Pond Pointers

We asked BHG.com site visitors to share their experiences caring for outdoor ponds. Here are the top tips.


Enlarge Image A pond can turn your backyardinto a whole different world.

The gardeners who responded to this question were united in their enthusiasm for pond gardens. If they were building their ponds all over again, however, they might not do everything the same way. Read on.

Nothing in my yard gives me more pleasure. We bought a house with a 1,200-gallon pond and knew nothing about it. We actually scrubbed it before learning that it isn't an aquarium. We have a fountain and waterfall, 12 koi (third set, having lost some to blue heron and accidentally using tap water and forgetting to turn it off), and have learned to use underwater plants, floating plants, and bog plants. We have learned that only two or three water hyacinths or water lettuce will multiply in a matter of weeks to cover the pond. A garden bench or two makes for a wonderful place to sit with teens under the guise of feeding fish but having wonderful conversations. It is a destination for all of us. --Liz

I looked at a lot of ponds before we installed ours. I feel the more natural looking, the better. With every decision I thought, "Is this something you would see in a natural pond?" I chose a small waterfall over a fountain in the center for this reason and no fake-looking decorations. It is located close to a sitting area so we can enjoy the sound of moving water when company is over. Birds and frogs are also attracted to the sound of water. The only thing I would change ... is making it bigger! We are now considering adding a second pond beside it and somehow connecting the two. --Cindy

Learn how to add your own inexpensive water garden with our how-to.

I would definitely recommend it. I have put in two ponds and am contemplating another one. I have goldfish in one and albino catfish and albacore in another. I also have frogs and tadpoles in them. The water lilies mature fast and multiply; then you can split them. The water lettuce does not seem to like the sun and it loses some of its green. I enjoy them all times of the day, every day. --Violet

We just put in a 250-gallon pond this spring, but I have the feeling that it will be a long time before I can say, "It's finished." First of all, it's a completely different gardening world. I have to determine which plants are actual water plants, and which are supposed to be planted on the edge of the pond. Everyone I ask seems to have different opinions on this. Next, since I have decided to landscape the area in a natural, woodland theme, I have to determine how far back I can plant the trees (dwarf weeping cherry and Japanese maple) to keep true to the theme, but also not have leaves drop in the pond in the fall. I have chosen woodland plants, such as ferns, bloodroot, cranesbill, Jack-in-the-pulpit, ornamental grasses, and taros. Lastly, it is recommended that you have 60 percent of the pond surface covered with plant material to reduce algae. But when you buy several immature water lilies and floaters, such as parrot's feather and water lettuce, you have maybe 10 percent coverage, so you have to play a waiting game with the algae. To sum it up, I've never had so much fun being totally lost and confused in my life. --Judy

My wife and I plan to install a pond next year. After watching two of our neighbors break their backs installing in-ground ponds, and with the amount of rocks I've already had to dig up in other projects, we plan to install an aboveground pond. Two reasons: As implied, it's not the job that an in-ground pond will be, and it can be made to look just as "natural"; also, it can be "undone" if we or the next homeowners decide it shouldn't be there anymore. --Mark

Keep it simple. Most ponds get overgrown and are basically pretty tacky. It needs to look realistic. Keep the plant selections to a minimum at first to see what direction and size the plants are going to be. Try not to make the pond the entire focus of a back yard, since that looks phony. Be subtle and place it off to the side. Decorating your garden should be like arranging your furniture inside. --Chris

We just added water to our new pond. The natural rock fountain sounds wonderful. I went today to buy plants. Yikes!! A water lily is $30. It will be a slow process adding plants. We had trouble with the design of the falls. Hint: Slant all rocks downward so water doesn't run behind rocks. We have enjoyed the pond a great deal; however, we should have researched a little better. --Debbie

We re-did our pond this March. The old pond was mistakenly placed under an apricot tree. Leaves and rotten fruit continually fell in the pond. (We had drunken goldfish swimming in fermented water.) This time around we learned from our mistakes. We moved the pond into the center of the yard and used ferns, horsetail reeds, and tall flowers to shade instead of a tree. We love it! There are goldfish, koi, a bluegill, and bullfrog pollywogs in there. We love to feed them worms -- they'll take them right out of our hands. So far we haven't been visited by raccoons -- only the blue heron who comes regularly searching for a snack. There is only one thing I would have done differently this time: I would have made it bigger! --Kim

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