WATER HYACINTH - IN AND OUT OF YOUR WATER GARDEN

By: Mike Gannon | Posted On: January 15th, 2014 | 46 Comments on WATER HYACINTH – IN AND OUT OF YOUR WATER GARDEN | In: AQUATIC PLANTS, NATURAL PONDS, WATER GARDENS

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You could say that the history of the Water Hyacinth began on December 16, 1884. The “World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition”, or the World’s Fair, opened on that day in New Orleans, LA. Among the many amazing wonders on display a never before seen herb was on display in Horticultural Hall. The herb, Eichornia crassipes, was an aquatic floating plant with dark green thick leaves and a beautiful delicate purple and blue flower with a yellow spot accenting several petals. This horticultural curiosity of the time quickly escaped the confines of Horticultural Hall and invaded the American waterways of the south.

     The history of water hyacinth may have started on December 16, 1884 here in the United States, but its history really began in the Amazon basin where its native habitat is. By the late 1800’s water hyacinth had made its way not only to the US, but also to Europe and Africa where, as with the US, it was quickly becoming a problem in the water ways. Economies were affected and habitats lost in all of these areas, quickly after introduction of the species.

     These days water hyacinth is well known in the water gardening world as a popular, beginner level, easy to care for, inexpensive, floating plant. Often touted as being a water purifier and a solution to green water issues that many pond owners experience. The water hyacinth is a nice looking plant above water with its large bulbous thick green leaves and beautiful flower; below water the plant sports some huge roots. The roots are a blackish coloration and can grow in excess of 12” long; these roots are often utilized by fish fry and various aquatic bugs as habitat. The roots absorb impurities, and can lock up floating particles from the water, thereby “purifying” the water. The roots are also picked at by fish, and shed by the plant in quantity.

     As an aquatic plant enthusiast this plant is so easy to love. However as a responsible water gardener these plants may raise some concerns. Water hyacinth is not a very welcome plant in many places outside of your water garden. With the “dirty” nature of these plants, you may not welcome them into your water garden! Those amazing roots that “clean” your water and get rid of algae, also make your pond pretty dirty by clogging filter pads, littering the bottom, blocking skimmers, burning out pumps, causing leaks, and increasing maintenance to almost nightmare levels. Not to mention their abillty to quickly cover the entire surface of your pond, again and again. Water hyacinth is the worlds fastest growing plant!water hyacinth new jersey

     Not to be harsh on this plant; but here are “some did you knows” about Eichornia crassipes:

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  • It chokes waterways costing hundreds of millions in removal efforts around the world, greatly affecting local economies and trade routes.
  • It chokes out native habitats, ecologies, and species.
  • It spreads by wind, floods, birds, boats, and humans.
  • It impedes passage of large and small vessels in waterways, by creating impenetrable floating mats.
  • It is toxic if ingested by cats, dogs, horses

     Given these “did you knows”, and understanding how it can really impact your koi pond or water garden, we can agree it may not be the ideal water garden plant regardless of its current popularity. At least not for the water gardening “hobbyist”. Probably the best use for the water hyacinth is in small controlled container type water gardens, patio ponds, and other very controlled displays.

     However, let’s not leave this plant completely demonized! There is a bright side to this plant as well, if it is cultivated and managed correctly. There are some very interesting uses and possibilities for the worlds fastest growing noxious invasive plant!

     Did you know?:

  • The flowers are used to create a tonic for horses that is rubbed into the horses skin.
  • Given a good steaming or boiling the plant’s flower stalks, buds, and young leaves can be eaten. Water hyacinth is an ingredient in Taiwanese and Javanese cooking. (if ingested uncooked it will cause sever skin irritation)
  • The plant is rich in carotene.
  • Water hyacinth seeds stay viable up to 30 years.
  • Water hyacinth is used in perfume and cologne products.
  • It can be used as organic fertilizer and animal feed.
  • It can be processed to make paper, rope, handbags, even furniture.
  • It absorbs lead, mercury, and carcinogens when used for remediation purposes.
  • Because of its amazing biomass it can be used to create fuels!

