Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to Grow Pond Plants in the Shade

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Pond plants typically grow best in full sun, but what do you do when you have a pond in a shady area?
There are many plants you can grow in a shaded pond, but if you are looking for flowering plants your options are limited. There are a few things to consider before chosing your plants...

Shaded Ponds
A good rule for any pond in limited light is choose plants that are cold climate hardy for zones 3-6. Plants that are hardy for colder climates do better in complete shade. You can grow water lily and water iris in the shade, but they may not bloom.
Plants that grow well in shaded ponds:
Cattail, Rush, and Reeds
Red Stem Parrot Feather

Water Clover
Water Hawthorne (picture above)

Partial Sun Ponds
I have a very successful pond located in filter light under an apple tree. The same "complete shade" rule applies for filtered light ponds. Choose plants that are zoned for cold climates 3-6. Depending on how much sun your filtered light pond receives, you might be able to grow blooming pond plants.
The plants in my partial light pond grow very tall, because they are stretching up toward the light. This made for some very unusual water hyacinth this year, that looked more like pickerel rush. It is also important to remember to add a professional grade fertilizer, such as Highland Rim; which promotes healthy growth and flowers too. I have used several different kinds of fertilizer and found this is the absolute best to use.

Plants in My Partial-Sun Pond:

Water Lotus - Water Poppy
- Water Hyacinth
Primrose Creeper - Water Mint - Pennywort

Fairy Moss - Pickerel Rush

Red Stem Parrot Feather (left)

Morning Light Ponds
Pond that only receive morning light will probably not produce flowers. Most pond plants require 4-6 hours of sunshine per day in order to produce flowers. If you want to grow water lily, a good choice would be the night blooming tropical water lily. You can grow water hyacinth and water lettuce in morning light ponds in the summer season.

Morning Light Pond Plants

Frogbit (picture above)

Red Stem Parrot Feather

Grasses, Rush, and Reeds


Water Mint

Fairy Moss

.More Partial Sund Pond Plants: For a complete list of partial sun plants with pictures available see: Cold Climate Plants zones 3-6. Some plants are available all season long (such as pennywort and water lettuce). Others are available starting every February and March.

Contact Me for more information at:

Your comments below are always welcome!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Start Parrot Feather Indoors

Parrot Feather is a wonderful fern-like pond plant that resembles a parrot's feather. It grows long stems that can reach 2-3 feet long. This is a cold climate pond plant, growing zone 6. Parrot feather can be planted in a shallow bog in-soil or can free float. After establishing, it will resemble a tiny forest in your pond. It is a perfect container pond plant and looks lovely in bathtub ponds too.
Starting Indoors

What You Need

1. An aquarium with fresh water.
A pump and filter is not needed.

2. Goldfish, Guppies, or Minnows.
Do not add any fertilizer or other chemicals. The fish will act as natural fertilizer for the plants!

3. A sunny window

4. A florescent light or Aquarium Light

Parrot Feather is simple to start and propagate indoors. This aquarium is actually filled with baby water lotus, floating frogbit, and parrot feather too.

Other plants you can start this way are primrose creeper and frogbit!

. . .
1. Place aquarium in a sunny window. Fill with fresh water and at least 2 fish. Do not add too many fish as they will compete for food and may eat your plants!

2. Peal the leaves off the parrot feather. This will promote new growth and roots. But, do not peal back the parrot palm on the top.
3. Break the parrot feather stems into 4" sections. Allow the stems to float. The palm-top stem will grow new roots, and the other stems will grow new roots too.

4. Hang a florescent light directly over the aquarium close to the plants. Light each day for at least 4-8 hours per day.

.....After 1 Week: You should begin to see new roots appear.

.....After 10 Days: You should see new growth appear!

A Great Head-Start on Spring
While everyone else is scrambling for a beautiful pond in the springtime, yours will be all ready to go! Other plants you can propagate indoors are: water lotus, frogbit, water lettuce, and water hyacinth too.

