How to Create a Bog Garden in a Half-Barrel

Astilbe do make an attractive bog plant
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In this article, we will discuss how to create a specific bog garden in a half-barrel. In a previous article, I talked about how to have a bog garden in full sun and shade, discussing how to create one and what plants to use.  I will take this further in this article and talk about how to create a specific bog garden that uses plants and other important features.

Astilbe do make an attractive bog plant
Astilbe does make an attractive bog plant

Bog plants make an ideal feature in containers and tend to look their best when full of beautiful plants in a half-oak barrel.

This is one of the best ways to create one as you do not need much room, it requires little in the way of materials and it is a fun project to do. Ideal, if you want one and the soil you have in the borders is very free-flowing, sandy and dry, then I would recommend you have a bog garden in a half barrel.

A small garden will be instantly transformed when you include one. This will also keep them contained as a lot of bog plants are large and invasive, spreading rapidly when they are allowed to grow in the soil. They will soon become a nuisance.


A watertight half-barrel is the best as it holds the most plants, as long as they are kept moist at all times. Plants like Houttuynia cordata and Lobelia cardinalis that thrive in moist conditions can be mixed with Hostas, Lythrums and Astilbes. As you are limited in space, you must restrict yourself to plants with a long summer flowering season and those that have an interesting architectural display.

This is why Zantedescias are doubly valuable as they have interesting leaves and beautiful flowers.

The bog plants that you buy often come in special net-sided pond pots and they are best left in these pots. This is because the roots can grow out through the sides so that if you want to lift them and replace them, you are free to do so.

I would recommend that you do this, otherwise the whole container becomes overrun with roots getting tangled with each other. It will become difficult to separate them and it will be easier if you emptied the whole barrel to replant the plants.


First, choose a large half-barrel as possible and line it with a good quality pond liner to prevent it from leaking all over the place and also to prevent the wood from rotting.

Arum lily
Arum lily

Cut the pond liner to excess around the edges and fit it loosely to shape, leaving enough room for sinkage when the compost is added.

Place a bucket of washed gravel in the bottom. Its open structure will allow the bog plants to root into and they would appreciate this.

Fill the remainder of the container to just below the rim with the pond planting compost that has plenty of clay in it, but no added fertilizer. This can come directly from your garden if it has enough clay in it.


Place a tall plant such as Lobelia cardinalis ‘Queen Victoria’ at the back. This plant has beautiful purple leaves and red flowers from mid to late summer. Looks good even if it is not in flower.

Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis

In the middle of the container, float the arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) that has wonderful white flowers from early to late summer.

Choose plants that contrast well with each other such as trailing plants around the side and shorter plants towards the front. This will make an ideal display in such a small space.

A trailing plant like Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ should be planted in front that has yellow summer flowers. On the side, the best plant to use is a Houttuynia cordata ‘Variegata’. Other plants that can be used include Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ (Bowles Golden Grass),  Caltha palustris alba and Lobelia siphilitica, situated at the side and front.

Lysimachia nummularia
Lysimachia nummularia

Top the soil level to 2.5cm of the rim and now add water until the soil feels boggy, 30 minutes later and once the soil does not feel boggy any more, you can level it up and add 2.5cm depth of washed gravel over the surface. They will reduce moisture lost to the atmosphere.


Add a few smooth round pebbles between the plants, as they will be a good watering aid when watering in the future, as you can trickle water over the pebbles and avoid the soil splashing all over the place.

Caltha palustris alba
Caltha palustris alba

To tidy up the container, you can now trim the excess pond liner with a sharp pair of scissors, leaving enough to allow the edges to be rolled up and tucked out of sight below the gravel.

The plants will look good all summer long and will die back in winter. Do not worry the following year the plants will re-emerge. It will look stunning on a patio along with a bubble fountain, potted pond, a water garden or other water features. Make sure that the compost is moist at all times, never allowing it to dry out at all.


Once every two years, when the plant has become too rampant and outgrow its space, you will need to empty the barrel out. In early spring is the ideal time to do this. You can split the plants creating more plants for more bog garden displays.

Houttuynia cordata
Houttuynia cordata

You must top up the barrel regularly with water as these are moisture-loving plants. Do not use fertilizers since bog plants naturally grow in impoverished soils and overfeeding will cause them to grow rampant. It will also make the plants look out of balance and character. Cut back dead flower spikes regularly to encourage new ones to form.

The container will need to be protected in winter by lagging it with several layers of bubble wrap around the whole container.  If it gets very cold, you will have to move the container into a frost-free area such as a shed or greenhouse. Do not worry as the plants are dormant they will not need any light, so a shed will be ideal.


In this article, we discussed how to create a simple but elegant display of a bog garden in a half-barrel. They are not difficult to do, as long as you get the right valance of plant and repot them every two years. It is also best to protect them from frosts as this will prevent damage to the container and also the plants from being killed. Try to be balanced and do not pack too many plants in, six will be ideal.

Great with other water features such as a water garden, bubble fountain or a potted pond.

If you have any comments or questions that you like to raise on creating a bog garden in a half-barrel, then please do so in the comment box below.

Be creative and create a bog garden in a half-barrel today.


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