Water Plants, Bamboos, Grasses and Reeds

Water Plants, Bamboos, Grasses and Reeds

Water Plants:

The Lotus Nelumbo nucifera, J. Gaetner (Fam. Nelumbonaceae)

The lotus (Nelumbo nucffera) is a native of India and it is the sacred flower described in classical Sanskrit literature and the Vedas. Kalidasa has mentioned the lotus in Shakuntala and other plays.

The plant is suitable for growing in large water pools. The leaf is large and round with a cylindrical stalk attached to its center. The flowers are large, single or double, very fragrant and white pink, rose or amaranth red in colour. The seed heads of the lotus resemble the rose of a watering can. The seeds are eaten as a vegetable in India.

Water Lily Nymphaea spp. (Fam. Nymphaeaceae):

Four horticulturally important species of Nymphaea, namely, N. Lotus, N. pubescens, N. rubra and N. stellata are native of India. The species N.lotus, popularly known as the Egyptian or Indian lotus, grows wild in the tropics of the Old World. The flowers are large, double and white in colour and are pink or red at the base of petals. In some varieties, the flowers are pure white. The flowers are not fragrant as in the case of the lotus.

N. pubescens is a native of India, Java and the Philippines. It produces small, white flowers. Its tubers and seeds are eaten in India. The flowers of N.rubra are large, double and deep red in colour. It is a native of Bengal and is considered to be a beautiful species. The flowers open in the night during the summer months. This species has been crossed with other species to produce attractive hybrids. In the species N. stellata, the flowers are medium to large in size and pale blue in colour. White flowered varieties and a variety with reddish purple flowers are also available. It is a native of South-East Asia. N.odorata is a white flowered variety from the USA.

A few other important species, such as N.coerulea (pale blue) and N.capensis (deep blue), native of Africa, and N. alba (white) a native of Europe, are also commonly grown in water pools. The flowers of N.coerulea and N.capensis are fragrant. Several hybrids like N. x marliacea (pale yellow) and N. x laydekeri (bright red tinged with pink) produced as a result of crossing between different species and varieties are also popular in gardens.

With their  numerous varieties and hybrids having exquisite blooms of various colours (white, yellow, red, Pink blue, copper, etc.) and attractive foliage, the water lilies are considered the jewels of the water garden. Many of these Nymphaea are day bloomers, while some bloom at night.

Cultivation of Water Plants:


Both Nelumbo nucifera (lotus) and Nymphaea (water lily) are proagated by division of rhizomes or tubers. The common method of planting them in a filled pool is first to put them in a basket, pot, tub or any other container filled with a mixture of soil and compost or well rotten cow dung manure and then place the basket in the pool in such a way that the crown of the plant is just above the surface of water.

The basket may be kept on bricks in the pool for about 7 to 10 days and it may be lowered gradually when new growth appears on the plant. In the case of an empty or newly constructed pool, the planting can be done directly into the soil base of the pool. A mixture of soil and compost or well-rotten cow dung manure is spread at the bottom of the pond, at least 15-25 cm deep. After planting, a little water is allowed to run into the pool so that the crown is just above its surface. After 7 to 10 days, some more water is added and this is continued till the pool is completely filled. In about 6 to 8 weeks, the pond will be almost full.

Besides the water lily, one or two oxygenators or aerating plants should also be grown as they complement the fishes which are generally put in the pool. These oxygenators or submerged plants help to maintain the natural biological balance which is very important for the mutual existence of plant life and fish. They release oxygen which is taken up by the fishes and consume carbon dioxide exhaled by the latter. The two common aerating plants are the water tape grass (Vallisneria spiralis) and Ceratophyllum vericillatum. If space permits, one may have an ornamental floating aquatic plant like the Arrow Head (Sagittaria), or Limmanthemum indicum.

Along the border of the pool on one side, some tall rushes like the bulrush (Typha angustifolia) or the Umbrella Palm (Cyperus alternifolius) when planted serve as a natural backdrop. Zephyranthes, Day Lily (Hemerocallis) or ornamental grasses may be planted in drifts along the edge to produce a natural effect.