Find out more about wintering over ponds and pond plants at:

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to Move Pond Fish

What a great topic! This was inspired by my Facebook friend, Anja.

Moving to a new home is always a huge chore and is especially challenging when you own large fish. This is how I moved my koi from Northern California to Southern California... about a 7 hour trip:

.What You Need

1. A 30 gallon clean rubbermaid tub with lid

2. Stress Coat

3. Water

4. An aquarium bubbler with air hose (aquarium pump)

5. A 50 watt or 100 watt power inverter

6. A large fishing net and extra help!

1. Placed the fish in a clean 30 gallon Rubbermaid tub filled with water. A clean ice chest will also work. Make sure no chemcials were used to store in the container or used to clean the container.

2. Add stress coat drops. This can be purchased from any pet or fish store.

3. Set up an aquarium bubbler with an air hose to add oxygen to th
e water. Make sure the air hose is secure and the hose remains submerged in the water. Check the line every few hours to make sure the air hose does not slip out of the water.

4. Cover container with the fitted Rubbermaid lid.

5. Plug a power inverter into the car cigarette lighter and plug in the electric bubbler. I purchased my converter from Radio Shack.

6. When you drive, be careful of bumps and turns... drive carefully and your fish should do just fine!

Just a Note: Koi are very strong creatures. If you are moving large koi you will need a large fishing net and at least 2 people to move the fish. They will struggle and fight as you transfer them over to the container and then back again to their new home. Between me and my husband, it was a BIG task trying to move Champlain the Koi.
Find more cool pond articles and how-to tips on my website:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brian's Tahoe Greenhouse

This is my friend, Brian, in South Lake Tahoe, Northern California. Tahoe is located at 6,200 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Zone 6-7. Temperatures in the summertime can get down to 32 degrees! And, it is known to snow in Tahoe any month of the year. But this doesn't stop Brian. His tomato plants now grow strong inside his greenhouse. The inside is heated with Christmas tree lights. The frame is constructed with branches from local area trees. The siding is 6 mil thick clear visqueen plastic; which is stiff plastic sheeting used to insulate windows. One side of his greenhouse is on hinges that open like a door. This is certainly an attractive greenhouse, Brian!

Growing in Subfreezing Temperatures:

You can grow a water garden even if your climate zone experiences subfreezing winter temperatures; such as 10°-20° Fahrenheit, zones 3-7. The growing season can be short and in some areas is only 2-3 months out of each year. Shopping for plants can be frustrating. "Will these plants grow in my area?" is often asked. The answer is as simple as looking up your growing zone number. Zones 4-8 typically receive snow and long freezing winters. Zones 9-10 are mild and rarely receive severe cold weather. Make sure you purchase the right plants for your local area. Check your zone number and then check the growing zone listed on the plant you wish to purchase. ((read more))

Monday, November 22, 2010

How to Protect Your Winter Garden

What is a Grow Zone? And which plants should I cover up?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture set the U.S. Growing Zones. It is a weather measurement that tells your average area winter low. If your grow zone is a low number (such as 5-7), then you live in an area that receives severe cold, ice, and snow during the wintertime. If your grow zone is a high number (such as 9 and up), then you live in an area that receives minimal freezing temperatures.

Nearly all areas in the United States receive some freezing temperatures. And, there are simple steps you can take to protect your garden plants. It can be as simple as throwing a sheet or plastic tarp over plants or building a simple and affordable
Hoop House.

Which Plants Should I Cover?
Know your plant zone. It is important to know how much cold your plants can tolerate. Look for the plant hardy zone listed when purchasing at the nursery or online. As a general rule, plants with small leaves (such as grasses and rush) are cold tolerant plants. Plants with large flat leaves are tropical or warm climate plants (such as banana plants and water lily). However, many varieties of water lily have large broad leaves and are hardy down to zone 4. Check your plant hardy zone to see if it matches your area climate zone. Remember, many cold climate plants will grow in warm climate areas, but warm climate plants will not survive outdoors in cold climate areas. When in doubt, cover it all!

