To obtain the best results for your plants please remove them from their boxes and packaging as soon as possible after receiving them. Oxygenators that aren’t potted, floating plants (including Water soldiers), Water hawthorn and lilies should be placed in water as soon as you receive them, even if only temporarily in a bucket or other container, as they don’t like being out of water. Marginal plants and potted oxygenators (Mare’s tail, Hair grass, Pepper grass and Water violet) will be quite happy left in their pots if you can’t plant them straight away, but make sure they are kept damp and have access to light until you are ready. Please don’t put plants in solid pots (all 9cm/0.5 litre plants) into the pond unless only temporary, as they will need to be potted up into aquatic baskets.
Plants dispatched in winter or early spring will show little or no growth, but don’t worry they will have a very healthy root system ready to spring to life as soon as the growing season starts! At the other extreme in late spring or summer the plants occasionally may have to be cut back to post them to you to prevent stems and leaves from getting damaged -the Lobelias, Marsh woundwort, Zebra rush and Barred horsetail in particular.
We try and avoid having to do this and have commissioned some bespoke 70cm tall boxes to try and accommodate the taller plants to ensure they arrive as nature intended. Where plants are too tall for the boxes some have a certain natural ‘bendability’ so we will always try and gently fold them into the box rather than cut back, however in doing so and in transit stems may break or crease so may need to be trimmed back when putting in the pond. This will not harm the plants and will encourage new growth.
We pride ourselves on not using pesticides or fungicides in our nursery as these are harmful to wildlife, especially where plants are then submerged into water in a pond environment. This does mean at certain times of year (particularly in our damp Welsh climate!) some plants are vulnerable to insect attack, rust and mildew. Often this will not harm the plant but sometimes it is better to trim the affected foliage to encourage regrowth which we may do prior to sending. This mainly affects Watercress, Lesser spearwort, Marsh marigold and Cyperus sedge.
Please note that taller plants in smaller orders of less than 6 plants are more likely to be cut back as the bigger boxes require too much filling to secure them for small numbers of plants.
Whilst we endeavour to remove any duckweed and blanket weed from our plants occasionally small amounts do occur.
Where plants are supplied in solid pots (note: all our 9cm/0.5 litre plants are in solid pots) these must be potted up into either planting baskets or bags using a good quality aquatic soil, or subsoil provided that it is free from fertiliser and herbicides, or planted directly into your pond if it is either a natural pond or you have used soil or gravel substrate to create the marginal shelves. Do not take a 9cm plant and pot into a 9cm (0.5 litre) basket as these are the smallest baskets and only good for small bunches of oxygenators (though we recommend 1 litre baskets for our oxygenators), so will provide no room for further growth and also be unstable for all but the smallest plants: our 9cm plants will be well rooted and ready to go up into a bigger basket.
The minimum basket size for potting up would be a 1 litre (11cm square) however for any plants that are vigorous or taller we would recommend a minimum 2 litre (17cm round) basket or larger. For guidance on basket sizes for potting up 9cm (0.5 litre) plants please check each plant’s product page, where we show minimum and ideal baskets sizes underneath the main description.
Even if your pond is a natural pond baskets can still be used: trying to plant directly into a clay-lined pond can be difficult and may risk compromising the structure of the pond; baskets will allow much more flexibility to control planting depths; they help to control more vigorous plants for a while, though plants will grow through and out of them over time anyway; and they give flexibility to move plants around before they become established. Natural ponds are usually larger and ultimately you will want to encourage plants to spread naturally so baskets and can be partially cut to help this process. If you don’t wish to use plastic baskets then using hessian bags or sacks can be a good alternative and will naturally biodegrade over time.
Taller or vigorous marginal plants should be potted up into baskets larger than 1 litre both to give room to grow and to aid stability and prevent them being blown over: stones or rocks can also be put in the base of the basket to help with this. Where different plants are grouped in a single basket make sure that the basket is big enough to accommodate the plants (leaving room for growth), the planting depth is suitable for all the plants, and you don’t include plants that will out-compete others. Generally we prefer single species and single plants per basket as they will grow to fill it.
