The easiest to grow and maintain aquatic plant is the water hyacinth. There are seven varieties of this aquatic plant, all belonging to the genus Eichhornia of the family Pontederiaceae. Their leaves are glossy, green, large, and ovate shaped, with a spongy petiole at their base. A highly branched, purple-colored, and fibrous root system is present below the water surface. Based on the species, spectacular lavender or light blue flowers in groups of 8-15 are borne in a single spike inflorescence.
Being considered as an invasive aquatic plant, not many hobbyists prefer growing water hyacinth in their ponds and rock gardens. But, what we do not know is that they are the best aquatic plant species for phytoremediation or natural treatment of polluted water, which is why it easy to take care of it. It improves the water quality by removing organic nutrients and limiting algal growth. In home ponds, care needs to be taken towards controlling excess production of stolons and seeds of this plant.
With the rising interest in water gardening, this aquatic plant is now sold as a special ornamental flower to grow in home ponds. In case you are planning to include this spongy floating aquatic species in landscaping, the issue is not how to grow it, but how to control its growth. It thrives well in any type of freshwater body, such as a pond, stream, or lake, provided that the water temperature is not too low or too high. Following are some tips on how to care for a water hyacinth:
- Trim the Roots:
You can purchase water hyacinth plants from your local nursery. Prior to introducing them in a home pond, remove the yellow and dead leaves (if any). You can also trim off the fibrous roots to a length of approximately 2 inches. This will promote new growth of roots and shoots. Once the plants are established, you can trim them every alternate week.
- Use a Pond Skimmer:
After growing water hyacinths in a garden pond, allow them to cover one-third of the pond surface. By doing so, you are providing a good habitat for the pond fish and other aquatic plants as well. In case of overgrowth, a pond skimmer is the best alternative to remove excess plants. You can use the cut leaves and roots to make organic fertilizers.
- Check Excessive Growth:
The common species (scientific name: Eichhornia crassipes) is known to increase its population size within 14 days. It is the same case with other species too in the Eichhornia genus. Excess growth of these plants can lead to suffocation of fish and other pond inhabitants. Hence, make sure that you keep an eye over the excess spreading of water hyacinth.
- Avoid Algae Killers:
Occasionally, the leaves turn yellow in mid summer. Under such a condition, use a mild, fish-safe organic fertilizer in an appropriate concentration. Within a few days, you will notice new healthy leaves developing from the plants. Never indulge in using algae killers and/or other chemicals, as they disturb the water chemistry of the pond.
- Winter Care:
It is not unusual to notice the leaves turning yellow and/or dying during cold winter months, particularly when the temperature falls below 0°F. To avoid such a situation, you can isolate some of the plants in an aquarium before winter arrives. Any freshwater aquarium with at least 6 inches of water is ideal to maintain these plants.