     Water hyacinth is a great plant with an interesting history starting well before the Exhibition of 1884. Water hyacinth likely generates equal amounts of excitement and dread depending on who is dealing with it. The use of water hyacinth in water gardening will certainly not disappear overnight, but will likely become more of a regulated plant with limited distrubution; and understandably so. Those who choose to enjoy water hyacinth in their water garden ponds should be very careful on how they use them and dispose of them. Water gardeners should be especially careful not to release water hyacinth into local waterways knowing that a few plants could quickly reproduce to the point of covering and choking YOUR local waterways.

Check out this water garden video from The Pond Hunter video series on YouTube:

All copy rights to this material is soley owned by Mike Gannon.

Written by Mike Gannon

Mike Gannon

The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast, a show on everything aquatic, every other Wednesday at 8pm EST. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:


    46 Comments on WATER HYACINTH – IN AND OUT OF YOUR WATER GARDEN

    Comments Feed
  1. Elaine Clark Says:

    on February 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Last year I put the water hyacinth in a floating netted ring which kept it contained in my pond, Some koi wanted it so much they jumped into the net. I add all of the over growth into my compost almost daily. makes a great addition to compost. Its great to cover part of the pond for shade for the koi in the super hot summer .in Maryland .

  2. Mgannon Says:

    on February 17, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for the great tip on composting the overgrowth on these fast reproducing aquatic plants. The floating ring is very helpful when trying to control these plants in the water garden.

  3. Pam Oswald Says:

    on September 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Have large hyacinths and can they stay in pond for winter in Illinois?

  4. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Pam, thanks for checking out the blog and commenting. The hyacinth will likely die after first frost. I recommend removing them when temps are in the 50’s. If they freeze they will sink and rot in your water until spring which will make opening your pond more of a chore than it needs to be. -Mike

  5. Pam Oswald Says:

    on September 22, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Can I bring them in and leave in a water tub? I hate to throw them out as they are hugh and beautiful and healthy.

  6. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 23, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Yes Pam, you can bring in the hyacinth for the winter, but I would say you need to keep them warm. Since they grow SOO fast and are pretty inexpensive I would probably not go through the effort of wintering them and just buy a few new ones next spring, they will also be huge before you know it! -Mike

  7. Jim jones Says:

    on April 26, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I have just added some young water hyacinths to my pool but they float on their side and not upright never had this problem before. Any suggestions – jim

  8. Mike Gannon Says:

    on April 30, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Jim, you just have to give them a little bit of time in your pond and they will correct themselves as they continue growing. -Mike

  9. Jess Says:

    on May 3, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Is it true that this water hyacinth plant uses up large amounts of oxygen from the water depleting the fish oxygen supply? I have a small 120 gallon pond and plan on thinning back the plant frequently but after I put it in I found an article claiming that the plant actually starves fish of oxygen( can even kill then) even though it is a great bio filter. Thoughts or input much appreciated.

  10. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 14, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Jess, yes that can be true but I think there are other factors that play into these type of conditions. I would not let the whole surface of your pond become covered with hyacinth since it is a smaller pond. -Mike

  11. Haley Says:

    on May 31, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Do you have any suggestions on what native plants to use instead of water hyacinth? In Wisconsin it is illegal to possess this plant so I would like to learn some alternatives.

  12. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 2, 2016 at 3:12 am

    Check out the aquatic plant guide on LOVEYOURPOND.COM it will have some great ideas for you! -Mike

  13. Sylvia Wookey Says:

    on July 8, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Some of the bulbs look like a bite has been taken out of them… Would a deer eat these? Or is it a disease in the water. Does the water have to be of a certain temperature. I live in a zone 4 and have 7 of them in my above ground pond. The bottom leaves are dark brown.
    They don’t look as healthy as when I bought them.

