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Overwintering Annual Shallow Water Plants – 3 Easy Steps!

Overwintering annual shallow water plants can be an intimidating thought for most pond and water garden owners. As the temperature begins to drop, these aquatic plants face many unique challenges, as they are partially submerged in water. Thankfully ensuring their survival through the cold season is relatively simple and can be broken down into 3 easy steps!

1. Identify your hardiness zone.

Plant hardiness zones are a way to help gardeners and farmers understand which plants will thrive in their specific location. These zones are based on the average minimum winter temperature in a particular region. The United States, for example, is divided into multiple hardiness zones, each with a unique number or letter designation.

In simple terms, plant hardiness zones tell you how cold it gets in your area during the winter. This information is important because different plants have different temperature preferences. By knowing your zone, you will be able to identify which plants are considered annuals in your area.

There are several ways to identify your hardiness zone. The map below is an excellent resource for a rough approximation of which zone you are in. Another option is the USDA Plant Hardiness Map provided on the USDA’s website. Click Here and enter your zip code for more accurate result.



2. Find the hardiness of your plants.

Use Chalily’s online shop to browse our assortment of shallow water plants. Information about your plants can be found on the product page. Click Here to explore! If your zone location matches, or is higher than the hardiness of the plant, it is safe to leave your plants outside. Here’s a handy example: Graceful Cattail’s hardiness zone is 4. This means that zones 4 and higher are safe to leave them outside!

3. Overwintering annual pond plants.

The end of growing season is the perfect time to start planning for next year! Determine if you would like to overwinter your annuals, or switch to something different in the spring!

Once you have determined the hardiness of your plants, be sure to select varieties that will be manageable indoors. Trimming back excess stems at the crown of the plant is a great way to save space. Bring your plant inside before the first frost and be sure to place it in an area that receives as much sunlight as possible.

While inside, be sure to water the plant as you would a houseplant, avoiding standing water or overly wet soil. Keep in mind that these are not ideal growing conditions for shallow water plants and they will not look as healthy as in the warmer months.

Once the threat of frost has subsided and the weather warms, it will be safe to return your plant outside and replant for another growing season!

If you’re not sure what you have, or if you need help deciding what to do with it, contact us at and we can help you determine what actions to take.

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Wintering Annual Water Lilies

#1: Remove your potted tropical water lily from the pond. If the outside air temperature is above 50 degrees you can leave the pot outside. If it is below 50 degrees move your plant to a warmer location indoors.

#2: After the plant has dried out for one week, it’s time to take off all the soil, roots and leaves. You are looking for the tuber, which is directly under the center of the plant. The tuber can range from the size of a marble to the size of a baseball.

#3: Wash off all the soil and cut any roots or leaves off. After a good cleaning allow the tuber to air-dry overnight.

#4: Moisten clean sand. Be sure the sand is barely damp (not wet). If the sand is too wet, the tubers will rot.

#5: Pack the tubers in an airtight container. Place a layer of moistened sand in the bottom and then a tuber. Add more sand to fill the container and seal. Label the outside of the container.

#6: Place the tuber containers in a cool, dark place. The temperature should be between 50 and 70 degrees. A basement is an ideal location.

#7: Check your container about once per month. You are looking for mold or rotting tubers. If your tubers are soft, discard them. If they have mold, wash it off and allow the tuber to dry overnight. Then store the tuber in new sand.

You can leave tubers in storage for up to five years, as long as they remain firm and healthy. If you want to replant them, brush off the sand from the firm tuber and place it in the same kind of pot and soil it was in before and place it in your pond. Make sure the water temperature is warm enough (60 degrees at least) before you put the annual plants back in the pond.

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Prepare Your Water Feature for Winter

With temperatures dropping and winter right around the corner it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll need to do to winterize your water feature for the cooler months ahead. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

Vase Fountains

If there’s a chance the water could freeze in your area it is best to drain the vase and remove it from the basin. Be sure the vase is completely drained and place in a garage or shed for the winter. Or you may leave the vase in place and cover it. Next, remove the pump and place it in a bucket of water somewhere where it will not freeze. The water remaining in the basin should stay there over the winter and be allowed to freeze.

