The Magic of a Water Garden


Do you love the sound of water hitting the rocks, rushing down a stream? The magic of a water garden.  I find that sound so soothing and relaxing. I have always wanted some sort of water garden feature but where we used to live our property was the size of a postage stamp. Our neighbors had a water garden feature with koi fish. In the summer with the windows open I could hear the water from their fountain.

Well now we are on 20 wooded acres and definitely have room for one now. I am not sure if it will be a project for this year or next year. We already have quite a few plans for this summer and our summers seem to go so fast.  There are so many water garden ideas, it will be hard to choose.

Water Garden with waterfall


The nice thing about a water garden is it requires minimal work once it’s set up, as long as the ecological balance is in place.

There is no watering, little weeding and definitely no hoeing.  The magic of a water garden.

Steps to Build a Water Garden

Once you have decided to have a water garden and figure out where you want to put it, get the spot prepared,

1. Unpack the Kit.  If you purchased a kit, take everything out of the box

2. Outline the spot of where the pond will be, using chalk, rope or garden hose. This shape can be however you want it. Be creative, make it your own.

3. The waterfall filter and skimmer need to be at oppose ends of the pond. Layout the tubing from the waterfall, go around the pond to the skimmer. Connect the tubing using the adapters and the cement that came with your kit.

4. Excavate the pond area, you have different levels, in the pond. Before excavating, it’s a good idea to have the property inspected for buried lines from your electric and/or gas company. Once that is done, then dig your pond anywhere from 6″ to 8″ deep. This is to construct the plant shelf and use the dirt for a retaining wall for the waterfall box. Once that is done, use the making paint again to outline a deeper spot for the pond. The size and shape is your decision but keep in mind this area will be filled with rocks. It’s best to avoid tight corners. The inner area should be at least 3 to 4 feet deep. Make a spot for your skimmer box, it needs to be 1″ above the water level.

5. Installing the pump and skimmer. Make your the soil is level then place the skimmer in that spot. Put the tubing through the grommet and in the skimmer. Add and assemble the check valve assembly on the pump and place it in the skimmer. Add the check valve to the flexible tubing then connect the overflow pipe to the back of the skimmer when building the pond.

6. Add the underlayment and liner. Lay the underlayment across the pond, working into all the corners of the excavated pond area. It’s recommended to start from the middle and work you way out. Keep it loose to allow for movement and settling as the pond comes together.

7. Add the Liner to skimmer. The liner needs to be attached to the front of the skimmer box using the face plate; use a nail or sharp object to make holes for the two bolts. Remove the liner temporarily and place a large bead of silicone over the mounting holes. Put the liner back on and face plate. Install the rest of the bolts and tighten them up. Trim the liner from the inside of the simmer using a razor blade.

8. Add Rocks and Boulders to the pond. You will want to place the large boulders first to support the structure, starting with the vertical walls of the pond. Fill in with the smaller boulders and rocks, start from the bottom and stack the inside first. Remember there is no right or wrong spot to place the boulders and rocks. If need be, rework until you are satisfied with the look.

9. Attach liner to waterfall box. The waterfall box should be level and tipped slightly forward about an inch towards the pond. Hold the liner to the front of the waterfall box and mark the top bolt on each side.

10. Add the Gravel to the pond by filling in the gaps and cover bare spots on the bottom of the pond. The gravel protects the liner and gives it a natural look and feel. It is recommended using gravel about 1 inch in diameter and smooth edges to not cut the liner.

11. Add the lights to the pond so they shine outward away from the viewing area. Place the lights between the boulders and wrap about 1 inch of power cord around the lights to extend it out of the pond for maintenance later.

12. Add the Plants and fill your pond. Add the bog plants on the shallow plant shelf, the lilies on the bottom of the pond. It’s OK if they aren’t covering the pond’s surface, they will grow fast. When the pond is filling with water, back fill around the skimmer and pond for additional support.

13. Apply waterfall foam. This is safe for the fish and designed to fill the gaps between the rocks in the waterfall area, Remember every drop of water that falls down your waterfall is delivered by a pump. To make the limited supply of pumped water and the waterfall to look as beautiful as possible. Waterfall foam also stabilizes the large boulders and will reduce maintenance.

14. Adding a filter to the skimmer and waterfall box when building the pond. It is recommended to use low or medium density pads in the skimmers and high or super high density for the waterfall box.

