You’ve spent hours deciding on where to put your pond. You’ve poured sweat and tears into building it out. You’ve carefully studied hundreds of different animals to determine the best combinations for your pond. You can almost hear your filter humming and your fish jumping.
Now it’s time to add the last element to tie it all together. Water plants! The plants you choose will enhance the pond’s architecture, allowing it to live in harmony. How can you pick the best pond plants? Well, that depends on what qualities you want.
The water plants you select will modify the visual layout of your pond. Just as importantly, they will change the conditions of your pond water. Carefully chosen plants will boost the quality of your water and create a coherent environment. Ultimately, the plants, water, and animal life will form a habitat that enhances each other.
Some pond plants will provide your pond with more oxygen than others. These are qualities of submerged plants. These plants grow almost entirely under the water surface. This causes the oxygen released by the plant to go directly into the water.
Having appropriately oxygenated water will allow for a higher variety of animal life to flourish and lower the stress of your fish. Hornwort, Eelgrass, and Narrow-Leaved Arrowhead are all great options for this.
Hornwort is one of the hardiest oxygenating plants you can add. It can be left free-floating or fastened in place with weights. Capable of growing up to two feet tall (completely submerged), it can add a new dimension to deep ponds.
These green towers will provide great hiding places for smaller fish. Most fish won’t eat Hornwort and it can stand significant changes of temperature. A beginner can’t go wrong by adding Hornwort to the list.
Eelgrass is another tough oxygenating plant. In ponds, it can reach heights similar to Hornwort. Eelgrass will develop strong roots that will support large fish bumping into it. This makes it a great choice for ponds with Koi or large Goldfish.
Eelgrass can spread across large areas but is easy to keep in check. Simply pulling up unwanted plants by the roots will help control its spread. It can survive frequent trims if it becomes too tall.
Narrow-Leaved Arrowhead is a good choice for shallow ponds. It will grow like clumps of grass at the bottom of the pond. Its leaves are shaped like thin bent arrowheads and provide nice hiding spots for smaller fish. Over thirty species of Arrowhead exist, all producing a three-petal flower.
As a testament to its hardiness, it can be found in tropical and colder areas alike. While many pond plants don’t take winters well, you can rely on Arrowhead to continue providing oxygen when other plants have stopped.
Floating plants offer a couple of traits that will add value to your pond. Floating plants add shaded areas that can help regulate the temperature of your pond. They also provide hiding spots for small fish.
Secondly, their floating root systems will travel around the pond sucking up nutrients that would otherwise cause algae. Common floating pond plants include Water Lettuce, Water Hyacinth, White Snowflake, Lotus, and Mosaic Flower.
Water Lettuce (also known as Water Cabbage or Nile Cabbage) has thick, soft leaves that float above long root systems. It is light green and will form green berries when reproducing.
Short hairs on the leaves trap air bubbles that keep it buoyant. It thrives in nutrient-rich waters. Consider Water Lettuce if you think you have fertilizer run-off in your pond.
Water Hyacinth produces delicate purple flowers that are sure to add elegance to your pond. Their thick dark green leaves provide shade for pond life while the roots are ideal for fish spawning areas.
They can grow up to nine feet tall making them one of the tallest floating plant options. Like many floating plants, they don’t tolerate cold weather, preferring a temperature range of 60 to 65 degrees.
Covered with small graceful white flowers, White Snowflake will provide excellent coverage of a small pond. The pad color ranges from burgundy to deep green. Different varieties offer yellow and orange flowers if white doesn’t fit into your plan.
White Snowflake can be free-floating or left in an underwater pot. It provides an ideal environment for small fish that prefer indirect sunlight. Small pieces of the plant can be pinched off. These trimmings can be moved to different areas to start new plants.
Lotus comes in a variety of species with wide-ranging flower colors. Their sizes are just as diverse, with some growing up to 60 inches tall. Lotus plants will compete for space in small ponds and individual species should be examined to determine the best fit for your pond.
The blossom can grow up to a foot across and will emit a flowery smell. The Lotus wants full sun and warm days. Without this, it may not bloom to its full potential.
Diamond-shaped leaves all spiral out from the center of this plant. This forms what looks like a mosaic made of green tiles. The stems and leaf tips are colored red. The Mosaic Flower floats on top of the pond like a work of art.
The Mosaic Flower has an additional feature that stands out from other floating pond plants. At night, the leaves will contract in on themselves. This shrinks down the size of the plant’s surface area. As the sun warms it back up, it spreads back out across the pond.
Marginal pond plants are plants that grow along the edge or margins of a pond. These plants are looking for shallow water and good soil for their root systems. They are usually placed on pond shelves to reach their ideal planting depth.
Marginal pond plants will help soften the edges of your pond. They can make a good transition between other pond plants and gardens that surround the pond. They also make a perfect habitat for wildlife like frogs and insects. Marsh Marigold, Pickerel Blue, Houttuynia Chameleon, Creeping Jenny, and Water Forget-Me-Nots are all popular Marginal plant options.
Marsh Marigold can often be found along ditches and streams in the wild. It is also known as Cowslip, Cowflock, or Kingcup. It has yellow cupped flowers that bloom in the spring. Its leaves are dark green and shiny.
These flowers will attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies to your pond. If provided with full sun all day, it will grow up to two feet high and blossom more than once a year.
Pickerel Blue forms blue or purple flowers at the tips of long leaves. This flower will provide a pleasant scent sure to attract bees and butterflies as well as human admirers.
This marginal prefers deeper water than most. The Pickerel Blue wants its crown deep enough underwater to keep it warm during colder months. Where most marginals like only a couple inches of water, the Pickerel Blue prefers around ten inches to thrive.
