Vol.2, No.6

Make your own indoor container water garden

Create your own indoor landscape with a container water garden. It's easy and will add beauty to your home.

Container water garden
Photo Credit: Joy Powers
Even if you live in a small space, you can bring the outdoors into your home with a container water garden. Water gardens are fun to create and easy to maintain. All you need is a little ingenuity, the right plants, and the proper environment.

First, determine what kind of container garden you would like to create. Do you want floating plants or those that are rooted in soil? Do you have enough room for both types? If your unit is large enough, you may also wish to add fish and the equipment needed to care for them.

Container selection comes next. Just about any object will work as long as it holds water. If you decide to use a ceramic pot, make sure the inside is glazed. If it is unglazed and you still want to use it, apply a water sealant and let it dry. Avoid metals such as copper and brass, which will corrode in a fertilizer-rich environment. If you do have a decorative pot such as this, however, consider setting up the water garden in a nondescript container and placing it inside. For extra protection, you can provide a durable plastic liner. Then fill in the space between containers with decorative gravel. Other container ideas include aquariums, fish bowls, and concrete planters. Even a group of odd-sized glassware can be set up with small floating plants. If you decide to use any type of concrete holder, leach the lime out first: fill with water; change daily for ten days, and it should be ready for planting.

Plant selection requires a little research. You can choose plants that require soil, can root in gravel, or those that float.

The two categories of soil plants are:

-emergent plants, such as arrowhead, are those that grow above the water's surface

-submerge plants are those that bear leaves below the surface level.

A third category, called floaters, includes plants such as water lettuce and water hyacinth. Tropical or warm water, plants require a constant heat source while coldwater plants are better suited to an environment that remains above 50 degrees F.

Consult with a specialist at the store where you purchase the plants. Make sure you are selecting "like" plants - those that have the same needs and characteristics. For instance, some water-loving plants thrive on sunshine and others prefer shade. Include plants that help oxygenate the water, such as anacharis, which is also an easy beginner's plant.

Another consideration is the plants' height requirements. Some types may need to be placed on a hidden riser to reach the water's surface. Different foliage levels also create variety. Some plants do not require soil, but will root in gravel. Keep these plants in a separate, small pot filled with gravel. Bury these containers in the soil.

In clear containers, you can still have attractive, soil-based plants. In this case, they would remain in containers hidden with layers of decorative gravel.

Aquatic plants need a good source of nutrients and fertilization is necessary for the health of your plants. In the wild, they grow in river or pond bottoms or other water sources that meet those needs. However, those same ingredients can also make for unpleasant odors and a gooey mess in your home. One recommended base recipe is three parts soil to one part sand. Wash the sand and add a top layer of aquarium gravel, if you wish. This will help keep the soil from muddying the water. Include a small piece of charcoal to help with purification. Add larger stones and pieces of wood for decor, but wash them first.

Any water-soluble plant food should work, but use it at a lesser strength; about one-quarter of the manufacturer's recommendations. Check with your plant expert for special foods and additives.

At some point, algae bloom will probably appear. Sunlight encourages growth and dark containers prohibit algae to some extent. This is a natural occurrence. Algae growth will often peak and then die off. You may want to add shade plants to keep sunlight from penetrating the water.

Purify the water before adding it to your garden. Let it stand for a day or add a purification tablet. Add your plants to the soil base and then pour in the water slowly to avoid disrupting the dirt.

Lighting is an important aspect of successful container gardening if you have chosen plants that need sun. Invest in a grow light and plan to leave it on about 14 hours each day.

Some water garden plants grow slowly while others burst forth and try to take over the container. Never plant these fast-growing species outdoors as they will quickly become a nuisance.

Indoor container water gardens require a minimal investment in time. In return, you will enjoy outdoor delights in your home all year long.