How to Set Up an Indoor Water Garden

Water gardens just look elegant. They’re a huge feature and they will definitely catch the eye. They’re also not as difficult to create and maintain as they appear. Once you learn how to set up an indoor water garden, you’re going to be surprised at how easy it is and how many different options you have for creating something amazing.

Creating an Indoor Water Garden

Indoor water gardens of any size only need a few components to function: the container, the water and the plants. You can add additional elements, such as pumps and decorations, but if you have these things, then you can have a water garden. And if you want it to be very simple, this can be one of the simplest DIY projects you’ll ever do.

To create a water garden, choose a container of any size. You can grow a single plant in a glass jar with water if you want to, so size doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the size you have to work with and how much time you’re willing to put in. The container cannot be made of copper, brass or lead. These metals can corrode and get hazardous materials in the water.

Fill the bottom of the container with marbles, pearl chips, pebbles, gravel, whatever you’ve got. Include a piece of activated charcoal to keep the water smelling nice. Add the water and you’re ready.

You can create a water garden in just about any container, from something as small as a glass jar to a big glass bowl to a whole huge indoor water feature that you built yourself.

Types of Plants for an Indoor Water Garden

Sure, you can create a water feature in your home. But that’s just the water part of the water garden. For the garden part, you’re going to need a whole lot of water-loving plants. What can you plant in your water garden, how do you plant it and how do you maintain it?

You might be surprised to find out how many plants can actually be grown without soil. Many popular houseplants and edible plants can be grown in shallow water. You can grow your own herbs, edible veggies, flowers and foliage plants. There’s actually a lot you can do with a water garden and best of all, you can grow warmth-loving plants. Some plants are highly intolerant to frost, which is not a problem when you’re growing your water garden indoors.


Begonia will flower up to nine months out of the year, which makes it a popular houseplant. It can also grow in water. Begonias love light but not direct sunlight. Begonia flowers have a beautiful red or pink color and deep green leaves. They’re very easy to grow, requiring little maintenance and thriving in a variety of conditions.


Caladium grows with large leaves that are bright red in the middle with a green ring outside. This is an eye-catching plant that adds a bright flash of color to any water garden. Caladium grows well in water.


Coleus is a colorful addition to any water garden. It grows quite easily in water and looks beautiful, too. Coleus prefers indirect light. Direct sunlight can be too harsh for this plant.


Duckweed floats right on the surface of the water, which is pretty interesting-looking. Duckweed is a small floating plant with an interesting look. It’s also a good food plant for aquatic life, so you can grow this as an aquarium plant as well.


There are several types of herbs that will grow in water. Sage, lavender, basil, rosemary, mint and oregano will all grow in water. This means that you can add herbs to your water garden for their beauty and still use them to flavor food and create fresh-tasting meals wherever you want. Herbs are also fragrant plants, which is a nice addition to any indoor environment.


The water lotus is an exotic and highly recognizable aquatic plant. Lots of special symbolism is attached to the water lotus. It’s also quite pretty and the flowers are fragrant. The lotus does like a lot of sunlight, around six hours a day, and it prefers still water. Moving water can damage the foliage. Dwarf lotus can grow in water two to 12 inches deep. This beautiful plant floats right on top of the water and it’s a stunning addition to any water garden.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky bamboo doesn’t need any soil to grow and it adds a beautiful ornamental touch to any water garden. You need to surround the base of lucky bamboo with rocks and make sure it’s sturdy, as this plant can grow to be a little top-heavy. It might want to tip over, so make sure it has a very strong base.

Moth Orchid

Orchids are incredibly beautiful flowers but they are notoriously difficult to grow. Moth orchid is not so difficult to maintain in a water garden. As long as they have pebbles to latch onto for the roots, moth orchids will thrive in a water environment. Orchids can be picky about cold weather but in an indoor garden, you won’t have to worry about that.


You can grow edibles in your water garden, too. Onions can actually grow without soil and thrive in a watery environment. Once the onions start to grow in, you can pluck one from the water garden and add fresh onion to what you’re cooking when you like.


With its tall, thin green stems and delicate white flowers, paperwhite is an amazing aquatic plant. This is a bulb plant. You will need to bury the bulb about halfway into the pebbles, shells or whatever the base is for your water garden. In about four to five weeks, they will start to bloom.