  14. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 11, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Hello Sylvia. Do you have any turtles in your pond or using your pond, they will eat some plant material and could be taking bites out of your hyacinth. The brown leaves on bottom seems pretty common with hyacinth, I’d consider that pretty normal. -Mike

  15. Shirley Hunter Says:

    on July 22, 2016 at 1:16 am

    Dear mike:
    Do you know where I can offer them for free. My pond is overflowing. I live in zone 7 and we line in newport news, va?

  16. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 26, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Hello Shirley. I’d try calling a local garden club, water garden club or retailer, or offer them up on Craigslist! There is a section for FREE stuff and people love FREE stuff! -Mike

  17. Alan P. Walaski-Miller Says:

    on August 22, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I just want to thank you for this informative article. I especially enjoyed the history of this invasive yet convenient for my koi pnd plant. I live near Buffalo NY and buy about 6 each year for my approximately 15′ × 15′ plus pond. Typically by August I am removing between 50 and 100 of them a day into my computer bins. This year has been very odd, maybe due to the excessive heat, I only have made 30 of them in my whole pond. Good for me not having the task of thinning the out, bad for my compost. Thanks again.

  18. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for the feedback Alan, maybe next year they will be back!! -Mike

  19. adri Says:

    on August 22, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Mike, after the first frost, what is the proper way to dispose the hycinths?
    I have a small pond all cover with them and after reading the article, I am worry to throw them in the green bin.
    Adri.

  20. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 23, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Hello Adri. The hyacinth can be composted if you have a compost pile, or bagged and placed into the garbage for collection. That is a safe way to dispose of them. -Mike

  21. Jim Says:

    on September 24, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    It says that these absorb a lot of nasty stuff from the pond, including carcinogens – so wouldn’t that present a problem with composting them (i.e. wouldn’t all that nasty stuff then end up in our flower beds and vegetable gardens…and then in us?)

  22. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 25, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Hello Jim,
    If you are utilizing them for carcinogen remediation at contaminated sites then I would not suggest using them for compost. If you are simply water gardening with them in your own backyard I don’t think there would be much of an issue. -Mike

  23. MJLavelle Says:

    on September 26, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I found the best way to keep the roots from breaking off and fouling the water is to tie a fine mesh bag to the bottom of the plant, over the roots. This also seems to slow down the spreading to almost zero. The bag catches the broken off roots, and just needs emptied about every 1-2 weeks. I have no problems with the dead roots fowling the filters, and it seems to have no effect on the plants. You do need to trim any roots that grow outside the bag when emptying the bags. The fish can not nibble on them, but not for lack of trying. If I could find some fine black mesh, this method would be perfect. The white mesh bags are obvious in the water.

  24. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 28, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Hey MJ, thanks for the great idea! This is worth a try. -Mike

  25. Sherrye Says:

    on September 28, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Hi! We are wondering if there is a leak in our round 13’x3′ deep water garden. No pump or plumbing issues, no waterfalls, but was curious if too many plants can use up water and make it seem to be a leak. It got quite full of large water hyacinths, but we removed them to start searching for possible hole in liner. There were other plants as well.

  26. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Hello Sherrye, thanks for reaching out. An abundance of plants will contribute to water loss through transpiration, the amount of water loss might possibly make it seem like a leak in your pond, but my instinct tells me that the amount of water loss would be too little; so I’d keep looking for a leak if your water loss is that significant. Good luck! -Mike

  27. Pauline Says:

    on March 22, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Hello,

    Is there anything which would naturally choke out the water hyacinth?

    Thank you

    Pauline

  28. Mike Gannon Says:

    on March 22, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Hello Pauline,
    Water hyacinth is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, so it tends to be more of the choker than the chokee! I am not aware of anything that would help in that way. Thanks for reaching out! -Mike

  29. John Crean Says:

    on May 20, 2017 at 1:39 am

    I have just put a lot of Hyacinth’s in my pond, this morning I discovered that the racoons had eaten them. Any tips

  30. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 30, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Raccoons ate them!? Try a raccoon deterrent or spray around the pond. Good luck. -Mike

  31. John Crean Says:

    on May 20, 2017 at 2:23 am

    Yesterday I added four Hyacinths to my pond. This morning it seemed that the Racoons had eaten all of them. Any tips dealing with racoons please let me know.

