Create a water feature in your yard with our tips for plant choices and container styles.

Water does more than help plants grow. It grows interest in your landscape as well. By adding a water feature, even just a container or two, you bring intriguing new plants into your gardening mix and create a soothing and low-maintenance display.

Large vessels give plants room to grow, require less plant culling and keep water temps steadier, which limits algae growth and plant stress. The pot should be at least 6 inches deep and 15 inches wide and made of galvanized metal, steel, glazed terra-cotta or clay, ceramic or stone. (Zinc and copper can leach, and glass heats up too quickly.) A dark interior enhances the illusion of depth and hides algae.

Plant choice is as wide as container styles. Emergents, such as water lily, lotus and rush, sit in pots of aquatic planting soil below the water surface but can grow several feet tall and often have flowers. Floaters, such as water hyacinth and water lettuce, do what their name says: float. Their coarse leaves and flat shapes contrast with emergents and shade the water to help keep it cool. Floaters are apt to spread, so remove as necessary to maintain about 40 percent open water surface. If you have room, add submergents, which do just what the name implies: live underwater and help keep the water clean.

Provide fresh, nonchlorinated, nonsoftened water and three to five hours of sun a day, with protection from afternoon sun, to ensure you get the most from your cool pool of plants. (Water lilies may prefer more hours of sunlight; check when you purchase your plants.)

3 Ideas for Water Gardens

Container water garden

High and Low

Tall plants (elephant ear and dwarf papyrus) contrast with low-growing water lilies and water lettuce in a ceramic planter.

Glazed garden

Tropical Notes

This glazed terra-cotta pot sprouts a garden of two colors of hardy water canna, dwarf papyrus and tropical pitcher plant.

Lettuce bowl

Tabletop Garden

A bowl of water lettuce and water hyacinth is an easy table accent.

Caring for Water Gardens

A simple water garden—without fish or a pump—should be very easy to care for. Remove yellowing foliage, add water as needed, and keep plant growth in check as needed. The University of Illinois Extension Service provides detailed instructions on constructing and caring for container water gardens, including how to add fish and other animals.