Creating a Miniature Water Lily Pond in a Half-barrel

Creating a Lily pond should be everybody's container garden.
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In this article, we will find out how to create a miniature water lily pond in a half-barrel. Most of us have a tinkering for a pond in our gardens, but not all of us have the room or resources to have one. A potted pond may not have the size of an individual pond but it will satisfy the need for water, as they make a great patio feature.

Creating a Lily pond should be everybody's container garden.
Creating a Lilypond should be everybody’s container garden.

When you are creating a water lily pond, you will need to place the container in position first, as once filled with plants, water and other feature it will be too heavy to move.

You can use normal tap water but ideally once you fill the barrel that you allow for 48 hours to elapse before you introduce any plant. This is done to allow the chlorine to disperse. When choosing plants, it is best to opt for those who have a long season of interest. You could use a single miniature water lily and this can quickly fill a 45cm diameter barrel with its beautiful foliage and flowers, all summer long.


This may be boring to some and you can add other plants that have contrasting leaves with the lily. Go for bold architectural shapes that will look good all summer. The beauty of having container ponds is that you can create as many as you like and in such a small space.

You could have one filled with a lily, on another one with a lily mixed with other plants,  another with a potted bog garden, another with a bubble fountain and finally one with a floating garden of water hyacinths, azolla and water lettuce.

With a water lily pond, you have the possibility of having fish with them and if you want to go for this then you need to use the largest container possible, and only use a few, small fish. Not too many as there will not be enough oxygen in the water for them


First, choose a waterproof wooden half-barrel and then line them with thick rubber pond liner. Fill it with water half-way up and then add a tall, strikingly shaped, leaf plant such as Cyperus involucratus (umbrella plant).

Any excess pond liner can then be cut off and black waterproof tape is used to attach the liner to the barrel. Make sure it is firmly attached.

Choose a second tall plant, such as Scirpus zebrinus (Zebra plant) that complements the first and will last all season long. Slowly submerge the planting baskets until they sit on the bottom.

If you are going to include fish in the pond, you will need to add an oxygenator such as Elodea canadensis, the Canada waterweed. This fast-growing evergreen will look good in winter. It is best if you anchor a spray of this flower with a clean pebble at the bottom of the pond.

Top up the pond to just below the rim of the barrel. You can now plant the water lily, if you overfill the barrel at the beginning, the water will spill over the edge every time you add a new plant.

Lower the water lily slowly down, protecting the leaves and flowers as you do so. This is because they are weak and can break easily and they also flop all over the place. Stand the pot at the bottom of the barrel.


You can now add the fish, 4 will be enough for a barrel this size (45cm in diameter). Make sure they are minnows and will not grow too large. Float their bag they came in on the surface for 30 minutes so that the water reaches the same temperature as that in the barrel.

Open the neck of the bag underwater, allowing the fish to swim out and when they want to. Do not force them out as you will injury them or frighten them.

After a few hours, the lily leaves shrug off water and emerge floating on the pond surface. Water lily flowers only open in full sun so make sure that the barrel is situated in the sunniest part of the patio from the very start.


In general, container water lily ponds are relatively small with less than 30cm depth, so it is advised you only choose miniature water lily varieties. Giant plants will look out of scale and will soon spill put the sides of the container.

Varieties include Nymphaea ‘Laydekeri Purpurea’ which has small, marble-patterned leaves that set off its deep pink-red flowers all summer.

N. ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ is a free-flowering variety that has tiny, pale yellow flowers and red marbled olive-green leaves.

N. ‘Marliacea Chromatella’ has pale yellow golden flowers that turn a deeper yellow in strong sun. The leaves are speckled which adds to its appeal.


As explained before it is important that you use a small amount of bunching oxygenating waterweed. The lilies and other floating plants are important as this will offer the fish shade and shelter.

You can have water lily and fishes together
You can have water lily and fishes together

In ideal circumstances, you will delay introducing the fish for several weeks to give the plants time to settle down first. Feed the fish daily from late spring to supplement their diet.

Feeding makes the fish tame. In winter, do not feed the fish at all. You can prevent the water from freezing by installing a small pond heater or if it is on wheels you can move the pond undercover. Avoid adding any snails as they will breed and eat all your plants.


In this article, how to create a miniature water lily pond in a barrel has been discussed. They are such a delight to have in your garden as it goes well with other water features such as marginal plants in a barrel, a bubble fountain in a container, a water garden in a barrel to give a water theme to your container scheme. You can add one or two plants, along with the water lily and fish to make a stunning water feature in your garden.

Not difficult to do as long as you are prepared to look after the fish and the plants too.

If you have any questions or comments that you wish to ask on creating a miniature water lily pond, then please do so in the comment box below. We love to hear from you.

Happy water lily pond creating.


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