Boulder and Basalt Fountains

These are even easier as you can leave the boulder in place on the basin for the entire winter regardless of whether it will freeze or not. Just remove the pump from the basin and place it in a bucket of water where it will not freeze.

Cascading/Pondless Waterfalls

Everything should be left in place to freeze except the pump. Simply disconnect the pump from the plumbing and place in a bucket of water where it won’t freeze. Many people run their cascading waterfalls year-round or as long as possible. Just watch for ice dams creating areas where the water exits the liner.

Ponds & Watergardens

Add a cover net to minimize the number of leaves that fall into the pond. Feed the fish a diet specifically formulated for cooler water. Cut back all plants as they will decompose during the winter. Remove the pump and place in a bucket where it will not freeze. Be sure the check valve is removed as well so that the water in the upper waterfall box drains back to the skimmer and into the pond. You want all the water in the flex pipe to drain so that it doesn’t freeze and cause the pipe to crack. Remove the mat and net from the skimmer but leave any support pipes in place to minimize distortion over the winter. If you have fish add an aerator and deicer to ensure a hole remains open in the ice so the fish can get air. Continue to add cold water bacteria to the pond to help digest any remaining debris and to prepare the pond for spring.

Source: Blue Thumb Newsletter; September 29, 2016

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5 Tips to Prepare Your Pond for Autumn

#1 Netting

Keeping leaves out of your water feature should be your first goal this time of year.

Leaves and debris in the water will cause the water to turn toxic for your fish and wildlife. Netting can help keep leaves and other debri out! It is available in different styles and in 3 grades. The higher the grade the longer it will last and also the easier it is to use.

If you only have a few leaves to remove from your pond a scoop net will do the job. Our favorite is the PondShark. It is a net, rake and scraper – all in one.

# 2 Prepare your Water

Bacteria that stays with your pond all winter long.

As the water temperature changes, you to should change to a cool weather fish food and cool weather bacteria. Autumn / Winter Prep bacteria reduces buildup of dead leaves and organic sediment all winter long.

Barley is a natural algae preventative. Barley bales are something that need to be replaced every six months. If you placed a bale in the pond during the spring, now is the time to add the new bale. After 1 month of having both bales in the water remove the old bale.

#3 Protect your Fish

Your fish will need special attention to help prepare.

Use a pond thermometer to help decide when to switch bacteria and fish food. When the water temperature falls below 60 degrees for a week, change to a wheatgerm based fish food. Feed this low temp food until the water temp falls below 40 degrees. Then no food all winter long. This wheatgerm food is much easier for the fish to digest. Whereas the summer blends of food can actually spoil in the fish system as their metabolism is too slow digesting the food. A Koi Kastle is a great idea to consider during the winter months. The Koi Kastle will give your fish a place to hide when all the plants are dormant. If you have a predator problem the fish will be safe in the deep part of the pond under their Kastle.

#4 Keep your Water Safe

Keep a hole in the ice so that there is still gas exchange between your pond and the air.

This hole can be created a few different ways. You can add an air pump to the system, keeping the air stone in the top third of the pond. The moving air and water will not freeze.

You could add a de-icer, which has a thermostat, controlling their on / off cycles. The deicer will allow the pond to freeze everywhere except near the de-icer.

The third choice is to allow the pump to run. The moving water can not freeze. You will be rewarded with fantastic ice formations. You need to plan ahead as you will need to add water during these freezing periods. So have a hose and water source ready to go. If you don’t run the pump, it is safest to bring the pump and check valve into a non freezing location. Place the pump in a bucket of water to keep the seals moist.

#5 Trim your Plants

A good time to trim back your water plants is after the first heavy frost.

You should cut them back just above the water level. If the plant is an annual then either put it in the compost pile or bring it indoors prior to that first heavy frost. For specific plants just bring a leaf or two to Chalily and we can help figure out the best course of action. Perennial water lilies should be left in the pond; simply remove the leaves after a heavy frost. Annual water lilies can be kept if you save the tuber indoors. At Chalily, we have the steps to save the tropical lilies on a hand out. Stop by to obtain your copy.