Add a Water Garden

What You Need:

Four kinds of plants mingle
here: water lily, parrot feather,
cattail, and water hyacinth.

  • Water-tight container at least 24 inches across (shown, 2 feet wide and 3 feet long)
  • Level
  • Dwarf cattail
  • Water lily ‘Helvola’
  • Parrot feather
  • Water hyacinths
  • Small pots (for plants needing to be transplanted)
  • Plastic mulch
  • Topsoil or dirt (not potting soil)
  • Pebbles
  • Goldfish (if desired)

continue reading below


The ‘Helvola’ is a small
water lily ideal for a
small-scale pond.

All container gardens, including water gardens, look showiest when they bring together a variety of plants. Choose a tall plant for drama and height, a flowering plant for color, a trailing plant to extend the show outside the container, and floating plants to fill the gaps.

When you buy a water lily in spring, it may have begun to grow. Handle it carefully to preserve the leaves.

If you know your dirt is poor, add a spoonful of slow-release fertilizer.


Photo 1

1. Put the container in place. Check the rim with a level (see Photo 1). If necessary, shim the pot until the rim is level. If you are using a terra-cotta pot, plug the drain hole or line the pot with plastic.

2. Fill the pot with water to the depth of the deepest pot you will be placing inside.

Photo 2

3. If necessary, repot the cattail, water lily, and parrot feather into the containers you will place in the larger pot. To keep dirt from spilling out from drainage holes, line the container bottoms with plastic mulch. Fill the pots to an inch below the rim with ordinary topsoil.

4. Cover the surface of dirt in the small pots with pebbles (see Photo 2). This will keep the dirt from floating into the water.

Photo 3

5. Slowly lower the pots into the water, allowing time for air to escape without displacing dirt (see Photo 3). Parrot feather can float, or let it trail over the edge of the container as shown top.

6. Drop the water hyacinths into the pond. They will float and feed themselves.