15. Add Finishing Touches to the pond. Trimming the liner and underlayment by leaving about 6″ to 8″. Tuck the remaining edge under the liner. Cover with Gravel to hold down and finish the pond’s edging.

16. Add the water treatment. Once the pond is filled, start up the waterfall and add water treatments, such as water conditioner and natural bacteria to get the pond ready for fish!

The pond is ready to start building with these steps. Having a water feature in your garden will be enjoyed for the years to come. Do your research and take your time and plan accordingly.

Check out this graph on how to place the plants in the pond

Planting the pond by zone

Water Garden Plants

For a water garden you will be using aquatic plants. The definition of aquatic refers to all plants that live in the water. There are 4 Categories;

Submerged plants – rooted in the soil with the leaves floating on the water surface

Oxygenated Plants – are rooted in soil with their plant parts submerged, promotes natural filtration

Floating Plants – are not rooted in soil but floating freely

Marginal or bog plants – grow in wet soil or shallow water

Below I have listed some plants from each category from various growing zones.  Remember if you live in a lower growing zone for that plant, you can treat it as an annual or bring the plant indoors for the winter until the following spring.

Submerged Plants with Floating Leaves

  • American Lotus – bluish green leaves and yellow flowers, Zone 4 thru 11.
  • Golden Club – Slender yellow spike blossoms. With long oval leaves, grows best in shallow water. Zone 6 thru 11.
  • Pickerel Weed – tall, spiky, deep blue flowers. Plan in 8 inch pots set in no more than 6 inches of water. Zone 5 thru 11.
  • Sacred Lotus – Large with sometimes double pink or white flowers. Many hybrids available. Zone 5 thru 11.
  • Water Clover – Large leaves resemble a four leaf clover. This mat like plant helps fight algae. Zone 9 thru 11.
  • Frogbit – Green heart-shaped leaves, resembling a miniature water lily, floating on top of the water surface. Small white flower blooms in summer, Zone 5 thru 11.

Floating Aquatic Plants

  • Duckweeds – aquatic, stemless floating plants often used for fish food. In a stream or pond, this can sometimes cover the water with a green scrum during the summer and should be used with caution. Zone 4 thru 9.
  • Water Lettuce – this is a tropical floating plant that needs no pot or soil. Fish use this plant to lay their eggs in the roots, Zones 7 thru 11. Lower zones can be uses as an annual or bring indoors before frost.
  • Water Hyacinth – Thick glossy leaves that rise above the water’s surface with beautiful flowers of shades of pink, violet and blue. Zone 9 thru 11. Lower zones can be used as an annual or bring indoors before frost.
  • Pond with waterfall showing floating pond plants

Oxygenating Plants

  • Water Milfoil – this is a green looking weed. The roots can be cooked and eaten. Zone 5 thru 9.
  • Brazilian Waterweed – this plant gets partial submerged and has many stems, some up to 3 feet in length. This will produce white flowers on the surface. Zone 6 thru 11.
  • Canadian pondweed – this plant has green submerged leaves just below the surface of the pond. White flowers blossom just above the water surface. Zone 6 thru 11.
  • Fanwort – Submerged green leaves, purple-pink or white flowers in the summer on the surface of the water. Zone 6 thru 11.
  • Water canna – This grows 6 feet with large leaves and small violet flowers on tall stalks. Zone 7 thru 11.
  • Hornwort – submerged pond plant, excellent for oxygenating plant for fishponds. Has multiple branches of thick dark green foliage. Forms dense mat and does not develop roots. Resembles an underwater juniper bush. Zone 5 thru 11.
  • Red Ludwigia – is a submerged oxygenating plant with red-green leaves that can pop out of the water. This is a fast growing plant. Great plant for adding color under water. The more light the darker the red will be in the under side of its leaves. Zone 5 thru 11.

Marginal or Bog Plants

  • Arrowheads – grows in the shallow wetlands like swamps, ditches and slow streams. It’s one of the most attractive pond plants. Blooms white flowers that blossom all summer long. Zone 3 thru 11.
  • Blue flag – deep bluish-purple blossoms, early or late spring depending on zone. Full sun to part shade, Moist soil or shallow water. Zone 3 thru 9.
  • Horsetail Rush – reaches 4 feet tall or more. The hollow stems that are furrowed and green with black bands, that resemble bamboo appearance. Zone 4 thru 11.
  • Variegated Sweet Flag – Known for its beautiful, fragrant green and white foliage. Grows 2′ to 3′ tall, full sun to shade. Zone 4 thru 11
  • Pickerel Weed – Plant this plant in 3″ to 5″ of water, using an aquatic pot. This plant can reach 3 feet tall. Can come with bluish-purple, white and pink blossoms. Zone 3 thru 10.
  • Cardinal Flower – Spiked densely packed, cardinal red, two-lipped blossom, from mid summer to early fall. Grows 2′ to 4′ tall, loves a lot of moisture. Zone 3 thru 9.