The Houttuynia Chameleon will grow in up to two inches of water and produce tiny one-inch flowers. It can grow up to 18 inches in height. The Chameleon wants full sunlight to flourish and will take up any marginal area you let it.
The Houttuynia Chameleon plant is considered invasive in many areas. This will require it to be planted in baskets if you don’t want it to take over. The advantage is that it is very hardy and offers different colors through its many varieties.
Creeping Jenny is great for transitioning rocky pond edges. Growing to a height of two inches and only requiring two inches of water makes it perfect for filling in areas between other plants. Some varieties will flower tiny yellow blooms.
It is one of the easier pond plants to spread. New root nodes will begin sprouting near the leaves. Once this begins, you can cut the stem below the roots and place it in a new area of the pond. Before you know it, you’ll have a new batch of Creeping Jenny.
Its scientific name is Myosotis scorpioides because it forms a scorpion tail-like stem. The stems will become covered in pink buds that turn into tiny light blue flowers, each with a yellow center.
It will grow up to a foot tall and a foot wide. While it will propagate on its own, it is not overly aggressive in doing so. The Water Forget-Me-Not wants full sun and rich soil. You won’t see it growing in water deeper than two inches.
Tall Pond Plants
Tall pond plants are a class their own. They can add a commanding backdrop to a pond. The amount of shade they can provide is unparalleled by most other pond plants.
Many of the tall pond plants can provide homes for bird nests that can further expand the wildlife around your pond. Consider tall pond plants if you have plants and animals that like a mix of full and partial sun.
Some good examples of tall pond plants include Umbrella Palm, Rough Horsetail, and Cattail.
Umbrella Palms are a marginal that can grow up to six feet tall. They grow thin green palm fronds on narrow reeds. The plant’s leaves are barely visible because they are wrapped around the stem.
This plant is best kept in a pot while in the water. Otherwise, it is likely to take over your pond. Keeping it in a pot also allows you to take it inside during the winter as it doesn’t fair well in cold weather.
Rough Horsetail is a sturdy reed similar to bamboo, though much thinner. It can grow up to six feet tall in the right conditions. Its reed color goes from dark green in the spring and summer to a brown in the winter.
Rough Horsetail reproduces via spores as a fern does. It is another plant that can take over a whole pond so consider keeping it potted in your pond.
Cattail is the tallest growing plant on the list. It can grow to a dizzying ten feet tall. Another marginal, it likes calm waters along the edges of a pond. Cattails are best suited to larger ponds. Otherwise, they may dominate the whole thing.
The Cattail is large enough that it attracts ducks and other waterfowl that will hide in it. If you don’t want your entire pond hidden by Cattail, it is essential to keep unwanted stalks trimmed below the waterline.
Indoor Pond Plants
Not everyone has the opportunity or space to install a pond or garden in their yard. This doesn’t mean your indoor pond can’t benefit from beautiful plants, though. Indoor ponds rich with plants provide your household fresh oxygen and lovely fragrances.
The ability to listen to water flow and watch fish swim inside the comfort of your home can have enormous relaxation powers. Some indoor friendly pond plants can amplify the relaxing effect. Some ideal indoor pond plants include Amazon Frogbit, Parrot’s Feather, Mosquito Fern, Duckweed, and Water Spangle.
Able to grow up to twenty inches across, the Amazon Frogbit is perfect if you want a floating variety indoors. Once they reach maturity you can expect to find small, white flowers blooming.
Creatures like snails enjoy taking shelter underneath them while they feed. Too many snails can lead to holes in your plant, though. Water must be kept off the top of the leaves or it will rot. This requires calm water like that found in indoor ponds.
Parrot’s Feather, unsurprisingly, has delicate, feather-shaped leaves. They are green with a thicker stem that shades from brown to green. It is an attractive plant that is only ideally planted indoors.
It is such an invasive risk that small pieces of the plants transported on boats have created huge problems as it took over environments. Keeping it indoors allows you to enjoy its beauty without risking an environmental disaster. Check local laws to make sure its legal to grow in your area.
Mosquito Ferns are tiny one-inch plants that grow on the surface of calm waters. They get their name from covering a pond’s surface, thus denying mosquitos the ability to lay eggs. The leaves grow in two-leaf patterns with roots underneath. They are great for filtering the water of your indoor pond, as well.
Mosquito Ferns are very adept at turning nitrates into nitrogen fertilizer. They store the nitrogen fertilizer inside of them. You can harvest this to make great fertilizer for your other gardens. It is even used for animal feed.
Many people have mistaken Duckweed for Mosquito Fern. You can tell the difference between them because Duckweed won’t turn brown as the Mosquito Fern will.
If you aren’t interested in harvesting the Mosquito Fern for fertilizer but still want similar coverage, Duckweed is a solid choice. It’s a good option for indoor ponds because it will be easier to control. It is likely to take over in outdoor ponds because of the larger amount of decaying matter usually found in them.
Water Spangle is a separate genus of the same family of plants as Mosquito Fern. The primary difference in the two is the lack of roots found on the Water Spangle.
Mosquito Fern often forms a relationship with blue algae. This symbiotic relationship doesn’t occur with the Water Spangle making it a better choice to reduce algae. Water Spangle will form three-leaf bunches, with the third leaf under the water.
You’ve just absorbed a lot of information about pond plants. The next step is to determine what qualities and characteristics you want to be replicated inside your pond. From there, you can decide what plants that match those characteristics will look best in your pond.
Keep in mind that changes may not be immediately apparent. It will take time for oxygenators to permeate the pond. Your Cattails won’t be ten feet tall overnight. Don’t get discouraged! Keep a journal or picture diary. One day you can look back to your pond’s humble beginnings and appreciate how far it has come.