What kind of plastic should I use?
Zones 9 and Hotter: If you live in mild climate zone 9 and up, your average winter cold temperature is about 30 F. 2 mil. thick plastic sheeting will work for you. It is just enough to keep the frost and freeze off of your plants. Zone 8 and Colder: If you live in zone cold climate zone 8 down to zone 4, then your average winter cold temperature is is 10 F down to -30 F. Special care is needed for your plants in these climate zones. Some plants may need to be wintered over indoors. Other plants will survive outdoors. 6 mil thick plastic sheeting for climates with subfreezing temperatures. In severe cold, insulating between 2 layers of plastic with 1" size bubble wrap is necessary. Building a small structure over your plants is better than simply draping the plastic sheeting over your plants. Articles 'Gardening in Alaska' and 'Gardening in Nebraska' will give you some helpful and affordable ideas about how you can keep your plants year-round.

Protecting Your Banana Plant
How do I protect my banana plant from winter cold?
Cold Climates: If you live in areas that receive winter snow, cut your banana plant down to a stump and cover with mulch and plastic. The roots can also be kept warm by stringing regular LED Christmas tree lights on the ground and under the tarp. For example: I know several grower who grow banana plants successfully in Columbus, Ohio Zone 6. If banana plants can grow in Ohio, then they should also grow in ski resort town South Lake Tahoe, California which is also Zone 6.
A key to keeping your outdoor plants alive is:

Red Banana
This is my potted red banana plant. Because I am in zone 9, all that is needed for plant care is to trim back the dead and damaged leaves and cover with 2 mil. thick clear plastic sheeting.

Trimming the Leaves:
When your banana plant leaves begin to turn brown, trim off the old leaves. Allow a few leaves to remain. If you end up having to trim your banana plant all the way down, it will grow back again in the springtime.

Don't Forget the Aloe Plant

Aloe Plant:
Last year I forgot to cover my aloe, and all of the tips fried in the cold freezing night. If I covered it with a bed sheet or plastic, the aloe would have been safe.

Frost bitten aloe...
Will recover, but will never look the same again. The brown dead tips have been trimmed off, but one year later the damage is still evident.

Water Canna
Water Canna is very hardy. Similar to banana plant care, this canna plant is ready to be trimmed back to a stump and then covered with mulch.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Build a Closet Door Pond

If I can do this so can you! You can build an above ground pond out of all sorts of things. This above ground container pond was made out of old closet doors.
I had an old storage closet that I turned into a pond.


The project turned out pretty nice, but then I thought...
What do I do with the doors?


All I needed was a power drill and some screws.

8 Corner braces.


4 Straight braces for extra support.


And a utility knife. The utility knife was used to score the doors so the screws would easily screw into the plastic.

4 mil. or 6 mil. thick black plastic tarp and a pair of scissors.

I also used a marker pen to mark where I needed to drill. The corner braces were not exactly square or a perfect right angle and neither were the doors. But that was ok, because this was just a frame. Small imperfections would not be visible when it was all put together.

Here is how the frame looked when it was all put together. The frame is 5' 4" long by 2' 8" wide.


Here is the end result! It was very easy to make.
The plastic is simply draped inside the pond and over the edge. I could have trimmed off the extra tarp material on the ground, but chose to leave it instead. Then I took extra potted plants and placed them next to the pond on top of the tarp. I only purchased a few pond plants. Others were extra that grew during the season or plants I picked up for free from the city plant swap. My next step is to add fish and a fountain! I would like to see pics of your pond projects too. Happy Ponding!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Have Koi & Pond Plants in the Same Pond


Koi and Pond Plants
There are 2 types of aquatic gardens, a koi garden and a water garden that is just for pond plants. If you plan to have koi in your pond, count on not having any plants. Commonly known as "water hogs", Koi are curious creatures and will eat the roots right off of floating water hyacinth and water lettuce. They will also chew the stems off of water lily right down to a nub. Although young yearlings may not harm your plants, mature koi will devastate your garden investment.