Other Ornament Plants:

There are some other ornamental plants which are commonly grown in the gardens. These include bamboos, grasses, ornamental vegetables and herbs and a few new or not-so-common ornamental plants. Nowadays in Holland, UK, USA, Australia and some other countries, many new wild flowers are being introduced in the gardens. Some of these important ornamental plants suitable for growing in Indian gardens are described here.


Bambusa spp, (Bambusaceae)

There are tall as well as dwarf ornamental bamboos which are commonly found in the gardens. The tall bamboos are suitable for growing in large gardens or parks while the small ones can be grown successfully in small gardens. Some of these dwarf bamboos are grown in pots also. The clumps should be separated every 2-3 years. Propagation is by clumps.

Tall Species:

Bambusa siamensis: 5 m tall, feathery and light foliage.

Bombusa vulgaris: The Common Indian Bamboo, very tall, 15-20 m, suitable for hot climate. Young stem green, later turning yellow when old.

Phyllostachys aurea (Bambusa aurea): The Golden Bamboo, 2-3 m tall, stems golden yellow. The variety Variegatum has golden yellow and green stems.

Phyllostachya nigra (Bambusa nigra): The Black Bamboo, 5-7 m tall, having purplish black stems.

Dwarf Species:

Bambusa gracillima: The Chinese bamboo, tall (1.5-2 m), old stem orange, young stem green.

Bombusa nano: About 1.5-2 m tall, leaves green, stems slender zigzag, green.

Bambusa ventricosa: The Buddha’s Belly Bamboo, stems have swollen internodes, can be grown in pots.

Bambusa tricolor: About 0.5 m high, leaves bright green with creamy white stripes and red edges.

Bambusa pygmaea: Another very dwarf (25 cm) ornamental bamboo, stems purple, branched, prominent nodes.

Arundinaria auricoma (Bambusa fortunei aurea): Very dwarf, 90-180 Cm, leaves striped golden yellow, stem dark purplish, thrives in cool Places.

Arundinaria fortunei Banibusa fortunei variegata: Very dwarf, 30 cm  leaves variegated white and green, suitable for conservatory or semi shaded areas.

Arundinaria japonica, (Bambusa japonica): About 3-5 m tall, stems hollow, leaves dark green.

Grasses and Reeds (Graminae):

Apluda mutica L.var. aristata: A grass which resembles a dwarf bamboo, height about 0.5 m or less in pots and about one meter high when grown in ground. Suitable for a low hedge, rockery or pot culture.

Arunclo donax versicolon: A tall reed, leaves arching, grey-green with creamy white variegation: reddish plume-like panicles.

Cymbopogon citratus: The Lemon. Grass, about 0.5 m high, leaves long, narrow with lemon fragrance, propagation by division.

Agrostis nebulosa: The Cloud Grass, an annual grass (30-35 cm) with attractive inflorescence, useful for cut flowers, both fresh and dried, and also for border and pots. Propagation from seeds.

Eragrostis interrupta (E. elegans): The Love Grass, an annual grass with small, feathery purple spikelets, suitable for floral decoration.

Pennisetum villosum (P. longistylum): Height one meter, dense plume-like purple hanging flower spikes.

Cortaderia selloana (Cortaderia argenteum): The Pampas Grass, long ribbon-like leaves, white feathers, long terminal panicles.

Oplismenus burmannii variegatum: It forms mats in shaded places or under the trees a variegated Variegaturn with leaves striped green and white or rose-pink and white, useful for hanging baskets or pots.

Phalaris arundinacea var. picta: The Ribbon Grass height 2-2.5 m, leaves variegated with longitudinal white stripes suitable for rockeries, edging and pots.

Phalaris canariensis: The Canary Grass, ornamental grass for bouquets, height 90 cm.

Thyrsanolaena agrostis: The Bouquet Grass. A tall (3 m) grass with feathery plumes. Leaves long and broad. Flowering during summer, February to May.

Rhynchelytrum repens (Tricholaena rosea): Graceful, plant height 90 cm, with purple reddish  flower panicles born on  erect strews. Useful for cutting.

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