Planting baskets should have a very fine mesh otherwise a liner will be required to prevent soil and nutrients being washed out. The baskets we sell don’t need liners with most aquatic soils, however if you are using Westland aquatic soil they will be essential, as this ‘soil’ appears to be mainly sand and will quickly wash out of any basket. For shallow ponds or ponds with uneven shelves and bottoms planting bags should be considered, as these will be much more stable, and tops can be rolled down to lower their height where baskets may show above the water. Planting socks are also useful as they sit low in the water and are good for smaller, lower growing and edging plants. For steeply sloping marginal shelves, or where there are none floating islands can be used.
Each plant supplied will have an identifying label which also gives planting depth guidance, which is also shown on each plant’s product page on the website, so please be sure to check for planting depths to achieve the optimum planting conditions for your plants. Note that many planting depths are often shown as a range, e.g. 0-20cm where the depth is from the top of the basket to the surface. These are broad guidelines but as a general rule it is better to plant shallower rather than deeper as most marginals are happy as long as their feet are wet and the top of the basket covered, for aesthetic reasons only. In particular younger plants (supplied in 9cm/0.5 litre pots) as a rule of thumb should be allowed to establish at a third of their maximum depth and 1 litre plants no more than half their maximum depth. More established 2 and 3 litre plants should be ok at maximum depth, but this is not a target.
Select the required size basket and add enough soil to the bottom of the basket so that the new plant in its root ball will sit just below the top, tap the basket to remove any air pockets. Loosen any roots if there are a lot tightly wrapped around the plant and place it on the soil, then fill around the plant pressing the soil down firmly with your thumbs until the level is about 1cm (2cm if you have fish) below the top of the basket. Water the soil so it is very wet and firm down again, adding a bit more if necessary. If the plant has long roots, hold the plant at the correct level in the centre of the basket with the roots hanging down with one hand whilst filling round and firming the soil with the other.
Now add a 1cm (2cm if you have fish in the pond) top dressing of aquatic gravel or grit -this should be washed and lime free to avoid adding excess nutrients to your pond. If you can’t get washed gravel it’s a good idea to wash it, much as you would remove the starch from rice, as otherwise, it will make your pond a bit cloudy. It’s a false economy not to use gravel as it gives the plants some protection from disturbance by fish or wildlife, prevents soil from being washed away and the pond becoming murky from soil leaching into it, and helps to add weight and stabilise the basket. It also gives an attractive finish to the plants. Lower the basket slowly into the pond at the required depth, allowing all air trapped in the soil to escape before letting go -even though aquatic soil is quite heavy even larger baskets can bob up and upend if lowered too quickly . If your shelf is deeper than the plants should be planted (especially for young plants) then raise the level of the baskets by means of bricks or stones.
The Bog bean we supply is bare root in the form of long bamboo-like stems with roots hanging down. In the Autumn/Winter there is no foliage but in the Spring they will have good growth and healthy leaves. If your pond is established they can be dropped in the pond and left to float where they will grow, however the downside is they will not be fixed in place and will float freely around the pond and they will not flourish as well as if they are planted with their roots in soil. They can be planted in soil at the bottom of the pond up to 30cm deep by pushing the roots into the soil and weighing down with a stone. Otherwise a shallow square or round 2 litre basket would be suitable: just drape the roots in the basket, fill around with soil and firm gently, adding a layer of gravel. The stem can float above or sit on the basket, ideally with the growing tip(s) at or just above the surface if in leaf.
It is best to use a prepared feed for water plants, e.g. Ecopond Aquatic Plant Food, as this helps to reduce problems with algae. The plants should not need to be fed in the first season if the new soil has been used -all lilies and deep water plants supplied in baskets are fed by us before dispatch. When potting on and in subsequent seasons a slow release plant food such as Osmocote Exact 5-6 or Osmocote exact 8-9 would be beneficial, especially for deep water plants, irises and other heavy feeders such as Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus). These are very easy to administer as they are just pushed into the growing medium down into the roots. We tend to use 8-9 if potting up in the Autumn and 5-6 when potting up in late winter/early spring.
