If you're looking for a new way to display your plants around your house, crafting an indoor water garden may be a great project for you. Growing plants in water is great for beginners and expert gardeners alike. Plus, it's one of the easiest ways to care for plants indoors—you never need to worry about over- or under-watering your plants!
There are three main types of aquatic plants that you can use in a water garden. They include:
- True aquatics (submerged plants): The entire plant, including the roots and foliage, are fully submerged in water.
- Semi-aquatics (emergent plants): The roots of these plants grow in water, while the foliage extends above the water's surface.
- Floating plants: These plants live on the surface of the water and are considered 'free-floating.' Their root systems are small and shallow.
It's not appropriate to add fish to a water garden, as often the vase is too small. If there are fish in the container, do not add plant food to the water garden.
Depending on how you want your garden to look, all three of these types of aquatic plants can be successfully used to create an indoor water garden. Once established, indoor water gardens require little ongoing maintenance. Semi-regular cleaning and water changes will ensure that the containers remain clean and free of debris, but otherwise, these aquatic environments remain fairly self-sustaining.
Learn how to create an indoor water garden with these six easy steps.
Equipment / Tools
- Rag or cloth
- Clear glass container
- Aquatic plant food
- Filtered water
Choose Your Plants
The type of plants that you select for your indoor water garden depends on how you want your water garden to look. Popular "true" aquatic plants include java moss, java fern, amazon sword, anarcharis, and anubias. If you prefer the look of semi-aquatic plants, many popular houseplants—like pothos, philodendron, calla lilies, spider plants, English ivy, and more—can easily be transitioned to growing their roots in water. Likewise, popular floating plants include duckweed, water lettuce, water hyacinths, and Amazon frogbit.
Choose Your Container
Any type of glass container will work for an indoor water garden, as long as it is watertight. Feel free to get creative—you can use jars or vases that you already have lying around, or check out a local thrift shop for inexpensive glass containers.
The size and shape of the container will depend on the type of water garden that you hope to make. If you are planning on using true aquatic plants, you'll need a container that is large enough to fit the entire plant. Alternatively, if you're planning on using semi-aquatic plants or floaters, you will only need a container that can fit the roots or base of the plant, so you can get away with more shallow styles.
Clean Roots of Existing Debris
Regardless of the type of plant that you choose for your water garden, you will need to thoroughly clean the roots of any existing debris before creating your water garden. Cleaning roots not only helps keep the water looking clean, but it will also ensure that the roots can fully transition to water. Take your time here and be careful not to break too many roots. An old toothbrush or cloth can be a great way to help remove any stubborn specks. Once you have removed all debris or soil from the roots, gently hold them under running water to ensure they are completely clean.
Pot Plant in Container
Once your plants are clean and ready, it's time to put the water garden together. If you are using floater plants, this step can be skipped, as you'll add water to your container before adding the plants.
If you are creating a water garden with true aquatic plants, you will need to use rocks or pebbles (aquarium rocks are a great and inexpensive choice) to weigh down the base of the plant in the container. Place the plant at the bottom of the container and gently add the rocks until the base of the plant is firmly secured. It's important that the crown of the plant is not fully covered with rocks, as this will hinder root growth. Keep the top of the root ball slightly exposed.
If you are using semi-aquatic plants, you will need to place the roots of the plant in your container and hold the plant in place before adding water. You can use rocks and pebbles for this if desired, or you can allow the roots to grow throughout the entire container—it mainly depends on the look you're going for.
Fill Container With Water
Once you're happy with your arrangement, it's time to add water to your garden. Filtered water should be used here for the health of your plants—if you're using tap water, allow it to sit out overnight so that the chlorine can evaporate fully. Also, make sure to have the water at room temperature—temperatures that are too hot or too cold can shock your plants.
If you're using floater plants, add water to your container, then arrange the plants to your liking. If you're using aquatic or semi-aquatic plants, you'll be adding water to the container after the plants have already been added—do so carefully, so as not to disturb your arrangement. Direct the stream of water off of one of the inside edges of your container so that the water is not falling directly onto the plants.
Add Decorative Touches (Optional)
Once your water garden is put together, you can feel free to add a few decorative touches. Ornamental rocks, crystals, figurines, aquarium decorations, and more can all make fantastic finishing touches.
Once your indoor water garden is constructed it requires little ongoing care. Place it in a location that receives bright, indirect light and is far away from any drafty windows or vents. Aquatic plant food tablets (available at most pet stores) can be used to provide ongoing fertilizer for your water garden. Be sure to read all package instructions thoroughly before adding anything to the water.
Every couple of weeks you'll want to change out the water and give the container a quick cleaning. This will ensure that algae doesn't build up over time, which can cause the water to look murky and dirty. Take this time to also examine the roots of your plant and remove any dead or dying pieces.