what have you, usually in containers between 20-24 inches in diameter (I used much smaller containers this summer...I can understand why those didn't work). Always with the same outcome; they rot away faster than they grow leaves, and they (predictably) never bloom...I can't envision why using a container which is - at worst - only slightly too small would have such catastrophic results every time, especially when I see lots of similarly sized (and smaller) successful water gardens online (with thriving water lilies, no less).
 
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
532
Reaction score
398
Country
United States
Hi everyone! I have yet to have a water garden with good growth from anything other than water lettuce (which grows like a weed), hornwort, and pest algae...everything else (including the water lilies) fares poorly or outright dies in my water gardens. I want to try water gardens again next year, and wanted some advice how to do better. Here are the specs for my planned water garden next year;

Container; A large resin pot that will be on my patio and that holds about 15 gallons of water. There would most likely be 12-14 inches of water over the crown of any water lilies present.
Sunlight: About 6-8 hours a day during the summer
Aeration: A VERY slow air line from an aquarium air pump, perhaps producing roughly 1-2 small bubbles a second. I want to oxygenate the water without aggravating any water lilies present (this would be the first time I tried to use any electrical equipment on a water garden). May add an air powered filter on the end...?
Planter: Likely a round container that holds about 2 gallons and which will be filled with 1-1.5 inches of a pool filter sand/top soil mix
Fertilizer; 1/4-1/2 water lily tab a week?

Anything I can do to improve this water garden? Except for the air line, all my prior water gardens have been similar to this and yet have fared poorly. Thank you :)
I don't see why you can't do this. Lots of people keep water lilies in large pots. I would first make sure you are keeping hardy lilies and not tropicals. Given you live in zone 5, if tropicals are kept you will have to wait until the water temperature is consistently 70 degrees F and warmer otherwise. The fact that jumped out to me was the amount of sunlight. I don't think they are getting enough. 6 perhaps 8 hours of sunlight in the summer is not very much especially is if is only 6 hours. Also, consider having only a few inches of water over the plants until they get growing well. Use a brick or something underneath to get them closer to the water's surface. Just make sure the plants don't dry out. Just my two cents worth. I vote to try for it. No need to aerate unless you have some aquatic life in there which I don't recommend.
 

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
I don't see why you can't do this. Lots of people keep water lilies in large pots. I would first make sure you are keeping hardy lilies and not tropicals. Given you live in zone 5, if tropicals are kept you will have to wait until the water temperature is consistently 70 degrees F and warmer otherwise. The fact that jumped out to me was the amount of sunlight. I don't think they are getting enough. 6 perhaps 8 hours of sunlight in the summer is not very much especially is if is only 6 hours. Also, consider having only a few inches of water over the plants until they get growing well. Use a brick or something underneath to get them closer to the water's surface. Just make sure the plants don't dry out. Just my two cents worth. I vote to try for it. No need to aerate unless you have some aquatic life in there which I don't recommend.
Bummer on the sunlight bit...is that why my water lilies have consistently not done well? I've never had more sunlight at my disposal than that. A lot of online websites advertise water lilies that can bloom reliably in 4-5 hours of sunlight...is that just marketing hype? Are there any water lily-esque plants that would do well with the more limited sunlight? Most of the water lilies I have tried have been hardy varieties, though tropical water lilies have been equally unsuccessful for me. I'll try to elevate the water lily/similar plant next time until it is ready for the bottom.

I used similarly sized water gardens in the past for small, hardy fishes like paradise fish (which proceeded to spawn within days of being added), and if I attempt fish in this one I am going to most likely wind up using a pair of persian killifish, Aphanius mento, which are hardy from the low 90's to the high 30's fahrenheit. I wouldn't put a goldfish in such a small container, and I am not fond of gambusia due to the ecological damage that inevitably ensues when they escape into the environment.
 
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
532
Reaction score
398
Country
United States
Given your available sunlight, I would get the ones advertised for 4-5 hours, make sure they are hardy, and place them just inches below the water's surface. I grow all sorts of lilies like that in a 35-gallon porch pond and they do well. Keep them shallow. Another interesting option is to perhaps try an Echinodorus (Amazon Sword) in there too. They take off and grow emersed which is simply beautiful.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2017
Messages
1,611
Reaction score
1,777
Location
Ct
Hardiness Zone
6b
Country
United States
Get some yellow iris they are invasive and can grow in or out of the water in deep filtered sun light shade or direct sun if those fail time to try another plant
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Given your available sunlight, I would get the ones advertised for 4-5 hours, make sure they are hardy, and place them just inches below the water's surface. I grow all sorts of lilies like that in a 35-gallon porch pond and they do well. Keep them shallow. Another interesting option is to perhaps try an Echinodorus (Amazon Sword) in there too. They take off and grow emersed which is simply beautiful.
Will do! I was thinking of trying to grow some aquarium plants emersed anyway...how about a canna lily?