Can I have both koi and pond plants?
It is possible to have both koi and pond plants in the same garden, but it takes some planning and design. This is what the nursery at
Seaside Gardens have done, see video. On one end of the pond they have their koi. The other side of their pond has a wall made of large river rock under the water making a barrier to keep the koi away from the plants. Plants can also be grown on a floating island or on shelves at the edge of the pond. I do not recommend netting to protect the plants as the fish may become tangled in the netting.

Another way to keep koi and pond plants in the same pool...
Water Hyacinth and Water Lettuce will not hurt your koi. These plants are actually used as cattle feed in some parts of South America. I have also known some gardeners that eat water hyacinth and water lettuce. I do not recommend it, because the plants are bitter. If you want to have plants in your pond with koi, I recommend that you grow your water hyacinth and water lettuce in a Rubbermade tub. They grow quickly enough that you can replace the plants the fish will nibble on.

What do I do with the old pond plants?
The old plants are a good additive to the mulch pile and are full of absorbed nutrients from the fish excrement, also known as fish emulsion - a water hyacinth and water lettuce are natural "fish" fertilizers which is very expensive to buy!

What kinds of fish will not harm my pond plants?
Yes! The common feeder gold fish will not harm pond plants. They come in a variety of colors and grow to about 5 inches long. They will also live for about 8 years. I rarely feed my goldfish and they do just fine. With water hyacinth in the garden, your gold fish will even have babies by laying their eggs in the thick water hyacinth roots. Other fish that do well in the pond are catfish and bluegill.

How to Transplant Artichoke Plants


Artichokes often die back at least 2 times during the season and produce a new pup. They will also produce new pups when the "mother" plant is still large.
Facebook friend, Maureen asks... Hey Gail.....may I pick your brain for a second? We have several artichoke plants growing at the base of last years dead one....can I dig those up and transplant them elsewhere? Should that be done now?
Hi Maureen - I would carefully dig them up before they get too big. A good time to dig up artichoke pups is in the early spring and late fall. Dig wide around and well under as to not disturb the roots. Make sure the soil is good and wet to make it easier for removal. Plant them in a pot first with Miracle Grow soil. Water moderately. Do not soak. Keep the plants in the shade for 1 week to 10 days. Then try to move the plants out into the sun. If they tollerate the sun and the heat, then they are ready to plant into the ground.

See artichoke care at:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Water Gardening in New York City

You Can Water Garden
◄ This simple pond in New York City contains white hardy water lily and papyrus plant. Pond plants are not just for a tropical environment. You will be amazed with the wide variety of plants that you can grow even if you live in a cold winter climate. If you live in New York City, you can grow a delightful water garden.

Just add sunshine and water...
Create a home oasis with the soothing sounds of bubbling water and the peaceful sight of colorful fish and blooming lilies right in the middle of New York City. Just add sunshine and water and you will have the elements needed to create your own personal pond. You can build an above ground pond either on a roof top or on a balcony. All that is needed to grow the plants are water and 6 hours of sunshine per day.

What kind of pond plants can I grow?
Pond plants are not just for a tropical environment. You will be amazed with the wide variety of plants that you can grow even if you live in a cold winter climate. New York City is located in growing zone 7. This is the same winter climate as South Lake Tahoe, California - located in Northern California at 6,000 feet. The 3 hardy plants that will grow in this climate zone are:
Hardy Water Lily, Anacharis, and Cattail. There are over 65 varieties of plants you can grow in New York City that will last through the wintertime.

