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The Enabled Gardener: Winterizing Container Ponds

first printed in Pond & Garden Sept/Oct 2001
By Josh Spece

Just when your container pond (or any pond, for that matter!) begins to look itís best, itís time to start thinking about winter. Winterizing a container garden is a little different than winterizing an in-ground pond, but with the right precautions the plants and fish youíve enjoyed all summer can provide more than one season of fun.

Any plant that is hardy in your climate can be treated a couple different ways. The best and easiest method would be to ask one of your ponding buddies to winter your hardy plants in their pond. Place all your plants in a plastic milk crate so it is easy to keep them separate from your friendís plants and sink them to the bottom of the pond. The next best method is to sink the plant into the ground for the winter. Just bury the pot up to the rim in an out of the way spot in the yard. This workís well for marginal plants like iris, cattails, and most reed-type plants, but will not work for water lilies. As a last resort, you can bring them indoors and keep them damp and cool.

Tropical marginal plants can be brought indoors and treated like a houseplant during cold weather. Set the pots in a shallow saucer of water and give them as much light as possible. A south, east, or west window is best, but grow lights may be sufficient. Umbrella Palm, Taro, Papyrus, and Water Petunia can be wintered with this method. Stems of long vining plants like Parrotís Feather and Primrose Creeper can simply be stuck in a vase of water and kept in a brightly-lit area.

Tropical water lilies need more specialized care during the winter. Check past issues of Pond & Garden for step-by-step instructions on drying and storing tropical water lily corms.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to keep floaters like hyacinths and lettuce alive indoors. They are cheep enough that it is usually easiest to just treat them as annuals and replace them every year.

If you kept goldfish in your container pond they will need to be brought indoors for the winter. Be sure to set up an aquarium with proper filtration ahead of time so it can cycle before you introduce your fish.

If you garden in an area that receives long periods of freezing weather it is best to drain your container and store it upside down or in a garage or shed. The expanding and contracting of the water as it freezes and thaws could cause the container to crack. Stone, concrete, and terra cotta containers are especially prone to cracking.

Ponders in the frost-free Southern states obviously donít have to worry about winterizing their container water gardens. Us Northern ponders donít have it so easy, but with a little extra work we can easily carry the plants and fish weíve grown to love from one ponding season to the next.

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