Deep Water Plants
Use a planting basket to plant deep water plants. The same principle applies to Water lilies, Water Hawthorn, Amphibious bistort and Golden Club. All our 1-litre and above deep water plants and water lilies are supplied ready planted in a high-quality planting basket so can be put straight into the pond. However, where very well established with lots of roots growing out through the basket they would benefit from being potted up into a bigger basket.
For potting up use the same procedure as for marginal plants. For lilies, if planting a bare root rhizome of the pineapple-type (mainly the native Alba, Paul Hariot, Chromatella), plant the rhizome in the middle of the basket making sure the growing tip is just above the surface of the soil. Most other rhizome types tend to grow horizontally so plant the rhizome as above but instead of in the middle of the basket position it against the side of the basket with the growing tip pointing into the centre and angled up at no more than 45 degrees with the tip just above the soil.
As a general rule when potting up put dwarf lilies (Pygmaea) into 2-litre baskets, small lilies in 3.5 or 5 litre baskets, medium lilies into 5 or 10 litre baskets and large lilies into 10 or 30 litre baskets – see individual plant details on the website. However any bigger than 10 litres and you’ll probably give yourself a hernia trying to lift them as a 30 litre lily will weigh over 40kg when wet! Where a lily is supplied in a planting basket it will be fine for another season, however, if the roots are growing strongly outside their existing basket it would benefit from being potted-up to a larger sized basket.
Deep water plants in leaf should initially be planted at a depth that allows their leaves to float on the surface. Once they start to establish and the leaf stems lengthen and spread they can be lowered, but still ensure the leaves are at the surface. This process can be repeated so they can be lowered in stages to their final depth. Don’t be tempted to shortcut this process, as if planted too deep initially they may struggle to reach the surface using up all their energy in the process and may not flower or will have a poor display! As with marginals the maximum depth is not a target.
For water lilies in good leaf in the growing season place at a depth so the leaves are floating on the surface or no more than a few inches below the surface, and they will stretch to the surface over a few days to a week. Out of season where there are no leaves (ignore the small stubby indicator leaves on some) established lilies (3 litres and above) can go to their full depth but smaller sizes are best placed no more than half their maximum. In general lilies will grow and reach the surface more quickly in shallower water as this warms up more quickly as the season starts.
Note that lilies generally need to be placed in a sunny position (at least 6 hours of sun per day on a sunny summer’s day) to thrive and should be in still water way from water features. Some lilies are slightly shade tolerant and may be relatively happy on only 3-4 hours sun per day -these include James Brydon, Marliacea Chromatella, Perry’s Baby Red and Shady Lady. All lilies are heavy feeders, particularly the larger faster-growing varieties, so would benefit from feeding in early spring with a slow-release fertilizer tablet to get the best results, and also when potting-up.
Hornwort and Willow moss do not have root systems so these can just be dropped into the pond: the Willow moss is either supplied in bunches with lead weights to fix it in place or as a loose bunch, and the Hornwort is loose and will submerge of its own accord. Hornwort may sink to the bottom of the pond and turn black in winter to protect itself from freezing temperatures but will rise again in the spring when it warms up. Willow moss can go up to 60cm deep but will be happiest in shallower clear water and quite likes a bit of shade.
Water crowfoot is supplied bunched with lead weights for dropping into the pond, where it will then naturally root at the bottom of the pond provided it is not too deep for them. If the pond is too deep, or it is a man-made pond with little soil or silt in the bottom then they should be planted in planting baskets at the correct depth: fill up a 1-litre basket with soil, tap it a few times to remove any air pockets, then poke a large hole in the soil with a dibber or your fingers. Remove the lead weight and push the cut or rooted ends of the bunch well down into the hole. Now firm the soil around them, adding a good layer of aquatic gravel.
