Ponteuderia - The Late Star Of Coastal Zones And Wet Places

Wet beds and marshes today are considered no less popular than the lush design of large and small garden ponds. But in the design of any kind of landscape objects with conditions of high humidity, there is one problem that all designers face: apart from cereals, it is difficult to find crops that will decorate the pond with blooms in the second half of the garden season. To such rare and indispensable plants can be safely attributed Pontederia - coastal perennial with spectacular leaves and not inferior to them candles of purple inflorescences.

Ponteuderia - the late star of coastal zones and wet places
Pontederia cordate (Pontederia cordata). © JANKUIT

Late flowering wonder of marshes and ponds

Ponteria is rightly considered one of the most valuable plants for design of ponds and wet beds. It is valued above all for its spectacular, large, shiny leaves, but deserves special attention also for its flowering. This species was discovered at the end of the 16th century, but did not get its present name until the 18th century (that was when it was named after the legendary Italian botanist). In nature, ponterideria is common in muddy soils and shallow waters almost all over the Western Hemisphere, occurring both in the tropics and in the temperate zone. The northernmost Pontederia occur in Canada, but still they are not winter hardy enough to grow in our garden reservoirs.

Pontederia (Pontederia) is a small genus of coastal perennials with thick, horizontal rhizomes, not prone to aggressiveness and developing as compact thickets and beautiful shrubs, up to 8 species in all. Never out of control, does not suppress other plants and does well in the company of taller coastal species.

The leaves of ponterideria are always heart-shaped, ovate or lanceolate in shape, sitting on very long petioles. Large, up to 25 cm, they stand out both for their rich color and shiny surface. Flowering in this perennial begins later than in other coastal crops. Numerous spike-like inflorescences with blue-purple or purple coloration appear lacy and yet massive. Flowering begins in summer, but is completed only in mid-autumn, with the onset of cold weather.

Species and varieties of Pontederia

The only species grown as an ornamental plant is Pontederia cordata (Pontederia cordata). The species Pontederia lanceolata(Pontederia lanceolata) used to be singled out separately, but today it is included in the most common of the Pontederia species and is not considered alone.

Pontederia cordata (Pontederia cordata) is a European-American shallow water and marsh perennial up to 60 cm high. The plant develops initially as a very beautiful and round bush, gradually forming compact but increasingly dense thickets that appear to be an architectural design element. Numerous leaves up to 25 cm long and up to 18 cm wide rise above water on long, powerful stalks. The plates appear hard and dense, but are translucent in the sun, making the ponteridia look even more interesting. The color of the leaves is not boggy, but a deep green, and the surface is always perfectly glossy. The heart-shaped base and the pointed edge of the lanceolate or ovate leaf plate look like strict and almost flawless details.

Even very young ponterideria produce numerous flower stalks, on which, besides the crowning inflorescence, a very similar to the root leaf is located. The spike of inflorescences is massive, dense, densely packed with bicubic blue or purple flowers with a light, lilac-shining color. The inflorescence is shaped like a reed cob, but its lacy pattern gives it a visual lightness. Although it is difficult to distinguish individual flowers, Ponteria should be looked at more closely. The lower lip of the flowers is three-lobed, the upper one is solid, but it is decorated with a pair of bright yellow spots. But the most unusual feature of ponterideria is the color of the pistil and stamens. In this crop, they are blue. Flowering of Heartleaf Ponteria starts at the very beginning of summer, only in extremely unfavorable seasons it is delayed until July. But flowering ends, as it should be for a late plant, when you can already feel the breath of winter in the garden - in the second half of October.

Ponteuderia - the late star of coastal zones and wet places
Pontederia cordata. © Yuichi Momma

Besides the basic form, there are ornamental varieties and cultivars of Pontederia. We have only a few that have become classic cultivars:

  • Ponteria heartwood 'Pink Pons' with pink inflorescences;
  • Ponteria heartwood 'Dilatata' with purple-pink, very long inflorescences;
  • Ponteria heartwood 'Grey Thunder' with seemingly gray but actually blue inflorescences and huge, from 30 cm in length leaves;
  • Ponteria heartwood 'Alba' with snow-white flowers;
  • Ponteria heartwood 'Spoon River' with blue flowers and oval, spoon-like leaves (this is the only non-glossy variety of ponteria).

Some modern cultivars are more frost hardy, such as the bright blue variety 'Crown Point', which is assigned a zone 4a.

Strategy for growing Ponteria in harsh winters

This magnificent plant has low winter hardiness and, according to the common opinion, can only tolerate a mild winter in the pond, and that under the ice crust, provided the soil does not freeze. Pontederia cannot stand frost penetration of their roots, but if it can be avoided, they can overwinter in the pond. In Europe, ponteria can be "planted and forgotten," but in our country it can be grown by slightly different strategies. It would be a mistake to think that the variants of cultivation are limited to one way of growing:

Classic approach as a container plant which is taken out with the first frosts and put in a greenhouse or other frost-free room (you can keep it for example with lotuses and other deep and coastal stars, with plants from portable ponds). Since ponteria is grown only in baskets, neither dredging nor planting back into the pond is difficult.

