The lotus is stylish but hungry when growing.
The lotus is stylish but hungry when growing. Photo Thinkstock

The life aquatic: for those of us who forget to water plants

I'M NOT very good with pot plants at home because I just don't remember to water them. But I have several water bowls containing aquatic plants because they are much more forgiving.

Where I live, rainfall is usually sufficient, but in dry times, refilling the bowls every week or so is enough.

Any pot can be used as a water bowl if you can make it watertight. Put a few inches of coarse gravel in the bottom of the pot to help to keep the water clean.

Ideally, the water bowl will receive full sun for at least half a day. If not, your plant choices will be a little restricted. It's also important to get the depth right for the plants you have chosen. Some like to be in deep water, some prefer just a couple of centimetres of water over the top of the rootball, and some just like to have their feet in the water. You can use bricks or gravel to elevate pots if necessary.

Water lily flowers are wonderfully showy and fragrant, opening for three days in succession. The leaves may be plain green or they may have lovely marbled patterns on them. Hardy water lilies flower from September to April. The flower floats on the water, and the colours range from white through pink, red, apricot and yellow.

Tropical water lilies flower from October to May, although there are a couple of varieties that will spot flower throughout the year. The flowers are held on stems 15-35cm above the water. Colours range from white through shades of pink, magenta, apricot, yellow, blue and purple.

There are night-blooming varieties which open in the evening and close mid-morning. There are also miniature varieties which are ideal for smaller, shallower pots.

Lotus flowers are fragrant and rise high above the water. Lotus need to be fed at least every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Lotuses and most water lilies will die back completely in winter, so you might want to grow something else as well that will provide interest during that period.

Marginals grow in deep or shallow water, or on the edge of ponds or dams. Sedges and grasses are good here, along with cannas, arum lilies, Louisiana iris, and many others.

Oxygenators are essential for a healthy pond to maintain water clarity and prevent algae. Many are also very attractive in their own right. Examples include bacopa and ribbon weed. Then there are the other floating plants, such as the pretty native fringe flower.

Edible water plants include water chestnuts, Lebanese cress, kang kong (water spinach), Vietnamese mint, brahmi (the memory herb), and rice paddy herb.

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