How to Create a Container Water Garden

“Water is the driving force in nature.”

― Leonardo da Vinci

The frogs found our water garden naturally.  They have lived there for several years now.  They hibernate in the bottom of the barrels over the winter.

The frogs found our water garden naturally. They have lived there for several years now. They hibernate in the bottom of the barrels over the winter.

A water garden is a highlight to any landscape. Just looking at the water can provide an instant calm that can have long lasting effects on your emotional well-being.

Just taking time each day to sit, relax and enjoy your water garden can activate your body’s natural stress-management system.

There are many ways to add water to your landscape. You can add a container water garden with a large waterproof container or you can dig an in-ground pond. Both of which can be constructed with or without electricity for a pump and/or lighting.

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I originally tried a pump in this container, however it was too big and I ended up using it without a pump.


A great container water garden for a beginner can start with a half whiskey barrel and a liner insert. But most any waterproof container will do.


  • Pick a level spot
  • In full or part sun (at least 6 hrs/day)
  • Where you can enjoy it; sit or walk by often
  • Where your garden hose can reach easily
  • If on a deck, be sure it can hold the weight.  Water weights about 8 1/3 lbs./gal. This container could weight about 200 lbs. once stocked and filled.

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WATER PLANTS are top-notch filtration systems. Your goal is to have the plants cover 60% of the water’s surface in order to balance your water garden. You will need one of each of the following:

  1. Submersible Plant – lives under the water and is the oxygenation.  It’s vital role is to balance the pond by competing with algae for dissolved nutrients.
  2. Floating Plant – Such as a hardy water lily that covers the surface and works as your horizontal design element.
  • Dragonfly 010Check the size and light requirements to be sure it will fit 014in your small water garden. Miniature water plants work well in this setting.
  • The shade of the plant will inhibit algae growth
  • Floating leaves also protect goldfishtoad-and-bird-003.JPG
  • Water Lilies smell beautiful
  • Not only visually appealing but also attract wildlife such as birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and dragon flies.

3. Hardy Bog or Marginal Plant – lives between 0-6″ below the water’s surface. This is the distance between the water’s surface and the top of the pot.

  • Plant roots act as a filter
  • This is your vertical design element
  • Also attract wildlife (as stated above)

Note: Plant your water garden in the early morning or on a cloudy day so the plants do not dry out. Once you have placed your container in the proper site location, fill it about half way full of water before arranging your plants. Pre-potted plants are heavy and the buoyancy of the water will help make them lighter while you are arranging them.

Once your water garden is planted you can either add two Goldfish or 1/4 of a Mosquito-Dunks to control mosquito larvae and therefore not breed any biting insects in your water garden.

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If you would like to add Goldfish to your water garden they serve two purposes. They add interest and feed on mosquito larvae.

Before stocking your planted water garden you can either let it sit for a week to get acclimated or you can add a product called All-In-One which fixes chlorine and ammonia in the water.

You will need two things in order to balance your pond.

  1. Snails -These are scavengers. If you buy pre-potted plants from a reputable dealer, they will come on your plants already and there will be no need to buy them. It is important that if you do purchase some that they be Chinese Species (live bearing) or Trapdoor snails.  
  2. Goldfish -You can add two goldfish to a pond this size. The goal is to lightly balance the pond in order to work with mother nature. Given the ratio of plants to fish in this set up, two fish will consume as much as they put out in organic matter. The key here is not to feed your fish. They will eat mosquito larvae, algae and decaying plant matter. Goldfish are very hardy and can overwinter easily in a pond of this size. Choose from Feeder Goldfish, Comets, Fantails or Shubunkins. 

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  • Remove spent leaves and blooms at the base of the plant weekly or daily.
  • Add fertilizing tabs to your pots each month as instructed.
  • Cover your water garden with netting in the fall to help keep out falling leaves and debris.
  • Remove all foliage above the water surface before the first frost.
  • Either add a small heater or add a tennis ball before the first freeze to keep a hole in the surface over the winter. This will provide a space for the fish to get oxygen.






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