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Play It Koi - Bare Root Plants Planting Instructions

Posted by Alex Sprenger on

Welcome to Play It Koi's Bare Root Planting Guide

Our #1 goal is happy, repeat customers. We realize that purchasing pond plants online may seem intimidating at first. However, its actually quite simple and easy if you know-how and do a little prep work. No matter which pond plant you may be interested in, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and right supplies necessary to successfully nurture and grow it into a mature and healthy pond plant. 

*We advise quarantining new plants in separate container for a minimum of two weeks prior to placing them into your pond.

This guide is broken into 6 sections:

  1. 1)  Hardy Water Lily Bare Root Planting Guide
  2. 2) Tropical Water Lily Bare Root Planting Guide
  3. 3) Lotus Bare Root Planting Guide
  4. 4) Bog Plants & Marginal Plant Bare Root Planting Guide
  5. 5) Submerged/Oxygenating Bare Root Planting Guide
  6. 6) Floating Plant Bare Root Care Guide
  7. 7) True Floating Bare Root Plants Care Guide
We hope you enjoy and thank you for your support or Play It Koi! 



        Section 1  --------   HARDY WATER LILIES -----------

        Materials Required: 

        An appropriate sized lily pot container. Our most popular options include:

        Loamy Water Lily Soil. Our most popular options include:
        Water Lily Plant Fertilizer. Our most popular options include:

        Hardy Water Lily Planting Instructions: 

        For best results, we recommend planting aquatic plants in Fabric Plant Pots. Use a heavy clay loam or a pre-packaged pond plant media specific for aquatic plants. If you try to use a soil that is light and fluffy, like a traditional potting soil, you will end up with a big mess on your hands. For your water lily to thrive and flower, you will also need to feed it once a month with aquatic plant fertilizer

        Once you've gathered your supplies and your bare root water lily plant has arrived from Play It Koi, it's time to plant. Keep your plant wet while you are planting it so that the leaves don't dry out. Hardy water lilies are planted using a loam garden soil and 2-3 fertilizer tablets. Hardy lilies grow horizontally across the container so a wide pot is necessary for planting (a 14 or 16-inch fabric pot is the best container). Fill your planting container to be about half-full with soil. Place 2 fertilizer tablets in the soil. You are now ready to plant. 

        Locate the rhizome, which is also commonly known as “the root” or the base of the plant from which the stems emerge. The rhizome should be planted at one edge of the container and at an angle of about 45 degrees with the crown exposed towards the center of the pot.  Gently add soil over top being sure to keep the crown (the top of the root formation) exposed. Tamp down the soil to compact it a bit. Then, top with a  ½ to 1 inch of pea gravel. The pea gravel helps to make sure the soil won't float away.  Again though, do not cover the crown with the pea gravel or stones, as this may hinder the plant's growthl. Your plant is now ready to place in the pond. 

        Find a suitable location for your hardy water lily to rest. Most aquatics require at least 5 hours of direct sunlight for optimum growth. Water lilies like calm waters, so be sure to position them away from waterfalls, sprays, or fountains. The plant can be lowered to a depth of 6 inches to begin with, and then lowered to deeper depths as the plant grows. 

        Hardy lilies should be planted in early spring and should be fertilized every 4-6 weeks. Be sure that the fertilizer isn’t directly in contact with the lily’s roots, as it may burn them. They bloom from June through September depending on the weather and become dormant during the colder months. As spring approaches, growth will begin again.

        Once your hardy lilies are potted, you’ll want to place them in your pond at depths appropriate for their size, and in still areas of the pond. Avoid placing them near waterfalls and fountains. Large to medium hardy lily varieties should be placed at depths between 18-30 inches. Small varieties prefer water depths between 12-24 inches. Finally, dwarf varieties should be placed at water depths between 6-12 inches. 



        Section 2  ------ TROPICAL WATER LILIES ----------

        Materials Required:

        An appropriate sized lily pot container. Our most popular options include:
        Loamy Water Lily Soil. Our most popular options include:
        Water Lily Plant Fertilizer. Our most popular options include:


        Tropical Water Lily Planting Instructions: 

        Tropical water lilies feature large flowers that are fragrant and borne on stems rising above the water’s surface. They need at least 6 hours of full sun each day and require warm, still water at temperatures of at least 70 degrees, or warmer. Typically, tropical lilies are treated as annuals, except in USDA Zone 10. In other regions, they can be overwintered in indoor greenhouses. Day-blooming tropical lilies bear flowers that bloom in the hours between mid-day and dusk. Night-blooming lilies have the opposite schedule, and their flowers open between dusk and mid-morning.

