Types of Pond Plants (Your Guide to the Best Aquatic Plants)

Emma Loker Headshot - DIY Garden
Written by: - Gardening Expert
Types Of Pond Plants

Imagine a serene pond filled with colourful, unique, and functional aquatic plants, creating a perfect haven for wildlife and a stunning focal point for your garden.

This may feel far off right now. But, with the right pond plants, anything is possible!

With so many types of pond plants to choose from, how do you select the ones that will thrive and enhance your pond’s beauty?

This comprehensive guide will help you understand the different categories of pond plants, explore popular and exotic species, and offer essential tips for plant care and maintenance.


Key Takeaways

  • Learn about different categories of pond plants to create a healthy and beautiful pond ecosystem.
  • Choose popular aquatic plants like water lilies, pickerelweed, frogbit & hornwort for your garden.
  • Consider exotic & tropical options too! Pruning/trimming regularly + winterising are key for maintenance.

Understanding Pond Plant Categories

Understanding Pond Plant Categories

Pond plants come in various categories, each with their unique characteristics and benefits. These categories include:

  • Marginal plants
  • Floating plants
  • Submerged plants
  • Bog plants

Understanding these categories is crucial in selecting the right plants for your pond. By knowing the differences, you can create a balanced environment that not only looks stunning, but also supports the aquatic life within.

Let’s dive deeper into each of these categories and explore their features and benefits.


Marginal Plants

Marginal plants, also known as marginal pond plants, grow at the edges of ponds in damp soil, making them perfect for adding height and attracting insects to formal ponds.

Examples of these plants include:

  • Corkscrew rush
  • Potentilla palustris
  • Pickerelweed
  • Northern blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)

These plants offer attractive foliage and flowers, creating a visually appealing transition between the water and the surrounding landscape. By providing shelter, they also contribute to a healthy ecosystem for aquatic wildlife.

To care for your marginal plants, you need to create shelves in a container pond for them. You can do this using aquatic baskets and aquatic compost when planting, and ensuring adequate space for their growth. Iris versicolor, for instance, greatly appreciates extra feeding with aquatic feed tablets. Plus, it should be divided every two years after flowering, as being crowded will stilt their growth.


Floating Plants

Floating plants, also known as floating aquatic plants, float on the water’s surface with their roots dangling below. These plants are an excellent choice for garden ponds because they help reduce sunlight penetration, keeping the water cooler and limiting algae growth.

Some of the most popular floating plants are:

  • Water soldier
  • Water hyacinth
  • Water chestnuts
  • Water lettuce
  • Floating watermoss (Salvinia natans)

However, you need to be cautious about invasive floating plants like water lettuce and hyacinth, which can grow rapidly and require regular pruning. Furthermore, floating watermoss isn’t particularly hardy against frosts, so don’t be surprised if this one doesn’t make it through the cold UK winters!

By carefully selecting and maintaining your floating plants, you can create a visually appealing and healthy pond environment that provides shade and protection for fish and other aquatic life.


Submerged Plants

Submerged plants (or “oxygenating plants”) grow entirely underwater and are essential for maintaining a healthy garden pond as they produce oxygen, absorb impurities, and limit unwanted algae growth. It’s easy to see why submerged plants are a favourite among pond enthusiasts. 

The top 3 submerged pond plants are:

  1. Hornwort
  2.  Curled pondweed (Potamogeton crispus)
  3. Common water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)

These are some of my absolute favourite aquatic plants, and I’m not alone! Most pond enthusiasts love these gorgeous additions. But you may be asking, why?

Well, each of these plants offers unique benefits. What sets hornwort apart is its easy care and maintenance requirements. While it prefers shallow water, it doesn’t need any form of care, maintenance, or fertilising. 

Curled pondweed, on the other hand, is known for its continual growth during winter and spring, the times when most other plants say “no” to growth! 

And finally, common water crowfoot is highly efficient at oxygenating water, due to the abundance of foliage it produces. Its foliage also creates lots of pockets of shelter for various species of aquatic life. 

What’s not to love?


Bog Plants

Bog plants thrive in shallow water and wet soil, creating a natural-looking space around the pond while providing habitat for amphibians. These plants, such as the Northern blue flag iris and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), enjoy living near ponds where the soil is moist but not completely soaked.

While these plants may not be directly in the water, they still play an essential role in creating a balanced pond ecosystem. Plus, they add intense pops of colour and make the outside of your pond look more appealing. By including bog plants, your pond will get the attention it truly deserves!


Popular Aquatic Plants for Ponds

Popular Aquatic Plants for Ponds

Now that we’ve explored the different pond plant categories, let’s take a closer look at some popular aquatic plants that can enhance the beauty and health of your pond. These include water lilies, pickerelweed, and frogbit. 

Each of these plants offers distinctive benefits and can be combined to create a stunning and diverse water garden.


Water Lilies

Water lilies are a classic choice for ponds, with their large, round leaves and stunning bright yellow flowers in various colours. These plants can be planted in containers or directly in the pond. They also thrive in still water!

Caring for water lilies involves regular removal of dying foliage or flowers and providing them with aquatic feed tabs for nutrition.

So, they do take a little work. But by properly caring for your water lilies, you can enjoy their beauty and the shade and protection they provide for the fish and other creatures living in the water. In other words, you won’t regret it!


Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed is a perennial aquatic plant that grows in shallow water, with long, pointed leaves and small blue flowers, adding a splash of colour and texture to your pond. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, pickerelweed also provides habitat for aquatic life like fish. 

Pickerelweed is relatively low-maintenance, making it an excellent choice for everyone, whether you’re a novice or an experienced pond owner!

Incorporating pickerelweed into your pond allows you to create an attractive and functional space that supports a diverse range of wildlife.


Frogbit

Frogbit is a floating aquatic perennial with small, round leaves and white flowers adorned with a yellow centre – these dainty flowers won’t go amiss!

Frogbit is an oxygenating plant, so it’ll improve the water quality of your pond in no time! Plus, its numerous leaves and fast spreading habit makes the perfect hiding place for small fish, amphibians, and other pond life. 

However, frogbits can be invasive, as it can quickly grow to cover the pond’s surface, blocking off light and nutrients for everything below. Luckily, it does naturally die off at the end of the growing season, but it’s important to keep on top of it before this point! Regular pruning is essential to keep your frogbit in check and stop it from running riot!


Exotic and Tropical Pond Plants

Exotic and Tropical Pond Plants

If you’re looking to add a touch of exotic to your pond, consider incorporating tropical and exotic pond plants like lotus and taro. These plants will bring stunning colours and unique shapes to your water garden, creating a visually striking and diverse aquatic environment.

What’s more, they’re typically easy to care for, making them a win-win in my eyes!


Lotus

Lotus

If you’re familiar with Buddhism, you may have seen the lotus flower before – it is said to symbolise purity, spiritual awakening, and faithfulness.

The lotus is an exotic aquatic plant with large, round leaves that stay on top of the water, and beautiful white or pink flowers that emit a pleasant fragrance. The roots of the plant can grow as deep as 6 feet in the water.

Lotus plants require plenty of sun and need to be planted in a pond with at least 6 inches of water. They also need regular fertilisation and pruning to keep them healthy. So, they’re beautiful but not necessarily easy to care for.


Taro

You may be familiar with this plant already, but not from ponds! