Winterizing your pond plants is a fall ritual that many gardeners know is necessary to maintain a healthy and thriving pond ecosystem. You may be wondering how you should winterize your pond plants that are not necessarily hardy. There are several ways to prepare your pond plants for the upcoming frost.
To winterize your pond plants, you need to remove floating tropical plants, cut perennial hardy plants just above the water level, clean any leaves and debris and place a net over your pond. Ensure the water is aerated and place a de-icer to prevent the water surface from freezing over.
Like we humans prepare for winter by buying warm clothes and busting out heaters, your pond plants also need to be winterized. Although it may be a hassle, working on your pond right before winter hits is imperative. Here’s how to prepare your pond before the upcoming winter.
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Do You Cut Back Pond Plants?
Yes, pond plants need to be cut back when winterizing your pond plants. There are a variety of plants that are not hardy and will not survive the frost. It is imperative to cut back on all deciduous plants. Although there are many different ways to winterize pond plants, the main steps need to be taken.
- Remove Any Floating Tropical Plants
The first step you should take when winterizing your pond plants is to eliminate the annual floating plants in your pond. These plants would be water hyacinths, jumbo Salvinia, etc. These types of pond plants will be on the ice level, which will lead to them freezing and the chances of them making it through the winter are very slim.
You’ll also need to identify and remove any annuals in your pond. Tropical annuals cannot tolerate colder weather. If you would rather compost them or prefer to overwinter them indoors, the decision is up to you.
- Cut Perennial Plants To Just Above The Water Surface
Perennial plants that you have in your pond, whether they are planted directly in your pond or situated in a pot in the pond, need to be cut off directly above the water level. Therefore, the plants must be trimmed roughly an inch or two above the water level.
This will allow your perennial pond plants to be dormant throughout the winter. Unlike annual pond plants, perennial pond plants do not need to be brought indoors as they respond better to the frost. Ensure that any dead foliage is removed.
This will help remove any excessive organic debris that will decompose in your pond. Some plants, such as the elephant ear pond plant (Colocasia), need to be replanted deeper in the water to preserve more of the shoot, ensuring you’re not starting from the bulb every spring. This is especially necessary if you want the plants to grow to be big.
- Add Cold Weather Beneficial Bacteria
It is important to switch to autumn/winter Prep beneficial bacteria. This type is uniquely formulated for pond winterization. Prep is essential in helping to reduce any buildup of dead organic materials throughout the winter.
Not only that, but this type of Prep will jump-start your pond to a much healthier habitat by the time spring rolls around as the debris that usually accumulates in the pond during winter will be digested.
This water treatment is important as it has concentrated strains of bacteria that can work below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s imperative to add this to help maintain your pond’s water quality and clarity. Beneficial bacteria can do wonders for your ponds when applied correctly.
- Remove Pond Equipment
You can decide to run your pond or shut it down. If you decide to shut it down, ensure that you unplug the pond pump from its power source and remove it. By doing this, you allow all the water in the system to drain back into the pond, winterizing the pipes and reducing the chances of you having to deal with any burst pipes from freezing water in the pipes.
However, ensure that you store your pump in a bucket or container full of distilled water if it has a rubber seal on it as they need to be kept wet. Clean any stuck debris before storing it in an area where it will not freeze, as this may lead to it getting damaged and not functioning as it should come springtime.
If you decide to switch off your pump for the winter, you must also get it winterized. If there’s a danger the pump will freeze inside the pond, you should remove it and store it somewhere safe, like a garage.
One of the most typical blunders is that people clean their filters well to turn them off during the winter. This should not be done since it will cause the biotope in the filter to stop working. By doing so, you are destroying the bacterial colony that has been growing in your filter for months.
It’s important to keep an above-ground filter from freezing and breaking. The ideal circumstance is for the pond pump to be submerged deep enough in the water to prevent freezing or be positioned on dry land in a frost-free region. If you have any doubts about the pond pump or pond filter freezing, bring them inside to be safe.
Older pumps may need to be submerged in water over the winter to avoid brittle plastic. Newer pumps are designed to be dried and kept throughout the winter. If you want to switch off your pump and waterfall for the winter, you’ll need to ensure that there is a hole in the ice if you have fish.
- Add A De-icer And Aerator To Your Pond
Fear not if you live in areas that experience ice cover on water features, as there is a way to get around that. There are other ways to ensure the pond’s surface does not freeze, such as a de-icer and heater.