        Tropical lilies require more care than hardy varieties and are grown from tubers. For best results, we recommend planting in a large, wide containers, and using a heavy clay loam or mud. We recommend fertilizing your tropical lily monthly.

        Once you've gathered your supplies and your bare root water lily plant has arrived from Play It Koi, it's time to plant. Keep your plant wet while you are planting it so that the leaves don't dry out. Fill your water lily container approximately 2/3 full with your soil, then place the lily in the center of the container. Pack the soil approximately 2 inches above and around the roots of the plant, allowing another 2 inches between the crown of the plant and the top of the container. Once your tropical water lily is potted, it is ready to be placed in your pond. Tropical water lilies should be placed such that their crown is between 6-24” below the water’s surface. Start by placing your tropical water lily in shallower waters until it is established. 



        Section 3  ----------LOTUS----------

        Materials Required:

        An appropriate sized pot container. Our most popular options include:
        Clay-Based or Amended soil. Our most popular options include:
        Lotus Plant Fertilizer. Our most popular options include:


        Water Lotus Planting Instructions: 

        Lotus flowers are a beautiful addition to any koi pond or water garden. While they are considered a hardier flower than many, certain conditions are necessary to grow them well. Lotus flowers are usually planted in the mid-spring and summer season. Lotus flowers need certain conditions to grow well, and may not even bloom until the second summer. During the winter, you may leave your lotus in the pond, as long as the tubers (the roots) are protected from ice.

        To grow a lotus from a tuber, you will first want to find a nice sunny spot to grow your lotus and a suitable sized pot. A large lotus requires a pot 24-48 inches in diameter, medium lotuses require a pot 18-30 inches in diameter, and small lotuses require pots that are at least 12-15 inches in diameter. Keep in mind, if you choose a pot with holes in it and plan to place the pot in a pond or water garden, it is likely that the lotuses will eventually start to grow outside of the pot. 

        Once a pot and a spot are chosen, fill the pot with amended soil, leaving approximately 4 inches at the top. Fill the pot with water until it rises about 2-3 inches above the soil. Next, plant the tuber with the growing tips pointed up. It may be necessary to weight the tuber with some stones to make sure the tuber does not float to the top of the pot. Note: It’s important NOT to bury the tuber completely in the soil as it may rot - be sure the tips are uncovered.

        Water hardness, the accumulation of minerals in the soil, can affect the growth of lotuses that are not grown in ponds. To prevent this, flush out the water in the soil by overfilling the pot. While unnecessary, it still may be beneficial to apply this process to pots submerged in a pond as well. Lotuses also require at least 3-4 weeks of temperatures above 80°F to start blooming. To speed up the process, you can place an aquatic water heater in the container for a month. In colder climates, it is important to protect the tubers from freezing during the winter. Koi fish have a habit of sometimes disturbing the soil, while goldfish don’t usually cause problems. If your koi are starting to interfere with your lotus pots, place some stones over the soil to prevent damage.

        Fertilization is also an essential part of lotus care, but it should only be introduced once the leaves are visible from the plant. It is important not to fertilize the plants too soon in the planting process. Once the leaves are visible, you should add fertilizer to promote growth and flowering. Re-fertilize the plants every 2-3 weeks.

        Pruning is another essential part of maintenance to grow healthy lotuses. Yellow leaves should be removed. It is recommended you only cut the yellow leaves that are visible above water, and never to cut those growing beneath the surface of the water. After about 2 years of growth, it will be important to move the plant into a bigger pot to allow the lotus to grow more.

        Pests may prove to be an obstacle when growing lotuses, since insecticides and oil-based sprays and detergents can damage the leaves of the plant. For insecticide issues like aphids, it is best to use diatomaceous earth powder, but be careful!  While diatomaceous earth powder is an effective treatment for aphids, it is not safe for aquatic life, such as koi fish, which may reside in your pond. So be sure to treat your plant only outside of your pond and return it to the pond only when fully washed. 




        An appropriate sized pot container. Our most popular options include:
        Loamy Water Lily Soil. Our most popular options include:
        Water Lily Plant Fertilizer. Our most popular options include:

        Bog plants and Marginal water plants are adapted to having their roots submerged, and do best along the pond edges, where soil is moist but there is not a lot of standing water. For best results, we recommend planting aquatic plants in Fabric Plant Pots so water can drain. Use a heavy clay loam or a pre-packaged plant media specific for aquatic plants. Using a soil that is light and fluffy like potting soil will cause a good deal of headache. For your bog plants to thrive, you will need to feed it once a month with aquatic plant fertilizer.

