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Autumn Pond Care

Published on September 20th 2020
A tree next to a garden pond
Gardens need more ponds!
More specifically, garden wildlife needs more ponds. They are a fantastic resource for all kinds of creatures, and a beautiful addition to any garden!
In this article, I'll give you tips on which pond-upkeep tasks need doing before winter and share some of my favourite pond plants.
A contemporary pond with plants
Small contemporary ponds inter-linked

Tiny ponds are possible

My late father-in-law once had a garden right on the seafront. After any storm, his garden would be full of sand blown in from the beach.
I think that he also missed the big garden pond from his previous home. So, undeterred by the elements, he set about creating a small pond in his seafront garden.
He put three oak barrels [cut in half] together so that they created a cloverleaf effect and were partially submerged. This kept the water cool, prevented sand blowing in and gave him three little ponds.
Into these, he planted miniature water lilies and other suitably small aquatic plants. He even had goldfish in them!
This goes to show that no matter how small your garden, small water features are possible. And if you’re renting, you could even take your pond with you when you move!
A wooden pier into a garden pond
A well-planted garden pond

Floating plants

Try to aim for 50% of the water surface covered by vegetation. The cover provides shade for wildlife and is especially important in summer. If you have more than half covered, then remove the excess.
Do this by pulling any excess surface plants to the side of the pond, allowing several hours before removing it completely so that any invertebrates have a chance to crawl back into the water. Dispose of the excess by putting it on the compost heap.
Frogbit is a good choice of floating plant, with semi-floating rounded leaves and white blooms each with three petals.
A close up of some green Hydrocharis morsus-ranae with white flowers in a pond


Hydrocharis morsus-ranae

Pygmy Water Lilies (Nymphae) are even better, as their lily pads float on the surface.
Red water lily in pond
Red water lily (Nymphae)
When buying water lilies, make sure that you choose a variety that is suitable for the size and depth of your pond.
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Oxygenating plants

Plants that are submerged are often called oxygenating plants.
They keep the water clean and healthy and provide oxygen for wildlife!
Spiked Water Milfoil is an excellent choice to plant.
Hornwort is another good choice that needs little maintenance.
If you have too many floating weeds, autumn is a good time to remove some.
Never be tempted to put your excess water plants into the local river, canal or pond unless you are certain that the plants are native.

Moving water

High water temperatures can be dangerous for water life as they cause deoxygenation. This occurs because oxygen is less soluble in warmer water, and higher temperatures can inhibit plant photosynthesis.
Try to restore the oxygen level by having a fountain or small waterfall.

Water levels

Top up water levels to replace the water lost by evaporation.
Topping up is important for life in your pond but also will lengthen the life of your pond liner. Too much light reaching the top of the lining will degrade it.
Pond liner exposed by low water level
Pond liner exposed by low water level.

Green water

If your pond water is green because of algae, try to rectify the situation with barley straw.
Fill a net bag and submerge it in the water. Apparently, the barley produces hydrogen peroxide as it decomposes, killing the algae without harming your plants and fish.
Algae blooms are especially common in new ponds but can also be a problem with older ones. They may be caused by too much phosphorus or high temperatures.

Autumn tidy

Remove dead leaves and flowers as they fade.
Rotting vegetation in the bottom of a pond can lead to harmful gas build-up.

Marginal plants

Finally, soften the edge of your pond by planting marginal damp loving plants. Here are five easy ones that I recommend.
Pickerel weed; Pontederia cordata
Pontaderia flowers
Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata)
Arum Lily; Zantedeschia aethiopica
Arum lily by water
Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
Candelabra Primroses; Primula sp.
Candelabra bog primroses
Candelabra bog primroses
Leopard Plant; Ligularia dentata 'Britt Marie Crawford'
Ligularia flower
Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford'
False Goat’s Beard; Astilbe sp.
Marginal plants are not only attractive, but you'll soon notice that insects love them too. It won't be long before you'll see damsel and dragonflies among them!
A dragonfly on a rose bud
A dragonfly on a rose bud.


There are many plants to choose from when creating a pond, but always check that their vigour matches your pond size. A lot of plants are just too vigorous for garden ponds!
If you haven't already got a pond or water feature in your garden, then I hope that you will find space for one. There is no other single garden feature that wildlife can benefit from more.
A grass snake in water
A grass snake in water

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