Container Gardening

Container gardening using water plants isn't very different than using any other kind of plant for container growing.

They still require an attractive container.

They still require a good quality soil although a heavier soil (even garden soil) is a good idea if you're going to be keeping an inch or two of water on top of the soil.

They still require feeding every week or every two weeks for maximum growth.

They still require regular watering if they are to produce blooms (always assuming you're not growing plants in standing water)

What is different With Container Gardening

Perennials in water garden containers don't bloom all summer. So you have to ensure that the plants you pick have other interesting things going for them. For example, you pick leaves that are interesting shapes or colors. Pick heavily variegated Houttuynia for trailing plants rather than green leaved annual varieties.

Flowering Strategies

Combine leaf colors. For example if you are growing a container garden in the shade, you'd consider growing gold-leaved Calla right beside green-leaved varieties. You're looking for maximum contrast.

Bloom time decisions. Do I want to have my container bloom all at once or bloom a little bit at a time? If you want a spring blooming container, then plant all spring-blooming plants with interesting leaves to give you some garden interest for the remainder of the year. But understand that no more flowers will be coming along. This will give you maximum display in the early spring and a more refined look for the rest of the season.

Do you want your container gardening efforts to be in bloom all summer? Then you have two choices. The first is to plant a mix of plants with different blooming times - from early summer until late fall in the same pot.


You'd grow several containers in the same area. All with a specific blooming period (one pot for spring, one for summer and one for fall) In this way, there's something blooming all the time but each container gets to come to the front of the grouping while in bloom and retreats to add leaf texture when it isn't in bloom.


The reality here is that unless you live in a climate where the temperature isn't going below -5F at least once in the winter or the pots won't freeze solid at least once, then you have to overwinter your plants outside of the pot.

In my own garden, I dump the perennial and water garden containers out in the third week of September no matter what the weather is doing.

I do it this early because (while the pot is still looking good) I know that I want my perennials to establish themselves in the garden soil so they'll survive over the winter. My experience tells me that the third week (possibly the fourth week) in my USDA zone 4 garden is the best time to do this.

Each perennial is separated from the main mass of roots and then heeled into a garden bed (usually some empty space in the vegetable bed) so the crown is just at the ground level. I'm actually planting these plants as if I intended them to stay there forever.

In late fall, after the roots are established and the ground is very cold, I'll mulch the bed to help prevent frost heaving in the spring or during a warm spell in mid-winter.

Spring Care

As soon as the ground is thawed out and the buds start swelling on the trees, I'll dig up my perennials.

Some will have grown enough I need to divide them. Some will have produced offshoots I can take as new babies for new containers or my perennial beds.

For the most part, my container gardening efforts will require them all again.

Design Suggestions

Pick reblooming varieties. There are repeat blooming varieties available of many perennial plants (daylilies and iris particularly) so pick these whenever possible.

Pick long-blooming varieties and plants.

Use plants known for the foliage e.g. Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' in place of annuals such as coleus.

Experiment and have fun. Use all kinds of plants that tolerate damp soils together.

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