DIY Patio Water Garden with Bamboo

Add beauty to your patio or deck with this containerized water garden.

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by Jessica Walliser

Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers in Small Spaces (Cool Springs Press, 2017), by Jessica Walliser provides detailed instructions to help you successfully grow a luscious container garden. Readers can grow a variety of plants in containers, even with limited space, by following the step-by-step guides and helpful visuals. The following excerpt is from Chapter 6, “More Container Concepts.”

For this containerized water garden we used a glazed ceramic pot, but any water-tight container will do. Avoid porous pots, such as those made of unglazed terracotta, as the water will quickly seep out of them unless you take the time to apply a sealant. If you want to build a water garden in a half whiskey barrel or another container that may slowly leach water, line the interior with a double layer of pond liner at least 10 mm thick before filling the container with water.

There are many different aquatic plants that grow well in a containerized water garden. Select three to four plants from the following list for your water garden or head to your local nursery to see what they have in stock.

  • Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)
  • Dwarf cattail (Typha minima)
  • Dwarf papyrus (Cyperus haspans)
  • Dwarf umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius)
  • Water iris (Iris louisiana)
  • Variegated sweetflag (Acorus calamus variegatus)
  • Parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquatica)
  • Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)
  • Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
  • Water lilies (many species)
  • Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera, N. lutea, and hybrids)
  • Floating heart (Nymphoides peltata)
  • Taro root (Colocasia spp.)

Materials Needed

  • 1 large non-porous container; this one holds 30 gallons
  • 1 tube silicone caulking
  • 1 to 2-inch diameter bamboo stake; about 5 to 7 feet long
  • 2 plastic zip ties
  • 1 roll jute twine
  • 1 small submersible fountain or pond pump with adjustable flow control (100 to 140 GPH; pumping height of 3 to 4 feet)
  • 3 to 4 feet of flexible, 1/2-inch clear poly tubing
  • Bricks or blocks to prop up plants
  • Rocks to weigh down pots
  • Decorative rocks for the container’s edge (if desired)
  • 3 to 4 aquatic plants from the list above

Tools Needed

  • Caulk gun
  • Folding saw or bamboo saw


1. Begin by placing the empty container wherever you’d like your water garden to be, as it will be too heavy to move once filled with water. Select a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your container has a drainage hole in the bottom, seal the drainage hole with silicone caulk. Let the caulk dry for at least 24 hours. Make sure the caulk is fully dry before proceeding to the next step.

person holding an orange caulk gun sealing the bottom of a pot with white foam caulk

2. Cut two pieces of bamboo to form the base for the fountain, using a sharp pruning saw. Each piece should be long enough to overhang the edge of the pot on either side by 1 to 2 inches Cut a third piece of bamboo to form the waterspout. The back end of this piece should be long enough to extend over the back edge of the pot, while the front end should sit about 3 to 4 inches inside the front lip of the pot. If you want, you can cut the front edge of this piece of bamboo on an angle.

a man placing cut bamboo pieces on top of a large pot

3. Fasten the two base pieces together, one above the waterspout and the other below it, using two plastic zip ties. Make sure the zip ties are about halfway between the waterspout and the pot’s edge. Tighten the zip ties securely.

man using plastic zip ties to connect two pieces of bamboo with a third one acting as a fountain spout between them

4. Wrap a long piece of jute twine over both of the zip ties multiple times to hide them. Wrap another length of twine in a figure 8 around both of the base pieces where the waterspout comes out. This holds the waterspout in place.

man holding bamboo pieces in place while wrapping twine over zip ties and around the joint of the spout

5. Slide one end of the clear poly tubing over the exit valve on the pump (making sure you have the 1/2-inch adaptor in place). Depending on the size pump you have, you may have to adjust the water flow in a later step. Place the pump in the bottom of the pot with the cord running up and out of the back of the pot.

man holding a black water pump with clear plastic tubing attached

6. Insert the other end of the clear poly tubing into the back end of the piece of bamboo that will be the waterspout. Pull the tubing through the bamboo waterspout. Cut any excess tubing off so the end of the tubing sits just inside the end of the bamboo spout.

man threading plastic tubing in to bamboo spout and down in to the large pot

7. Place rocks, blocks, or bricks in the bottom of the pot and begin arranging the containerized plants on them so the rims of the containers sit 1 to 3 inches below the rim of the large pot. Position the plants so they hide the electric cord and plastic tubing. Add water to the pot until filled almost to the top. If any of the potted plants begin to float, weigh them down by putting a few rocks into the pot around the plant. Once the pot is full of water, add any floating plants, such as water hyacinth or water lettuce.

man filling up a pot with plants in it and a bamboo fountain on top with water with a garden hose

8. If desired, to soften the edge of the pot and help hold the fountain in place, put a few decorative rocks on the edge of the pot. Plug in the pump. If the flow rate is too heavy or too light, unplug the pump, lift it out of the water, and adjust the flow rate valve until the correct flow rate is achieved. Never run the pump when it’s out of the water and never adjust the pump while it’s plugged in. If you’d like to add fish to your water garden, wait 3 to 5 days before adding them.

More from Container Gardening Complete:
Containerized Trees and Shrubs

Excerpted with permission from Container Gardening Complete by Jessica Walliser, published by Cool Springs Press, 2017.

book cover covered in photos of potted plants in circles