Starwort does not come tied with a lead weight as the roots are very delicate and don’t react well to the lead. The bunch can just be dropped into your pond where it will free float and hopefully establish, though it can be a bit fickle -it does best in cooler water so if part of your pond has shadier areas it will happiest there. It can be potted into aquatic baskets though can be difficult to establish. The best way to establish it is to place the basket in shallow water so the top is out of the water as this will encourage it to root into the basket.
It should be clear which are the root ends, though they do tend to root from many points: fill up a 1-litre basket with soil, tap it a few times to remove any air pockets, then poke a large hole in the soil with a dibber, or your fingers, and push the bunch into the hole. Now firm the soil around them, adding a thin layer of aquatic gravel. Starwort can be a bit of a mass of leaves and root but will root from multiple points along its stems so don’t worry if it seems like you are burying some of the leaves. If there is a danger of frost drop it down so the foliage is below the water as any foliage frozen in ice will die back, though it will not kill the plant. Once established and rafting it can be placed in deeper water, but as it has different types of submerged and emergent leaves you may find some of the existing leaves die back but will be replaced by submerged leaves which will grow to the surface.
Other oxygenators are supplied in either pots or planting baskets (generally those in 1-litre sizes) -please refer to individual plant details. Where supplied in pots they should be re-potted in aquatic baskets.
Apart from the oxygenators above the only true floating plants we sell are Frogbit and Water soldiers. With these there is no work at all involved, you literally drop them into the pond and they will carry on growing as nature intended! Do not be alarmed if when the Frogbit disappears in winter as they simply rest on the bottom of the pond until the time is right and will reappear next season, usually in increased numbers. Other floating plants are available elsewhere, but often these are not hardy so will not survive the winter.
For natural or soil filled ponds
For natural ponds, it may be possible to plant directly into the soil of the pond but see notes above about the advantage of using baskets. Generally if planting directly into a clay based natural pond it will not be possible to plant into the clay itself, so a soil base will need to be added, minimum depth 15cm but ideally at least 30cm. It is still important to check that the plants are not planted deeper than their optimum planting depth. It is a good idea to check the lowest and highest level of the pond (the summer and winter levels). The plants will survive for short periods being too deep or too shallow but will soon die if these conditions continue indefinitely.
For man-made ponds which have been filled with soil or have soil margins the level of water will remain more constant but the water level may need topping up in hot weather. It may then be necessary to resort to blanket weed treatment especially if tap water is added. This can be resolved by adding barley straw at the beginning of the season in March or April, which will help to maintain the balance of the pond naturally, or you could use a barley straw extract, such as Ecopond.
Bog Garden Plants
These should be treated in the same manner as ordinary garden plants, the only difference being that the soil may be wetter. Should the soil dry out then flood the area with a garden hose, especially in hot dry weather. If creating a bog area doing so adjacent to the pond is ideal as overflow from the pond will help to keep it irrigated -make sure the bog level is below that of the pond so water can’t wash back from the bog into the pond as this will add nutrients to the pond and increase algal growth.
If you are planting in a newly prepared area then the plants will be able to grow easily without being smothered by other plants or weeds, they can be protected with a mulch of compost or bark to keep them moist.
The planting depth is measured from the point where the plant emerges from the soil to the surface of the water. For a plant in a basket or planting bag, this will be the top of the basket or bag to the surface of the water. See website for information on planting depths for individual plants.
How much gravel do I need?
Quantities given below are in litres. A 1cm layer at the top of the basket should be sufficient, but 2cm is shown in case you prefer to add a deeper layer or have fish in your pond. We sell bags of washed, lime-free, gravel in 1, 2 and 3-litre bags, and unwashed 20kg bags (approx. 13 lires).
How much soil do I need?
Simply take the volume of the basket you are potting up into and subtract the volume of the pot you are discardiing, then add 20% to allow for compacting the soil around the newly potted plant. So for example, potting up a 9cm (0.5 litre) plant into a 2 litre basket: 2 litre-0.5 litre = 1.5 litre, plus 20% = 1.8 litres.