Last year, on my birthday, I visited Lilypons Water Gardens which has acres and acres of ponds with many varieties of water lilies, beautiful lotus and other water plants as well as fish and decorative containers. I treated myself to a white blooming water lily which has a blush on it when first opening. Since I already had a half whiskey barrel pond with plants, I bought one of those shallow containers that are so popular now in which to display my lily. I had expressed doubt that I could winter this hardy lily over in this shallow pot, but the lady in the store assured me that the container would work. Come spring, my lily was dead. Not even a small sign of life remained in the plant. R.I.P Nymphaea Colorado.
Had I trusted my instincts and submerged that lily into a deeper bucket, I'd likely still have it today. To give your water garden's plants and fish the best chances of survival through the winter. follow these steps:
- Move tropical plants to indoor pots containing water. They will not need as much warmth or light since winter is their dormant time anyway, so a basement will do fine. There are a few methods you can use for tropical water lilies. Check out http://www.onwatergarden.com/articles/tropwtrlily01.htm for details.
- Move hardy water lilies from shallow bowls to deeper water ponds or buckets. I have had great success reusing plastic cat litter buckets. My lilies have successfully overwintered in them for years.
- Most plants must have their foliage cut back. Lilies can be cut to the base. It is best if the crown of the plant does not freeze.
- Remove detritus from the bottom of your ponds. When the pond freezes over, this organic debris produces methane gas which can decrease the chances of survival for your fish. Remove your fish with some pond water to another container while you clean. Since I have a small container pond, I just reach right in and grab handfuls of the stuff out. You may want to wear gloves. It can be added to garden soil for conditioning.
- Relocate the pump to the upper 1/3 of the pond so as not to disturb the water below where the fish are overwintering or just turn it off. The pump can keep a hole in the frozen surface for the escape of gasses but we have had our pond freeze over and still the fish survive.
- Stop feeding your fish when the water temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They do not need the food at this temperature. If you are using a heater, you must continue to feed them.
Remember, now is not the time to divide your water lilies as the baby plants need much sun and warmth to get a good start. Let this task wait until spring. I plan on writing a post on the subject when I do this myself next spring.
A little care now can lead to a beautiful blooming water garden next year.