        Once you’ve gathered your supplies and your bare root bog plants have arrived, it is time to plant them. Keep your plant wet while you’re planting it, so that the leaves don’t dry out. Use a loam garden soil and fertilize with PondTabbs Fertilizer Tabs, about once every 1-2 months. Start by selecting the right size plant pot or fabric planting bag, with holes, which allow oxygen to reach the plant roots. Fill your plant pot approximately ¾ full with the loam garden soil, then make a hole in the center of the soil large enough for the plant’s roots. While placing it in the hole, hold the plant upright and fill the hole with soil around the plant’s roots. Pack the soil around the crown of the plant, so that it holds the plant upright.  However,  do not cover the crown of the plant. 

        Once your bog plant is potted, we advise selecting a shady area in your pond so that it may properly adjust to its new environment. Depending upon the size and variety of plant, water levels over the top of the pot should be between ½ inch to 3 inches deep. 



        Section 5  -------------SUBMERGED/OXYGENATING PLANTS-----------

        Oxygenating plants such as hornwort, Giant Vallisneria, Mare’s Tail, Dwarf Sag, and bacopa aid in oxygenating and filtering your pond water (preventing algal growth). They provide shade and excellent habitat for fish and other pond inhabitants. As the name suggests, submerged plants thrive below the water’s surface, with all or most of the existing up to two feet underwater. It should be noted that some submerged plants do grow as emergent plants, where portions of the plant, like leaves and flowers, grow above the water’s surface. Submerged or oxygenating plants should be planted in shallow pots with loam soil, aquatic plant media, or pea gravel to submerge them. 

        Section 6  ------------FLOATING PLANTS ------------------

        Floating plants, such as mosaic, water poppies, and water snowflake, and water hawthorne, appear to float on the water’s surface. Unlike true floating plants, these aquatic species should have their roots potted in smaller containers, using loam soil. So once your bare root floating plants arrive, you will need to select small containers in which to plant them. Fill your container about ¾ full with loam soil, and place the plant’s roots into the hole. Pack the soil around the roots and the crown of the plant to ensure that it stands upright. Once your floating plants are potted, place the containers on pond shelves, so that plant leaves and flowers appear to float. These should be fertilized when necessary.



        Section 7  ----------TRUE FLOATING PLANTS----------

        True floating plants, such as water hyacinth, water lettuce, azolla, frogbit, duckweed, and mini water velvet, can be placed directly into the pond. There is no planting required. They will simply float on top of the water column. 

        Oftentimes during transit, the larger floating plants, like water hyacinth and water lettuce will “drop” their roots especially as it nears hotter summer months. This is a natural response and protection mechanism of the plant. While it may seem alarming at first, this is not to worry and they will begin to regrow their roots in a few weeks once in their new environment. 

        Some pond owners like to put their floating plants into protective floating plant islands. While not required, this does prevent the floating plants from being swept away into a skimmer and protect the roots from being eaten by hungry koi. 


        • I live in NYC can I plant taro bulbs now in my pond, or do I need to wait for spring?

          AYana on

        • Small, small pond

          Nancy Dickerson on

        • I am finishing rehab of a 70 year old farm pond, about 2.5 acres. It was drained down to max 7 feet and dredged last summer, this summer spent building an artificial island about 16 X 24 which will be surrounded by 6 feet of water and overflow pipes and concrete spillway. When below water prep is complete this month, about 7 more feet of water will be added (by closing a valve) Sooo my questions are about suggested water plants and how to distribute them. I have 10 water lilies in 5 gallon buckets planted this year, which i can move to shallow water as the pond fills. There is native parrot feather growing, cattails, 2 ft tall plant with a big heart shaped leaf, and the horror water meal and duckweed. I hope to control them with several 12" overflow pipes I can raise and lower water level an inch or so to flush it out. I have 8 or 10 Koi going on 25 years old that survived the dredging, and some bluegill and bass. I plan to install a dozen Christmas trees in January for cover, and stock more fish in the Spring
          Can water lilies be planted directly into the mud at 24 inch depth. What other plants do you recommend.

          Dennis on

        • is it too late to plant Hardy Water lilies? We are in Kansas.

          Pam Crocker on

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