DIY: Design a Container Water Garden

DIY Container Water Garden
DIY Container Water Garden. Illustration by Mackenzie Melendy

A container water garden, also known as a patio pond or “pond in a pot,” is much lower maintenance than an in-ground pond. The formula here is simple: container + water + aquatic plants = container water garden.


Start with a water-tight pot that’s big enough to hold the chosen plants. A wood vessel won’t work unless lined with a plastic tub, so look for ceramic, metal, plastic, or sealed cement. Or, get creative and repurpose something, like a vintage pail or crock.


Make the water garden a focal point among the plants in an existing garden bed, or tuck it into the landscape to create a sense of discovery as people walk around. It will also work well on a small patio or balcony. Beware of plopping it where there’s super-hot afternoon sun, as that may be too intense for the plants, depending on what varieties are chosen.


Select water plants that will suit the light conditions, size and water depth of the container. Keep them in their nursery pots, as they’ll have the soil composition that they need there. Set plants directly in the container, before filling with water.

Aquatic plant varieties may include ones that float on the surface of the water, such as water lettuce. Submerged oxygenators, such as certain grasses, grow beneath the surface and release oxygen into the water. If the container is tall enough, add a deep-water plant like the popular water lily, which maintains its root system about a foot below the water line and has lovely round leaves that float on the surface.


Monitor water levels and top off when evaporation occurs. Fertilize as necessary. Drain about once a year to clean the pot. It may need to be moved inside during winter in cooler climes. Watch out for algae, which requires sun, warm water and random organic debris to grow. Combat mosquito breeding in standing water with mosquito bits or dunks, which are non-toxic tablets with a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae.

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