Pothos is distinct for its heart-shaped leaves. This is a cascading plant that will grow out and trail down the sides of your water garden container if you let it. Pothos has very pretty leaves and it grows well in water.


Spider plants look nice and they purify the air incredibly well. These plants grow easily in water and actually need very little maintenance, which is nice. Spider plants are fast-growing and don’t need a whole lot of attention to thrive, which makes them popular houseplants. They’re also nice-looking plants, so they make a good addition to any water garden.

Wandering Jew

Wandering jew plants have gorgeous purple foliage that will stand out in any garden. If you give the plant some morning or evening sunlight, the leaves will be even more deeply covered. This is a low-maintenance plant that will grow well in the water.

Water Lettuce

Water lettuce has pretty foliage and grows in a rosette pattern that creates a distinct look. It also floats on the surface of the water, which makes this plant a nice addition to a water garden. Water lettuce likes full to partial sunlight.

About the Water

You don’t want to fill your water garden with tap water. The chemicals in tap water, such as fluoride, can limit or even prohibit plant growth and can foster the growth of algae. You want to use distilled water for your water garden and fountain, if you have a fountain. The water does not need to be changed often, so this will only turn into a big expense if you plan to have a very large water garden.

Water Garden Maintenance

Water gardens need regular maintenance, too. You will have to remove yellow and dead leaves and sometimes, you might need to trim plants if they begin to grow a little too healthy. You also can’t let floating plants cover more than 60 percent of the water’s surface. Otherwise, the roots of the plants in the water garden won’t receive enough light to maintain healthy growth.

Algae can be a problem in water gardens. Use anti-algae pellets or, as a more natural alternative, barley straw. This will prevent algae growth. You can also add a filter or clarifier to the water. A fountain or waterfall, which aerates the water, will also prevent algae growth.

You don’t have to water the plants in your water garden. Just maintain the water level at a certain depth and your plants will grow and thrive. Water naturally evaporates over time and this will happen no matter what you do. Draw a small watermark somewhere that you can see so you can maintain the water at the right level, adding more as needed to get the level right.

Don’t ever clean in or around your water garden tank, stones or any other elements using soap. If you use soap, it can leave a residue which makes it difficult for plants to absorb CO2 and create oxygen.

How to Set Up an Indoor Water Garden

Once it’s all finished, an indoor water garden looks quite high-end and eye-catching. It’s a real feature for any indoor space. But you really don’t need a lot to set up an indoor water garden. You can get fancy with foundation and all sorts of features if you like, but you can just as easily fill up a big glass tank and turn it into a water garden. After all, it’s the plants that add the real beauty to the garden, right? Try different plants, different foundations and play with different ideas to make your water garden what you want. The whole point of a DIY project is to have fun and create something special, after all.

People Also Ask

How often do you change the water in an indoor water garden?

You will want to replace the water in your indoor water garden if it’s not being aerated regularly. Drain as much water as you can and replace it with new water every six weeks or so if you aren’t keeping the water aerated. In-between water changes, you can add a little more water to the garden to top it off every time it gets low.

You can also add a filtration pump to the water and filter the water to keep it clean. There are different options for maintaining the water in your water garden. Find the one that’s going to work the best for you.

Is it possible to build your own waterproof container for a water garden?

You can make your own waterproof container and design a water garden completely on your own using standard plywood, a circular saw, C-clamp and items such as sealant and a rubberized coating. It takes some work but it is not difficult to accomplish with the right tools and materials.

If you can build a box, you can build a container for your water garden. You can also get more creative and design a water garden with an interesting shape. You might want to play around with using a glass container and creating a water garden on a small scale before you go big like this.

What else can you add to an indoor water garden?

You don’t have to stick to the basics when it comes to your water garden. Besides choosing the plants, you can make the garden your own by adding extra touches and decorative elements as you like. What else can you add to your water garden? The real question is, what can’t you add to your water garden?

You can add just about whatever you like to your water garden, as far as your creativity allows. Decorative rocks, aquarium objects that are made to be submerged, whatever you want to add. Just as long as it can get wet, it’s okay to add to your water garden. Be sure you only include items with non-toxic materials and don’t include any metals that can leach chemicals into the water, as this can harm your plants. Avoid anything that is made with lead or copper, for example.

Further Reading

Adding a Wisteria to Your Water Garden

Best Types Of Light For Plants

Seasonal Care for Your Water Garden

Starting An Herb Garden With Hydroponics