Get some yellow iris they are invasive and can grow in or out of the water in deep filtered sun light shade or direct sun if those fail time to try another plant
That would work...except that species is a banned noxious weed in my native state. Thanks for the suggestion, though.
 

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Hi again everyone! Here is a modified concept taking into account your input on my previous plans for next year's water garden. Here we go;

Container; This; https://webbsonline.com/Item/Laguna-Lily-Tubs-60977
This container is 19 inches in diameter and 9.5 inches high. I was going to fill it about an inch from the top.
Planter; None - I was just going to put about 2 inches of top soil/pool filter sand mix at the bottom of the above Laguna tub.
Fertilizer; 2 (?) water lily root tabs a month, depending on the size of the tab in question.
Sunlight: Still 6-8 hours a day (can't do much about that...)
Flora: Water lettuce (?), a dwarf hardy water lily (perhaps Perry's baby red?)
Aeration: None?
Setup; I was going to set the container up with soil a week before getting the plants and completely black it out for that week to weaken any algae in the water garden, during which time the container would be aerated with an air pump. When the plants arrive, the cover and air line would be removed. I may do weekly 1 gallon water changes at dusk depending on whether that is a good idea (I would not do them during the day due to the risk of disrupting CO2 levels and thus encouraging algae growth).

How does this sound?
 
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
532
Reaction score
398
Country
United States
I have to commend you for your research and enthusiasm! It looks like you are getting the 9 gallon container which is very nice for a water lily. I would skip the water lettuce because it is floats & explosively spreads and will block the sunlight from your lily. Or, skip the lily and only keep water lettuce. I think you will have better success if you skip the soil and put the lily in a basket full of pea gravel. Check this site for recommendations...some use cat litter etc. I use pea gravel mixed with Seachem Flourite and the lilies grow spectacularly. Put a brick or something underneath the lily basket to get the lily close to the water's surface. Aeration will help keep mosquitos away (not completely but will help). You really don't need it. Don't worry about disrupting CO2 as in a planted aquarium. Your lily will get unlimited CO2 once it sends up some leaves. Algae will be outcompeted by your lily and other plants.
 

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
Thanks for the additional input! Can I get a marginal plant (a canna lily, perhaps?) instead of the water lettuce assuming it will not severely shade the water lily? Could I simply use pool filter sand for potting both plants? If I do not have fish in this container (quite likely in view of its small volume and consequent instability outdoors) I will likely use mosquito dunks to deter the little biting creatures. The aeration is a temporary measure to prevent the substrate from going anoxic while the cover is over the water garden, thus prohibiting photosynthesis...it would be removed once the plants arrive.

Side note...water lettuce does well as an aquarium plant, at least in my experience. I have had much better luck with planted aquariums than I have with outdoor water gardens.
 
Joined
May 21, 2018
Messages
532
Reaction score
398
Country
United States
They grow in virtually anything (sand, mud, gravel etc.) but I found pea gravel and fluorite mix makes them really grow. I used fluorite simply because I had a bunch from planted aquariums and just used some of it. Cat litter works really well too. Just make sure it is pure calcified clay. There are plenty of people on this site who have all sorts of ideas and success so perhaps they will share their ideas. Add fertilizer. Most planting instructions say place them 12" deep but I found a little closer to the surface (initially) will get them started sooner. I've never planted Cannas in a container, only in larger ponds as a marginal. But why not try?
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Nov 28, 2017
Messages
1,598
Reaction score
1,105
Location
North Oklahoma
Hardiness Zone
7a
Country
United States
You might test your water, see if the ph is way high or low. If you’re on city water, you might be getting chemicals that are reducing the plant growth, just guessing. Try collecting rain water for your water garden, see if it helps.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joshaeus

Water hawthorn, Aponogeton Distachyos
Joined
Mar 8, 2016
Messages
157
Reaction score
28
Hardiness Zone
5
Country
United States
The PH has never been absurdly high or low, and my aquarium plants grow fine in the same water conditions.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top