The Zen of a water garden

By TheHindu on 26 Mar 2017 | read

Your garden pond need not be only about lotus and water lilies. Several plants and flowers make great floating varieties. Here are some details on how to cultivate bog and other varieties.

Bog plants

Bog plants, as the name suggests, grow in swampy areas. They don’t need standing water like water lilies, but they need to be in soil that is very wet all the time. In the wild they grow on the edges of lakes and ponds.


Named for its arrow-shaped leaves, Sagittaria grows along lake margins. It needs only a shallow container with about four inches of soil in the bottom. From the central rosette of leaves, long flower spikes curve gracefully outwards, bearing one-inch flowers of pure white or white with a deep maroon centre.


There are several varieties of papyrus. The 4-5 ft tall one, from which the ancient Egyptians made paper, is not for mini ponds. But there is a dwarf version with slender 1-2 ft stems, each with what looks like a ball of spikes at the end, which is really a cluster of flower stalks carrying small, greenish flowers. This is an all-green plant, which makes a good background or contrast for other colourful plants. The spikes are also good for flower arrangements.

An attractive, easy-to-grow papyrus has slender stems up to 1 ft tall ending in four white-headed bracts with green tips. These will later develop brownish flowers, but the bracts are the attractive part.

This papyrus will grow well even in a 6-inch deep pot, as long as the soil is kept wet and never allowed to dry out. It needs the full sun.


Cannas are not water plants in the strictest sense but they like wet soil and will thrive if you keep the pot in an inch or two of water. Choose dwarf varieties that grow no more than a foot tall. They bear spikes of very showy deep red, salmon, or yellow flowers, and some also have attractive variegated leaves.

Floating plants

Floating plants don’t need to be planted in soil, they grow happily on the surface of the water. Just keep the water clear of algae, otherwise the pond looks a mess.

Water hyacinth

Although the water hyacinth is a pest in large water bodies, clogging up lakes and waterways, it is really a beautiful plant. With shiny rounded leaves and delicate lilac flowers, it is well suited to mini-ponds. It floats on the surface of the water, so you don’t need to plant it in soil.

Water snowflake

The water snowflake is also a very pretty plant with white 1-inch flowers that look exactly like snowflakes. You can float it in any attractive bowl placed in full sun. It will grow in shallow water, but it needs to spread out, so use a wide-mouthed container. Water gardens can become addictive, so be prepared!