5 different water container gardens with beautiful and flowering aquatic plants.

How to Create a Water Container Garden

Adding a water garden to your yard adds a beautiful focal point, creating a sense of relaxation and tranquility to your entire landscape and well-being. Some see water as a symbol of life, and having a container water garden on your patio will make this even more apparent as your water lilies bloom, your aquatic plants grow tall, and the dragonflies stop by for a visit.

Simply put, a water container garden is a mini pond in a tub or container. Growing water plants in a container requires very little space and is less of a commitment than installing a full-sized pond. Sometimes called "patio ponds," water container gardens can be created in a matter of hours and require little maintenance, so it's an excellent project for getting kids involved!

A pot with aquatic plants and a beautiful pink bloom growing on a patio near a lawn

Putting Together a Water Container Garden

For the container itself, you have lots of freedom to get creative—a tub, barrel, pot, galvanized bucket or can, or any other container that holds water works great. Though they're called water gardens, these arrangements still require some soil for the roots of aquatic plants to grow.

Instead of adding a layer of soil at the bottom of the entire container, you can put plants in their own separate smaller pots with heavy clay soil or specialty soil for water plants, then arrange these pots in the larger container. To make sure the potted plants will reach the surface in deep containers, use bricks to raise the pots.

Place your water garden in a spot that gets at least four to six hours of sun every day. Some shade in the afternoon helps to reduce algae and protects your plants from intense heat. Assemble the garden exactly where you plan to leave it since, especially if you're using a larger container, it will get quite heavy to move around!

To maintain your water garden, replenish evaporated water every few days and remove debris and yellow leaves daily.

Plants to Add to Your Water Container Garden

Just as you would in your standard garden beds, it's essential to grow a diversity of aquatic plants to add interest to the design and keep your plants healthy. And though a full container is tempting, to fit in as many plants as you can, cover only one-third of the container's surface. This gives the plants enough sunlight and will help reduce algae build-up.

Consider including water lilies, marginal plants, and oxygenators in your water container garden.

Water Lilies

Water lilies grow their roots in aquatic soil, but the leaves and flowers float elegantly on the surface. They also keep the water clean and aerated, reducing algae growth, and add a splash of color to your garden. At SummerWinds, we have both hardy and tropical water lilies available in a range of colors.

Water container garden on deck near other potted plants

Hardy lilies bloom during the day and can grow in cooler temperatures. Tropical water lilies do well in warm temperatures, come in day-blooming and night-blooming varieties, and generally grow larger and have more blooms.

Water lilies are considered deep-water plants, though some varieties can grow in pots as shallow as seven inches.

Marginal Plants

Marginal plants, or emergent plants, grow near the edges of your water container garden and do best in three to six inches of water. The roots of marginal plants grow beneath the water surface, and the foliage grows above. A few great marginal plants include yerba mansa, giant dwarf papyrus, and pitcher plants.


Oxygenators are submerged plants that reduce algae growth and add oxygen to the water. Some oxygenators, like parrot's feather, have long stems that float along the water's surface, rounding out your water container garden.

Container water gardens can add an entirely new level of diversity to your landscape, and anyone can create and maintain one! With little input and maintenance, you can enjoy all the benefits of these beautiful water features in your yard all year long.

Speak with one of our Trusted Garden Advisors to learn more.

At SummerWinds, We Guarantee Your Success!