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Origins: Originally from what most people call Brazil, water hyacinths came to the U.S. in 1880. They were brought to the Cotton Exposition in Louisiana, introduced into Florida, and from there quickly spread to all our southern states. Now considered a noxious weed in these states and “the worst aquatic plant,” they are illegal to export or import into these and several other states. They grow so fast that they block waterways and impede navigation in many states.
Movie Stars: If you saw the movie “Anaconda,” you saw their boat plow thru vast quantities of water hyacinths. It was a sad movie, because the anaconda died at the end.
Floating Plants: You don’t plant water hyacinths in special pots; you just toss them in the water. Their air-filled leaves keep them afloat. They float like a green-leaved cork. You don’t even need to remember “green side up.” Their heavy roots automatically right them no matter what you do.
Root System: Long heavily branched roots looking like they’re covered with black whiskers very efficiently remove fish wastes from the water. Older roots turn black. Younger roots are white. Roots can grow as long as 18 inches. If they reach a mud bottom, they grow even faster.
Starting out: We trim our hyacinths back as far as possible. If you get yours elsewhere, pull off ALL dead or broken leaves. They will not repair themselves. Also pull off the excess roots. Trimming them back (a lot) encourages new growth and makes them look better. Dead or broken leaves will not repair themselves.
Reproduction: Water hyacinths can reproduce by seeds in warm climates -- not in Iowa. Seeds can survive 15 to 20 years during crummy weather. However, most hyacinths reproduce by stolons (like strawberry runners). In good conditions they double in population every 12 days. In Florida, they can yield 200 tons per acre. All these traits make them a great pond plant for Iowa -- but not Florida.
Iowa Winters: We see some reports saying hyacinths die at temps below 20o. In Iowa backyards they stop growing at 40 and die out at 32. The first frost wipes them totally. If we had no winters in IOwa, they would be a noxious weed here also.
Substrate: It matters not what you put on the bottom of your pond. Water hyacinths will prosper. If you have a dirt bottom, they will very likely have access to more nutrients.
Fertilizers: You will need to fertilize your fast-growing hyacinths if their leaves turn yellow. Use any fertilizer you know will not hurt your fish. If you have no fish in your pond. use any type of fertilizer you want. Small frequent feedings work better than one massive feeding.
Excess Plants: Once they get a good start, you wind up with more than you need. At the end of the pond season, disposal of dead hyacinths can present a problem. We find the best solution involves raking them out of your pond, drying them a couple days, then mulching them with your lawn mower. If you leave them in your pond over the winter, they make a royal mess. Get the dead ones out as soon as possible. In some countries, they compost their hyacinths and use them to grow mushrooms.
Algae Cure: Water hyacinths control algae growth in two main ways. They reduce the amount of sunlight entering the water. They also suck out the nutrients that algae need to grow successfully.
Other Uses: In addition to looking good, water hyacinths also provide the security some fishes need. Their roots also serve as prime spawning areas. The roots also provide a home for tiny insects and other critters that fishes enjoy snacking upon.
Water: Water hyacinths grow in nearly any kind of water without salt in it. Copper will kill them, so will most algae treatments. The only algae treatment that lets them live is AlgaeFix.
Size: Most water hyacinths grow 12 to18-inches tall. They will grow taller -- up to three feet tall. Crowded conditions plus fertilizer make them really stretch out.
Last Word: Water hyacinths will grow for anybody. Lack a green thumb? Try the water hyacinths. LA.
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