What do you do with your plants in the winter?

A Little Time With Your Aquatic Plants Now Means Less Time Spent on Them in the Spring

How you care for each of the plants in your water feature will depend on what type of plant it is. Regardless, remember to either dispose of tropical plants or bring them in before the first hard freeze.
Hardy vs. Tropical
Any plant that can go through a winter in your area and then re-emerge the next year is hardy to your area. When you purchase a plant for your landscape or water garden it should be marked as to it's "hardiness zone." In Indiana, we are either a 5a, 6a, or 6b zone. If those zones sound a little different from what you have heard in the past, the USDA recently updated the zone map. Marion County, Indiana was formally a zone 5 now a 6a. Many plant tags may not have the revised numbers yet. Check out the USDA map for the entire country here. Whether a plant is tropical or hardy will determine how you treat it for the winter.

hardy pond plant
This is water forget-me-not. It is one of our favorite hardy marginals!

Hardy Marginal Plants
Most hardy marginal plants (marginal plants have their roots planted under the water and the foliage above the water level) will over winter easily in your pond without much fuss. In the fall after they have died back, trim them back to about 1"-2" above the water level. A few finicky plants such as Cardinal Flower, Pickerel Rush, and Lizards Tail prefer to be in an ice-free area of the pond. So either submerged or close to a deicer.
tropical pond plant
Cigar plants are beautiful topical marginals that attract butterflies

Tropical Marginal Plants
Either bring these plants inside and treat them as house plants or discard them. If brought inside, there's no need to keep them completely submerged, just keep them very damp and near a sunny window. Read more about overwintering tropical plants here.
hardy water lily
This Colorado water lily will come back year after year.

Hardy Water Lilies and Lotus

Trim back the foliage of water lilies and lotus about 2" above the crown of the plant if possible. Make sure they are in at least 12" of water.
tropical water lily
Surfrider is a tropical water lily in purple-- a color unique to tropical lilies.

Tropical Water Lilies

It's best just to treat a tropical water lily as an annual and replace it each year. It is possible to keep them, the difficulty lies in getting them ready to go back out in the spring. It takes a sunny 70 degree (water temperature) location to get them going before placing them outside again. Most homes just don't have place like that. Compare your tropical water lily to a hanging basket that you purchase each year. It's a nice treat!
submerged water plant
Hornwort is a great option for submerged plants.
Submerged Plants
Also referred to as oxygenators, some submerged plants will survive the winter others will not. It mostly depends on the severity of the winter. Trim them back to 2"-4" and keep them at an "ice-free" height. It seems the deeper in the pond the better their chances.

floating pond plant
Water hyacinth have beautiful blooms.

Floating Plants

Water hyacinth and water lettuce are not hardy. They should be removed in the fall as they begin to brown and die.
Final Thoughts
Most aquatic plants are fairly forgiving. They'll come back no matter if they have been trimmed back or not. But taking care of them now means a cleaner water feature in the spring and less time maintaining and more time enjoying! 


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