All plants can be purchased from my online store or email me:

Where do I find fish if I live in the city?
Fish are absolutely necessary for mosquito control and to balance the ecosystem inside the pond. Some city and urban areas do not have pet stores. However, fish can be purchased by mail order or online. Gold fish will grow up to 6 inches. I recommend common goldfish, fancy goldfish, or the calico shebunkin. I do not recommend koi, as they will eat your plants.

No Yard Required

Ponds can be above ground or in-ground. They can be very large (like a small lake) or very small (such as a wine barrel). In New York City it can be a challenge to find gardening supplies. When pond containers, liners, and wine barrels are hard to find - a large 15 gallon plastic utility tub and even a child's hard plastic wading pool will work nicely to create a sweet water garden.

My kiddy pool pond. This hard plastic child's wading pool is overgrown with water lettuce, water hyacinth, parrot feather, and dwarf papyrus. Just add water, plants, fish, and sunshine.

How do I Care For My Pond in the Wintertime?
Plants such as water lily will go dormant during down to their tubers and roots, but they do come back in the springtime. When the weather warms back up, contact me and I will send you the best acting fertilizer you can buy. Other plants (such as water iris, primrose creeper, cattails, rush) will also go dormant and come back as the weather warms. A simple dome greenhouse or hoop house can be made to help your plants and fish through the cold season.

Hoop House
A hoop house is very easy to build with PVC pipe and 4 mil. thick plastic sheeting. An easy way to insulate a hoop house is with a layer of 1" bubble size bubble wrap in between 2 sheets of 4-6 mil. thick plastic. All supplies can be purchased at any major hardware store. If you do not have the convenience of a hardware store, the supplies can be purchased online through This type of greenhouse is good for mild climates where plants simply need to be protected from frost. A large aquarium water heater will help keep the water above freezing. Circulating the water with a pump will keep it from icing over. And stringing large C-7 or C-9 Christmas tree lights inside the hoop house will raise the air temperature by 20°.

See: How to Build a Cold Frame
A cold frame is actually a mini greenhouse built low to the ground. This cold frame is for a vegetable garden, but you can make one that will also work nicely for a container pond. Cold frames should be south facing with the top at a 40° angle. Materials used are old windows or clear Plexiglas. The advantage of the cold frame over a hoop house is that it can be heated with a conventional heater. Large Christmas tree lights also work well to raise the air temperature by 20°. This type of cold frame will work for climates with an average winter temperature of 30° Fahrenheit.

Cold Climate Pond Plants
What kind of plant grow in cold climates? What kind of greenhouse should I build? How do I heat a greenhouse? There are over 60 plants that you can grow even if you live in Nebraska or New York. Read about the pond plants that you can grow in a cold climate including pond plant pictures. Learn what kind of greenhouse to build and how to winter over your plants!
Find out more!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Make a Cheap Storage Closet Pond


At the end of the season, I had too many water hyacinth and water lotus. Not wanting to throw them into the mulch pile, I decided to make a new pond.


I happen to have a plastic storage closet that I was ready to chuck. This gave me an idea! I popped off the shelving and the door.


Then I filed down the rough edges from screw holes and removed any screws.


xxxI found a nice sunny place and laid the storage closet on its backside.


Then I lined the closet with 4 mil. black plastic sheeting and cut it to size.

In the process of helping my husband line the new "cheap" pond, I stepped over a pile of lumber and stepped down on a huge nail! I learned my painful lesson, DO NOT wear crocks in a construction area!



.A day and 1 hospital visit later, I hobbled out to the pond and finished the job. It looks great! All I need to do is add some goldfish or minnows for mosquito control and I'm all set. In the cold winter months, I will attach clear plastic sheeting to the fence to protect the plants from frost. I can also lower the water level and drape the sheeting right over the pond for protection.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Grow Water Lotus from Seed

Water Temperature
Growing water lotus from seed is easier than you might think. Water lotus seed should be started in the late springtime when the water temperature is at least 70° F warm.


