Pond plants provide habitat and food for wildlife.

How to Plant Pond Plants Without Soil

by Brian Barth

Water features bring a little magic into the garden. Attracting birds, frogs and dragonflies, they can be a small oasis of serenity for busy parents and are not hard to care for once you get the hang of it. They also offer a host of engaging projects to do with the kids. For example, children might be intrigued with the fact that many pond plants don't need soil to grow. Because the nutrients come from the water, simply by anchoring the roots, you can grow any number of enchanting aquatic species.

Select a container for your pond plants. Almost anything that can hold at least a gallon of water will work. However, you may want to use something decorative that will add to the beauty of your pond. Ceramic planters are a great choice because of their durability. Plastic planters are also very durable and inexpensive. Metal is ok, but will eventually rust, and wood may also be used, but keep in mind that it will eventually rot. Broad, shallow planters are better than tall, deep pots for pond plants.

Remove the pond plant from the container it came in. Gently loosen the roots so they are no longer restricted to the shape of the original pot.

Fill the new container part way with sand, gravel, pebbles or other decorative stones. Hold the new pond plant in the container, so the top of the existing roots is 2 or 3 inches below the top of the container. Continue adding stones or sand to the fill the container around the roots and lower stems of the plant to within one inch of the rim. If sand is used, leave an extra inch of space at the top to cover with stones, so that sand does not wash away.

Submerge the potted plant to the necessary depth for the species. Follow the instructions on the label or inquire at the nursery where you purchased the plant about the appropriate water depth. If needed, stack bricks at the base of the pond to form a ledge at the right height for your plant.

Items you will need

  • Pot, planter or other container
  • Gravel, pebbles or sand
  • Plants
  • Fertilizer tablets
  • Bricks


  • Most aquatic plants grown for their large blossoms will do best when planted in soil though sand can be used if they are well-fertilized. Oxygenator plants -- those that stay beneath the surface of the water and help keep the water chemistry in balance -- are an excellent choice for growing in a soil-less medium. Reed-like plants and other wetland species also grow well without soil.
  • There are specific fertilizer products for pond plants. These come in tablet form that you push down into the gravel or sand. One stick per planter is sufficient for most species, but use two or three for heavy-blooming species. No fertilizer is necessary for oxygenator species.


  • Always supervise young children near a pond, no matter how small it is.

About the Author

Brian Barth works in the fields of landscape architecture and urban planning and is co-founder of Urban Agriculture, Inc., an Atlanta-based design firm where he is head environmental consultant. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. His blog, Food for Thought, explores the themes of land use, urban agriculture, and environmental literacy.

Photo Credits

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