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Take a Dip!

Take a Dip!
August 2017

Bring water plants into the garden with a high-impact, low-maintenance display

Landscape designer Nancy Newman-Limata combined Colocasia esculenta ‘White Lava’, Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’, and water lily in this container water garden.

From the soothing sound of a bubbling fountain to the cooling sight of rippling water: a container garden of aquatic plants is just the refreshment an August green space needs. “They’re so easy to care for,” says landscape designer Nancy Newman-Limata of Charleston Garden Design. “You can buy a basic electric pump for about $10 or even select one with a light for nighttime ambiance.” She shares step-by-step instructions and also demonstrates the process in a video.

Supply List

- 2 or 3 aquatic plants (elephant’s ear, corkscrew rush, and water lily are favorites, but check local nurseries for more options)
- Container at least 10 inches deep, without drainage; a dark-colored interior is best
- Small electric or solar-powered fountain or pond pump, 40 to 100 gph (optional)
- Egg rock and/or pea gravel
- Aquatic pond plant fertilizer tablets
- Bricks, small pots, or other items for raising plants to the desired height in container

How to Plant a Container Water Garden:

1. Select your container. A dark-colored interior is ideal, as it minimizes algae growth.
2. Pick two or three water plants, aiming for an appealing combination of textures, colors, and heights. Keeping the plants in their plastic nursery pots, top the soil with rocks or pea gravel—this will hold the dirt in place and prevent the plants from floating.
3. Install a pump, if you’re using one. Note that without a “bubbler” to keep water moving, you’ll need to add mosquito fish to the container or regularly apply a product like Mosquito Dunks.
4. Place a fertilizer tablet in each plant, using rocks to secure it in place.
5. Arrange plants in the container. The tops of the pots should be within a couple inches of the container’s rim—you’ll likely need to rest them atop household items like bricks to achieve the desired height.
6. Maintain the garden by keeping it filled with water, fertilizing the plants, and cleaning the pump regularly. About once a year, remove the plants to assess whether they need to be divided and repotted.


Nancy Newman-Limata is leading a container water garden workshop on Tuesday, August 8, at 10 a.m. as part of Charleston Horticultural Society’s Summer School Series (August 8-12). Find details at


Photograph by Julie Timmermann