No room for a pond? Water lily breeder Pieter van der Walt of Aqua Flora shows you how to create a mini version in a container complete with water lilies. Here’s how to make a water garden in a container.

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  • A waterproof container at least 30cm deep and 60cm in diameter
  • Bricks or stones
  • Water plants


Above: Nymphae, Juncus effusus, Dwarf papyrus


  • All water lilies (Nymphaea) will grow in a container. Some smaller varieties include Nymphaea ‘Perry’s Baby Red’ (deep red), N. ‘Walter Pagels’ (ivory) and N. ‘Helvola’ (yellow).
  • Dwarf cattail (Typha minima)
  • Dwarf papyrus (Cyperus prolifer)
  • Morning star sedge (Carex grayi)
  • Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’)
  • Imperial taro (Colocasia antiquorum)
  • Marsh lobelia (Lobelia anceps)
  • Star grass (Dichromena colorata)
  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • Tape grass (Vallisneria spiralis) to oxygenate the water

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  1. Select a suitable container about 30–50cm deep with a diameter of at least 60cm without drainage holes. If your pot has holes, seal them with silicone sealant. Rinse the container to ensure it’s clean.

make a water garden in a container2. Place bricks in the bottom of the container for the water plants to stand on.

make a water garden in a container3. As water plants come ready planted in containers, leave them in these and position them to your satisfaction. We chose Nymphaea ‘Peace Lily’, N. ‘Colorado’ and Carex grayi, for a bit of height, and purple-flowering marsh lobelia.

make a water garden in a container

4. Add an oxygenating plant such as Vallisneria spiralis below the surface to oxygenate the water and keep it clean.make a water garden in a container

5. Fill the container with water ensuring that the water lily’s flowers and leaves are just floating on the surface. Adjust the height with more bricks if necessary.

make a water garden in a container 5


  • Place the container in an area that receives full sun or a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • Keep the water topped up.
  • Prune out dead leaves and excessive growth.
  • Lift the plants in their containers and feed them with slow-release fertiliser sticks (just push them into the soil) or bonemeal (dig a hole in the soil, add the bonemeal and fill the hole with soil). Water lilies are greedy feeders and can be fertilised as often as once a month throughout summer to encourage repeat flowering.
  • As water lilies are dormant in winter, replace them with Cape waterblommetjies (Aponogeton distachyos) in the cooler months for year-round interest.