Patio Joe Lily

Caring for Patio Water Gardens


Almost all pond plants prefer a sunny location. Four to five hours (minimum) of direct sun is needed before most water lilies will bloom. It is also preferable to avoid overhanging tree limbs if practical since they can cause extra maintenance with dropping leaves and/or branches.

If blooms are not a major concern, your water garden will adapt fine to any location with at least a filtered sun. In fact, light shade during mid afternoon is desirable during extreme heat spells.

Plant Care

Most pond plants are hungry feeders and appreciate a good supply of nutrients throughout the growing season.

Generally, one application of a slow release (3-4 months) aquatic fertilizer tablet about May 1 will do a good job. A second application about July 1 will improve the performance of water lilies, lotus and other heavy feeders. Waste from fish will provide supplemental fertilizer during the season.

Any spent flowers and yellow leaves should be pinched off near the base of the plants on a regular basis. It is normal for water lilies especially to shed older leaves throughout the season.

Some submerged pond plants (i.e. hornwort) do not produce roots and are simply weighted down to the bottom of the pond with lead weights or stones. However, others (i.e. anacharis) need to be placed in a small pot with field soil or a mixture of sand and field soil (no potting soil) in order for them to flourish. The pots should be topped off with gravel/stone, etc. to prevent fish from digging into the pots and disturbing the soil. If Koi fish are being kept (not recommended for patio ponds!), use larger stone (that the Koi can't move) or place a small piece of screen over the top of the pot. If the tops grow too large and come to the surface, they can be pinched off as needed to control their size.

Fish Care

Keep no more than 2 small (2-5") pond fish in your patio garden. If you wish to keep more fish you will probably need to add a filter system to your water garden. As they grow it may become necessary to find them a more spacious home. I would recommend common goldfish, black moors, or a variation on the common goldfish. Japanese Koi fish are large growing fish that do not adapt well to patio water gardens.

It is best not to feed your pond fish in a patio garden on a regular basis so that they will scavenge on their own for natural food such as insects, algae, etc.. that they will find in the ponds. If you do wish to feed them, try feeding them about the same time 2-4 times a week but remove any food not consumed within 10 minutes. Do not be surprised if it takes your fish a few weeks to come to the surface at feeding time. Discontinue feeding if the water begins to cloud or if you suspect your fish are suffering from high ammonium or nitrite levels (test kits are available). Also, stop feeding whenever water temperatures drop below 50 degrees (usually about late October in Ohio).

Pump & Filter Maintenance

Your pond pump (if included) should run 24 hours to help keep the water well oxygenated. This is especially important during hot summer days. Your filter (sponge or lava rock) should be cleaned whenever water flow to the pump is noticeably restricted (generally once every 2-3 weeks). If your pond pump stops running or has a reduced flow check all connections and for debris blocking the intake or outlet of the pump. It may be helpful to 'reset' your pond pump by allowing it to run dry for 5 seconds then returning it to the water.

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