STEP 1 - Where to Buy Seeds
Water Lotus seeds can be purchased on eBay. If you purchase on eBay be sure to purchase from a seller inside the United States. American seeds have a higher germination rate. Most eBay seeds come from Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. From my experience, half of these seeds end up being duds. I call them "floaters" because that's all they do... float and then rot.

Buy American
It is possible to get FREE WATER LOTUS SEEDS from the Garden Web online. All you need to do is pay for shipping. Make sure your seller is actually a water gardener with American grown seeds. I say this, because seeds from Asia have been on the shelf for an extended period of time and their germination rate is low. Also, there is a good chance that although your seller might be from the United States that he/she could have purchased imported seeds. Contact me for more American sources for seeds:

What to look for when shopping for water lotus seeds

1. Look for the lotus "crown" in the picture if possible. This will let you know if the seller knows the difference between a water lily and a water lotus. (see pic on left)

2. If picture has a flower and leaves floating on the water surface then it is NOT a water lotus plant. It is a water "lily" plant. If the picture does not appear to be a lotus but a lily plant instead, then the seller does not know his/her plants and probably buys in bulk from Asia.

3. If the ad states that you will receive 100 seeds for a low dollar amount, then it is NOT water lotus seeds.

STEP 2 - Preparing your Water Lotus Seeds
The weather and water temperature is warm and you are ready to plant your water lotus seeds. The first thing you will need to do is to scar your seeds. This involves filing off the pointy tip of the seeds down just 1 layer. I use a large 12" metal file - which seems to work best and is the easiest method. Scarifying the lotus seed is important, because the seed will not grow otherwise and will possibly rot. After the seed has been scarred, soak the seed in a tall container of water - such as an empty clean plastic soda bottle. Change the water daily until you are ready to plant your water lotus sprout.

STEP 3 - Day 1 to 3
After the first day of soaking your water lotus seed, it can swell to almost twice the size and resemble a black olive.

STEP 4 - Day 4 to 5
On Day 4-5 you should see some green growth sprouting from your water lotus seeds! Continue to change out the water each day, but be careful as to not disturb the growth. Continue the process until your seedling is about 6 inches long.

STEP 5 - Day 12
Pick a Pot: A no-holes 3-5 gallon lily pot is the best choice. You can also use a black 3-5 gallon bucket. Black is important, because it helps to retain heat and helps to keep the seedlings warm.

STEP 6 - Planting Outdoors
By this time your water lotus seedling should be large enough to plant outdoors. You must wait until the weather outside is warm and the water temperature is at least 70°. It is possible to start water lotus seeds indoors in an aquarium located in a sunny window. Only use small minnows in the water as gold fish will eat young sprouts.

STEP 7 - Anchor the Seeds
Before planting the lotus seeds, it is a good idea to form an anchor so they will not float to the surface of the water. This is easily accomplished by wrapping regular modeling clay lightly around the seed. Do not use Play Dough. Modeling clay that does not dry out (the kind that comes in a brick) should be used. Gravel can be used over the top of the soil medium, but it is not as effective.


STEP 8 - Potting
Planting medium should be 2 parts regular clay soil mixed with 1 part river sand. Do not use concrete sand. Lotus needs little soil to grow. Allow for about 6 inches deep of loamy soil. Carefully lower the pot into shallow water no more than 18" deep. I grow mine in 6 inches of water. In cold weather zones, deeper water might be necessary for frost and freezing control.


This is how your baby water lotus will look once it is planted. The large round leaves are the lotus. The small are frogbit.

STEP 9 - Fertilize After One Season
Do not fertilize during the first year of growth. No matter how good of a fertilizer you have, this will fry the tender sprouts. There is enough in the large seed itself to sustain healthy growth for the first season of growth. During the second season, fertilize with a good quality "water lily" fertilizer tab.

This is a pic of a second season lotus that is ready to bloom. Lotus that is allowed to grow wild will grow up to 4 feet tall. This lotus is smaller, because it is potted in a small container.

For more information about fertilizing, lotus care and how to mix loam see: