Interested in learning about the water hyacinth? In this post, we’ll give you a guide on how to grow and care for this plant.
Water hyacinth (Eichornia) is a plant native to tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It’s often used as an ornamental plant because it has striking white flowers that bloom in summertime, but this aquatic plant can also be invasive when not properly cared for.
This article will tell you everything you need to know in order to plant, grow, and care for these elegant aquatic plants.
What is Water Hyacinth?
The water hyacinth is a beautiful plant that can be found in freshwater lakes and rivers all over the world. It’s native to countries like South America, Africa, India, and Indonesia but has been introduced into other places as well such as Australia.
It can grow up to 6 feet tall with leaves that are about 3 inches wide. These plants are typically green or purplish-green and have white flowers on long stalks at the top of each leaf stem.
You might also notice that these plants produce a foam when they’re disturbed by something like a stick or even just your foot stepping on them!
These plants float on the water, with just the fibrous root system remaining underwater. Part of the Eichhornia group of plants, these plants grow rapidly and perform best in zones 9-11.
Types of Water Hyacinth
Although these aren’t the most common plants you’ll find in stock at your local garden center, you should be able to find the perfect plant after doing a little searching.
There are seven different species to consider but the most popular ones are:
- Eichhornia crassipes, or the common water hyacinth
- E. azurea, or the peacock hyacinth (best for growing in containers)
- E. paniculata, or the Brazilian water hyacinth (a smaller, less invasive variety)
Keep in mind that, if you are planning on growing this plant in Texas or Florida, you may not be able to – here, they are prohibited. They are discouraged in other parts of the country, too, so check on this before you do any planting.
Growing Water Hyacinth
These plants are some of the showiest garden plants you can grow. Though easy to cultivate and undeniably beautiful to look at, they can be harmful in the wrong environment!
A thick mat of water hyacinths can pose problems for other kinds of vegetation, particularly if you experience mild winters. This is why these plants are banned in many states. As they grow, they form dense pads that will easily choke out native species and can even block out sunlight and oxygen, killing fish and other wildlife.
Therefore, it’s important to consider the best location for your plants before you put them in the ground. They need full sun and hot summer temperatures. You’ll plant them by simply scattering bunches of plants over the surface of the water. They’ll take hold quickly and will grow rapidly. You can thin them when they cover at least 60% of the surface of the water.
These plants thrive in hardiness zones 8 through 11 and will survive the winters here. However, even in colder climates, you can grow water hyacinths. You’ll just need to grow them as annuals.
The good news about growing these plants as annuals in cold climates is that you won’t have to worry about them becoming invasive. They’ll die back and save you the chore of killing mature plants.
If you want to overwinter your plants, you can do so by keeping them indoors in a sunny spot. However, this hard work might not end up being worth the effort, since it’s not expensive to buy new plants the following year.
In addition to growing plants in your pond (where they can easily double their colony size once every 10 days or so!) You can also grow them in containers. Use something like a half whiskey barrel for planting and make sure the container is positioned in a bit of shade. Containers get warmer than ponds or other natural bodies of water so shade is necessary from mid to late afternoon.
How to Plant Water Hyacinth
To plant, trim the roots of the plant to about two inches. Remove any yellow leaves. Scatter the plants on the surface of your pond. That’s all you need to do, but if you want to promote flowering, just contain the plants with a circle of tubing. You can also buy special baskets for this purpose.
If you choose to plant in a container, start by covering the interior of the barrel with a garbage bag. Then put a layer of soil in the bottom of the container. Avoid using commercial potting soil, which has fertilizers and other chemicals and nutrients that can harm the health of the water. Algae growth is common with these kinds of soils. They also contain perlite and vermiculite which will float to the top of the water and make a mess!
After putting down the soil, cover it with a thin layer of sand.
When filling with water, try not to use treated city water. It often has chloramine or chlorine, which can be harmful in high quantities. Instead, buy water directly from garden centers or use water that has otherwise not been treated. When you’re topping off the container during the rest of the season, there’s no need to worry – you can use small amounts of treated water for this.
When planting your plants, you can let them either float freely on the surface or anchor them in place with bits of nylon string secured to bricks or other anchors.
Caring for Water Hyacinth
Water hyacinth plants are remarkably easy to care for. They don’t need to be watered, since their roots are consistently suspended in water, nor do they need weeding. They grow in such a dense, crowded fashion that the only weeding you will need to do is to remove other plants as they multiply!
In most cases, fertilizing water hyacinth plants is not necessary. It’s recommended that you avoid this if you are keeping fish or other wildlife in your pond. Too many nutrients can encourage algal blooms and make your fish sick.
That said, if you find that the plants are suffering from nutrient deficiencies – typically evidenced by yellowing leaves – you can just float them in a vat of water with diluted liquid fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases
These flowers have few problems with pests and diseases. In fact, there is some evidence that suggests that these plants might be toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
You may have to watch out for turtles and fish nibbling on the long roots of your plants. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this other than by exclusion – finding ways to keep these animals out of your pond.
Again, diseases aren’t much of a concern with this plant. In fact, that’s one reason why it spreads so easily – there’s not much that can kill it off!
Other Tips for Growing Water Hyacinth
One final tip for growing water hyacinths has to do with making sure you remove dead plant matter. Dead plant matter, like old, withered flowers and yellowed leaves, can cause the water quality in your pond to rapidly deteriorate.
Therefore, it’s important that you trim and remove dead plant pieces from the pond – especially if you keep fish, too. Cut back the plant on a weekly basis, since these plants can overgrow your pond quickly!
If you’ve been considering adding a new plant to your garden but haven’t found the right one, water hyacinth may be just what you’re looking for. These plants are easy to grow and maintain (so easy to grow, in fact, that they frequently become invasive!). They can survive in poor conditions and they come in many different colors (including blue!).
We hope this blog post has given you some insight into how to care for the water hyacinth so that yours will thrive too – no matter how much time or attention you have to dedicate to these plants.
*image by robi46/depositphotos