Depressing into water: If ponteria is used in the design of shallow ponds, it can be moved for the winter to areas where frost is definitely not reaching the bottom. Some gardeners move pontederia to a depth of 1-2 m, and in the spring they return to the usual 20-25 cm submergence.

Ponteuderia - the late star of coastal zones and wet places
Pontederia cordata (Pontederia cordata). © Ryan Rasmussen

Pontederia cordata is used in garden design:

  • as late-flowering accents in the design of any water features;
  • to create beautiful ornamentation in wet beds and marshes (in the wettest areas);
  • to stretch the bloom baton in a pond;
  • in coastal zone design;
  • to create a tiered effect in the coastal zone, playing on contrasts and textures;
  • as a water-filtering plant.

Ponteria is much loved by animals and insects: in its native land it is even known as the "pike plant" (pickerel plant). Not only pikeperch, but also other fish and all amphibians love to hide in pondweed. Ponterella blossoms attract butterflies and dragonflies.

Best partners for ponterella: cultures with smaller leaves and early vegetation, with classical early-season blossoms, such as Hautotenia, common reed, bacopa, wallisneria, buttercups, Marsilea, etc.

Conditions for ponterellaria

These water-loving perennials should be planted quite deeply, 5-10 cm below the water level (the planting depth is 20-30 cm, but ponterellaria grow well at 10 and 40 cm depth). With a stronger deepening, the plant will not die anyway, but the leaves will appear later, will be small and elongated, and flowering will be very sparse. But at a depth of 1 m it winters perfectly even in harsh winters. Fluctuations in the depth of immersion during the year are not afraid of ponteria, but it does not like prolonged bareness and a sharp decrease in humidity. For this culture, it is necessary to choose a nutritious clay soil (substrate for lilies is excellent). You can put fertilizers in the soil, because large amount of large leaves quickly uses up nutrients, but you must also remember about the sense of proportion.

Pontederia is a light-loving plant. Even the sunniest places in the pond will suit it perfectly. In the shade it does not produce such a dense turf of leaves and practically does not flower. It is necessary to take into account the heat-loving nature of the plant, choosing the coziest places for it and orienting to the southern sides of the reservoir.

Ponteria planting

These coastal plants preferably grow in large baskets, which allow the horizontal rhizome to develop. Pontederia containers should be no smaller than 40 cm in diameter.

Ponteuderia - the late star of coastal zones and wet places
Pontederia heartleaf (Pontederia cordata). © Simon Marshall

Care for Pontederia

All the care the plant needs is limited to removing dry or damaged leaves - sanitary cleaning, cutting flower stems after flowering (in warm climates they are left to decorate the winter pond).

Wintering of ponteria

In southern regions the plant can be safely left in a pond or marsh, but you should take into account that freezing of the plant will lead to its death. Ponterideria can overwinter directly in the water only if the ice crust is not thick and does not restrain the bottom. In the middle belt, the plant is prepared for winter in a different way. After the first frosts, ponterella is usually moved to a depth of 1 m (or a little more), placing it in front of water lilies and other classic deep-sea crops. Submergence below 1.5 m is undesirable. But the most reliable strategy is to put the ponteria in any frost-free room for the winter, along with other aquatic crops. It can overwinter in tubs, a large container filled with water, with constant watering or in damp sand.

Pest and Disease Control

Ponteria attracts not only beneficial insects, but also pests. This plant is very fond of aphids, especially when adjacent to infested crops in flower beds nearby. It is not reasonable to fight it without taking out and isolating the ponterid with insecticides because of the negative influence of chemicals on the pond ecosystem.

Ponterid reproduction

This is a very easy plant to propagate, which can be obtained both from seeds and vegetatively. Ponteria splits beautifully and is not afraid of rhizome injuries, but the procedure should only be done during their active vegetative stage. It is best to propagate this culture only when it comes out of its dormant stage, in late spring. Divide bushes can be both into large divisions, into two or three parts (in each division should remain powerful roots and numerous points of growth), and simply break off "cuttings" - leaves with a section of rhizome. Pontederia perfectly take root and adapt, quickly start to grow. Often for propagation use roots coming out of the holes of the container. Small plants do not need to be reared separately, they can be planted immediately in small baskets and put out in ponds.

Ponteuderia - the late star of coastal zones and wet places
Pontederia cordate (Pontederia cordata). © Phil.D

The plant is also easily propagated by seeds. They can be sown at any time, from spring to summer in very moist soil. When kept warm, under a film or glass with airing and a constant level of humidity, the sprouts appear quickly, but until the appearance of a full-fledged leaf they are not transferred to the water garden and kept at a very abundant watering. Young plants grow up at first in mobile mini-ponds, and only when the roots become powerful and large enough, are transferred to a permanent place.

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