If you have fish in your pond, they will hibernate, where their heartbeats go down to roughly one beat per minute. They still need to breathe and get fresh oxygen. This is where an aerator pump comes in. Place an aerator in about 10 to 12 inches of water and not all the way to the bottom of the pond.
The aeration pump and stones keep the water moving and prevent it from freezing. It also has the advantage of removing the plentiful carbon dioxide faster. Too much carbon dioxide causes the water to become acidic, which is obviously undesirable for pond plants.
Aeration stones should never be placed deeper than 20-40 cm below the pond’s surface. If you put them in deeper, the bottom, warmer layers of water mix with the colder levels, which isn’t what you want.
The hole created by the de-icer will allow your fish to breathe, which is essential for their survival. It doesn’t have to be a big hole, but it must stay open through the ice. This will also help to get the bad gases that come from decomposing material out of the pond as the aerator will disturb the pond’s surface and keep the water moving.
Although having a de-icer and a heater is most important to add to your pond for fish and such, it can also benefit your pond plants. As a heater keeps the pond from freezing and a de-icer is insurance that there will always be a hole in the pond, you can keep your tropical perennial plants happy during the winter.
The warm water preserves a tiny amount of the stem tissue, and your pond plants will grow bigger in spring. Surface de-icers range in price from $30-$300. The watts range from 100 to 1500. Therefore, consider how this will affect your electric cost. It’s good to get a backup de-icer because they’re known for breaking down during the coldest months of the year.
The pond’s freezing isn’t always a concern. The main goal is to ensure there’s still a hole big enough for the fish to get enough oxygen. People frequently believe that keeping the pond open is important for water oxygenation. However, this is not the case. The carbon dioxide in the water must be able to escape.
A few basic methods exist for leaving a large hole in your pond. Purchase a pond heater, for example. If the pond freezes despite the precautions taken, do not be alarmed. In this instance, your fish should still be fine.
You should take action if the pond has been frozen shut for longer than a week. What you should never do, is drill holes into the ice. Your fish may become stressed due to the vibrations, and they may die as a result. The best option is to pour tepid water over the ice or set a hot skillet on it, which slowly melts the ice.
- Place A Net On The Surface Of Your Pond
If your pond is near trees whose leaves will fall into the pond, you might want to consider placing a net over your pond. It is much easier to keep the leaves out than it is to remove the soggy mess.
Having too many leaves in the pond will harm and may even result in the death of any aquatic life, like fish and frogs. If you happen to not have a net placed over your water feature, a long-handled pond net is a tool that you can use to remove any buildup of leaves or debris.
In addition to leaves and debris, trim back any marginal plants that will likely droop into the pond. This way, the ammonia levels in your pond will not increase, and the pond’s ecosystem will stay stable.
How Do I Overwinter My Pond Plants?
If you decide to keep them indoors instead of composting them, ensure that you trim or prune any dead or old-looking foliage. Ensure that you do some root pruning too. You should also downsize the plant.
This simply means trimming back any extra-large leaves, branches, stems, etc. Fear not, as your plants will come back after being cut. Unsurprisingly, plants have good nutrient reserves in their roots to be able to grow back fully. The reason you downsize is so the plants don’t take up too much space inside. Your goal is to keep your pond plants alive.
The annual plants you choose to overwinter indoors should be placed in a bright sunny spot, like a window with a saucer underneath them. You’ll need to keep them wet during winter as they are plants that love water, with their habitat being the pond.
However, ensure that you do not submerge them in water. You simply water them as you would any houseplants, but more so. Should You Winterize All Your Pond Plants? Keep in mind that certain plants are not worth your time to overwinter.
Although you may love and adore them, it may be better to replace them. There are a few pond plants that may not be worth the overwintering hassle. For the most part, water hyacinths are one of those pond plants that do not grow well indoors. It is not a hard and fast rule as there are always exceptions.
The pond plants winterizing guide mentioned above will ensure that you have success in the upcoming winter season. Your pond will be ready for winter once you’ve done these little steps. Keep an eye on your pond every couple of days throughout the winter to track what’s going on.
Try not to worry too much about your pond plants, as nature has given them properties that enable them to survive in even the most extreme conditions. Remember to clean debris and decide which plants you want to overwinter and which ones you’ll cut back. Add in cold weather, beneficial bacteria, the necessary equipment, and viola, winterizing is done.