Water Garden with Koi fish and bridge

Care of your Water Garden

Even though the water garden plants are supposed to be maintenance free, it should not be neglected. Remove any dead or decayed plants. Water soluble fertilizer tables around the roots every two weeks if a plant is not thriving. Lilies may need to be thinned out after a few years.

Watch for algae, besides it looks awful, the algae will compete for the nutrients in the pond that is for the plants. You might experience an initial algae outbreak six to eight weeks after the planting of the plants, before the ecosystem has a chance to balance out.

The aquatic plants should begin to shade and discourage algae. The oxygenating plants will help prevent algae and add some small snails can help remove the algae.

If you have debris floating on the top of the pond water, use a pool skimmer to it. Using a mechanical filter like in a pool that will remove debris into a catch bag that will need to be cleaned periodically.

For spring cleaning remove any debris that accumulated on the floor of the pond. If you do need to use a pesticide for bug removal, use an organic pesticide recommended by a water garden supplier.

Winter Care of your Water Garden

For those of us who live in the winter states, here is some information on how to care for your water garden in the winter months. The hardy winter plants will survive a northern long winter as their roots remain below ice level. If the pool is likely to freeze almost or completely solid, remove the containers and store them in a cool root cellar or basement until spring.

The tropical aquatic plants and waterlilies require a completely frost free zone. When storing the plants indoors, never let them dry out during the winter. When purchasing the aquatic plants they come with instructions to follow to help them thrive.

Orange Pond Lily

Happy Planting!

When you build a water garden, it seems like a lot at first. Take the advice of careful planning and don’t rush it. Like I said I want to build one at the Simongetti North but not this year.  I have more investigating to do as well.  I am not sure where we are going to put it due to the other projects taking priority.  I hope you found this helpful.

Do you have a water garden. or Koi pond?

Check out my review for online nurseries

Also check out my review for water garden ponds

Please leave a comment below, i would love to hear from you!



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8 thoughts on “The Magic of a Water Garden”

  1. Hello I know what you are talking about, I love the sound of trickling water because it sounds so amazing and can be so relaxing. I have been a gardener now for a little over 25 years and know the change these features can bring. I love water gardens so much that I also wrote an article on them so I think that every home should get one. I know that some yards are not the same size but what I do know is that with some planning you can have one that fits your yard size. Thanks s so much for sharing. What you have written will be of great help to those who are thinking of getting one. There is nothing like enjoying nature on the great outdoors!!

    • Thank you for your post!  My husband and I have always wanted one too.  Now we have the yard to accommodate it.  I will probably look into creating a water garden maybe next year or the following.  I have so many projects and so little time living in Michigan.  Stop back for more gardening tips!

  2. Hi Chris! This is soo cool! I didn’t know that I could actually make the water garden myself 🙂 I moved into suburbs 3 years ago and my pretty big garden remains sort of dull.. I managed to plant some fruit trees and stuff like raspberries and blueberries but I didn’t really have an idea what to do in the remaining parts. It looks like we’ll be stuck at home for a while so I know what I will explore once spring hits in full! thanks 🙂

    • Hi Cogito,

      Thank you for your comment.  Yes you can make your own water garden.  You can purchase kits as well.  Let me know how it works out!  Stop by for more gardening tips!

  3. I had no idea that a water garden feature would be so low maintenance once it is installed (providing everything is done correctly). This was one of the biggest reasons my sweetie hasn’t wanted to add one in our yard, but I am going to send this article to them and see if we can revisit the idea. I absolutely love the look and sound of a waterfall, and with these instructions, I feel confident that we can pull this off! 

    Thanks so much for the information and the helpful diagram too!

  4. Hi, thank you very much for this interesting article, I just bought a house recently and I have always wanted a water garden, even just a small one. You have really given me great insight as to how to build one step by step and also explained very well which features and water garden plants can be added to the water garden. Such a great read. Take care!

    • Thank you for your comments.  I am glad my post inspired you to create you own oasis at your new home.  Stop by and share my website for more gardening tips!


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