container water garden
Image Credits:

Visit any nursery, and most of them have special sections now just for lovers of water gardens. It is fast becoming a very popular garden design element in many back yards! But you don’t need to build a pond, or to install an expensive fountain in order to enjoy water, and the water plants. Here is an easy step by step tutorial on making a container water garden that is simple, inexpensive and a easy DIY garden project.


Container that holds water

Water Plants

Rocks or Bricks

Oh yea, water!

Choosing a Container

When choosing a container for your water garden, keep in mind that technically, anything that holds water will work. If you choose a porous container such as Terracotta or wood, make sure you give it at least two coats of a water proof sealer. Otherwise, water will evaporate from the container too quickly. Choose a container large enough to comfortably hold at least three or four water plants. A 24 inch wide container will be a perfect start to your foray into water gardens. And once you get comfortable with a small garden, you may want to move onto to bigger things!

Choosing Plants

When choosing water plants for your container, keep in mind to choose based on the scale of your container. Huge plants in a tiny container will just look like a wet jungle. As too many tiny plants in a large container will just look like clutter.

Choose your types of plants much the same way you would design a regular garden bed. Use different shapes and textures of plants to add contrast, and to set each plant apart. I like using at least three. First a tall spiky plant, such as one of the many rushes available. Then a broader leaved plant, and finally, a floating option such as water hyacinths, or even a single water lily.

Arranging Your Water Garden

Arranging the plants in your water garden is easier than planting a garden bed. If you don’t like the arrangement, you just pick them up and move them, because you never remove the water plants from the nursery pot.

Fill your container half full with water, then start setting in plants. Use rocks or bricks to raise up the height of any plant that needs to be more of a focal point. Most water plants do just fine with the tops of their pots 6-12 inches under water, so don’t worry about having to have them all at the same water level.

Place your tallest plant in the back, or in the center, if the garden will be viewed from all angles.

Then add your smaller plants until you like the composition. Fill the container the rest of the way with water, then add your floating plants last.

container water gardens

Place your water garden where it gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Make sure the water level is topped up on a regular basis… If the roots are exposed for any length of time, you will likely damage, if not lose the plant. I like to overflow the top of the container with water every couple of days, just to make sure no mosquitoes are using your new garden as a baby factory. That’s it!

Some water plants are winter hardy, but you will likely have to wrap them and bring them into a garage or basement for the winter if you want to try to use them again next year.

Enjoy making your own container water garden! Water is a restful element to add to any garden, and they can potentially attract birds, frogs and butterflies as well. Not to mention, water plants themselves are beautiful, and can be fragrant in addition to being low maintenance. Have fun with your water garden! Have any questions? Comment and let us know!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.


  1. Tammy June 6, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    I really love this idea and im going to be doing it only concern is winter.if some are winter hardy wont they b able to be left out and still able to use the following year?I do not have a garage or basement as I live in an apt.and plan to do this project on my balcony.I would be grateful for any help and suggestions you may have as I have never done anything like this.Thanks

    1. Kathy Woodard November 4, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      There are some winter hardy water plants, but of course, it all depends on your part of the country… Ask for hardy plants at your nursery, most have water garden experts now that specialize in your area, and they know their stuff!

  2. rosebrock September 7, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    My neibor gave me some.

    eleaphants ears i got them in a 5 gal bucket with water and they are doing fine i want to move them into a kid wadding pool and add some gold fish so do i have to add a outside pump

    1. Kathy Woodard September 19, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      When you have standing water, a pump is meant to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs, but goldfish will do the same thing…

  3. Janette Watt November 27, 2015 at 5:17 am

    I am looking for a small, tiny lily. One inch or less diameter flower. Hardy would be best. Don’t care what color. Can you help?

    1. Kathy Woodard December 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

      I think the best thing you can do is talk to your local nursery that carries water garden plants… local recommendations are always best!

  4. Angel June 18, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I’d really like to try this, thanks for posting it! One question… how do you keep algae from growing? Thanks!

    1. Kathy Woodard August 4, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      If you have trouble with algae, they sell an algae control liquid anywhere they sell fountain and pond supplies…

  5. Anja April 9, 2015 at 1:51 pm


    I’m building my own container garden, inclusive of a small waterfall and the bottom basin is only about 4 inches deep. Is this going to be too shallow for most water plants? I was looking at getting a water hyacinth, water lettuce and green taro. to plant along the edges and in the midst of the basin. it is about 3ft by 2ft. Will this be big enough to hold all of these plants? And not too shallow?

    1. Kathy Woodard April 10, 2015 at 8:05 am

      I think it might be a little shallow, not so much because of the plants, but because it might evaporate pretty quickly, especially on hot days… As long as you don’t crowd the plants, they should be able to adapt as long as you can keep the levels up!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.