The Best Aquatic Plants For Home Ponds

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Ponds are the perfect way to add beauty, entertainment and a sense of calm to a garden. Children enjoy feeding the fish and turtles that inhabit a pond and it creates a great contrast to other decorations and features around the garden. To get the most enjoyment from a pond, and to keep it low maintenance, it's important to have the proper mix of water plants. A pond must contain a variety of plants that shade the pond from the sun, provide shelter for fish, oxygenate the water, inhibit the growth of algae and create a colorful palette with exotic flowers.

Aquatic Plants That Float

One floating aquatic plant that commonly comes to mind is the lily pad. But, the lily pad is just one type of pond plant that floats on top of the water. Other popular floating aquatic plants include water hyacinths and water lettuce. The small root system on these plants does not require soil, which gives the plant mobility, provides shade to keep a pond cool in hot weather and controls algae growth. When selecting floating aquatic plants, do not cover more than 60 percent of the surface area of the pond and look for varieties that are non-invasive for the area.


Here are a few popular types of floating aquatic plants:

  • Frogbit has small heart-shaped leaves and produces white cup-shaped flowers in the late summer. It prefers full sun to shade.
  • Sensitive Plant has diamond-shaped leaves that curl up at night or when touched. Yellow flowers that look like sweet peas bloom in the summer. This is a tender plant that thrives in Zones 9-11 where the water is above 70 degrees. See Gardening Zones.
  • Parrot’s Feather changes color depending on the amount of light. In the shade, it is silver-gray; in full sun, it is lime green. The plants have feathery leaves that reach 3 to 12 inches tall. Parrot’s Feather adds oxygen to the water and the roots provide shelter for fish eggs.
  • Water hyacinths are fast growers and are very efficient at filtering water. Water hyacinths tolerate a variety of conditions from full sun to partial shade. Koi enjoy eating the hyacinth roots
  • Water lettuce is another quick growing plant. It has a rosette shape with blue-green ribbed leaves. Helps improve water quality.

Deep Water Plants: Lotus & Water Lilies

Lotus and water lilies are considered deep water plants because their root systems need to be in the soil. In most ponds, deep water plants are planted in a container which sits on the bottom of the pond. Lotus and water lilies add color and a tropical look to a pond along with providing shade and regulating pond temperatures.

Water lilies come in two varieties. Hardy water lilies are perennials that bloom from March through September. The leaves of the hardy lilies have smooth edges and the flowers come in a variety of colors. Tropical water lilies have a fragrant flower at the end of a long stem. The leaves have jagged edges and may be either day blooming or night blooming.

Lotus seems to hold a special place in the water garden. This exotic perennial pond plant has lush leaves that span from 2 inches to 2 feet in diameter. Flowers range in size from 2 inches across to 12 inches and bloom in late summer. Lotus needs space to spread out.

Underwater Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants that live under the water help keep pond water clear and free of algae. These underwater plants compete with the algae for nutrients and virtually starve the algae. Underwater plants also provide cover for fish and are used as a spawning ground. Underwater plants grow best when the roots are buried in a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pond.

Here are some popular underwater aquatic plants:

  • Hornwort is an easy aquatic plant that does not need to be planted in the pond bottom. Attach a weight to the bottom and let it sink to the bottom.
  • Red Ludwigia can reach up above the surface of the water to display its red-green leaves.
  • Caboma has bright green foliage, white flowers and thrives best in deeper ponds. Use as a spawning ground for fish.
  • Anacharis is the most common underwater plant. It breaks down fish waste and eliminates algae.
  • Vallisneria is a shade loving plant that has ribbon-shaped leaves that wave in the water. It is a food source and a shelter for fish. It also filters the water and controls free floating algae.

Planting Around The Pond

A pond also needs an assortment of plants that live around the edges. These bog plants thrive in water that is between two and 12 inches deep. Popular bog plants include cattails, cannas, grasses and reeds.

Hardy bog plants live at the edge of a pond and will winter over well in colder climates. Hardy bog plants include:

  • Arrowheads
  • Cattails and rushes
  • Flowering pond plants such as iris, lobelia, water hibiscus, cardinal flower and marsh marigold
  • Grasses, such as dwarf bamboo, sedges and reeds

Tropical bog plants must be brought indoors during the cold months. Tropical bog plants include:

  • Flowering bog plants such as cannas, society garlic, spider lilies and blue bells
  • Palms and papyrus including dwarf papyrus, Egyptian papyrus, dwarf umbrella palm and variegated umbrella palm.
  • Foliage type bog plants including taro, mosaic plant and water poppy.

A pond is a unique and eye-catching feature in any garden. Keep your pond healthy and attractive by maintaining a balance of different types of plants that will regulate the pond temperature, provide shelter for fish and control the algae level. There are hundreds of plants from which to choose. Look for healthy plants that will not become invasive in your area.

Last Updated: August 1, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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