  32. stormy Says:

    on May 29, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    I am trying to ID a plant that is very similar to Eichhoria or water hyacinth. The problem is this plant is found in a very wet meadow in Virginia, USA. The flower? I think the precursor or immature flower is a tiny tiny hard dark blue nub, the leaves have no buoyant bulbs. This ‘flower’ looks like hyacinth, columnar and tight. But it is tiny…like 1/2 inch long at the most. The leaves and stems look like a water plant. Could this just be how water hyacinth looks as it tries to invade a wet meadow? Please, I’ve been looking and water hyacinth is the closest I’ve been able to find. The leaves are ovate, alternate some actually look like they have a singular notch or serrate. https://i.stack.imgur.com/PRQcm.jpg

  33. Richard Says:

    on May 31, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Hi! I have a pond with water hyacinths growing very well. I took a few and placed them in my 55 gallon aquarium with a plant light. They keep the water crystal clear, but the leaves are turning brown. Should I try a different type of light?

  34. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 31, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Hello Richard. I’m not sure what type of light you have but it should simulate full spectrum sunlight. Good luck! -Mike

  35. Evans Fitts Says:

    on June 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Hyacinths in my pond are not doing well! Turning yellow.
    They are in full sun. Should be thriving.
    What could be the problem?

  36. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 9, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Evan, thanks for reaching out. I’m missing too much info to tell you for sure why they would be yellowing. Hyacinth does enjoy just a bit of shade, full FULL sun may not be the best for them. Lack of nutrients can also contribute to yellowing. -Mike

  37. Sandie deYoung Says:

    on June 11, 2017 at 11:16 am

    My 7×8 ft pond has an abundance of hyacinths and Lilly pads so I pull some out every spring. This year I realized that the roots are filling up my pond even though I keep the top only half covered by the plants. But ever year I keep losing about an inch of water a day, even after I put in a new liner a few years ago. Before tearing it apart again to find the issue I wondered it either of those plants were actually ‘drinking’ up my water since I have so many roots in there? My Lilly’s were in pots in there but have grown out of the pots years ago, too….
    Thanks for any advice!

  38. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 29, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Hello Sandy. I think 1″ per day sounds excessive for water loss due to evaporation/transpiration. I’m sure the plants play a small role but not quite that much. Mike

  39. Sharon Says:

    on July 4, 2017 at 1:42 am

    Will Water Hyacinths grow in dirt , and not in the pond? They are so pretty that I hate to trash them and if they would grow in my landscaping, I’d be happy.

  40. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 14, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Hi Sharon. Hyacinth is an aquatic plant, but if you give it a very wet area of your landscape it may do pretty well. Good luck experimenting! Mike

  41. David Bojczuk Says:

    on July 7, 2017 at 12:02 am

    Do Hyacinth plants produce oxygen for fish.

  42. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 14, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Hello David. Yes, they will produce oxygen. Mike

  43. judy Says:

    on July 23, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I purchased several Hyacinths this spring. Now I have about 50-100 small fish in my pond. They are not Koi as I do have Koi and am familiar with their offspring. Any ideas as to what kind of fish they may be?

  44. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 2, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Judy, thanks for reaching out. Without a bit more description I really could not tell you what kind of fish they are. Thanks -Mike

  45. QAMAR Says:

    on September 3, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Our local government in the Philippines is spending much money to give ways of the clogged water hyacinth. Your inputs is of great help for all of us and open a potential industry.

  46. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 4, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Hello Qamar. I am happy to hear this article is helpful. Good luck. -Mike Gannon

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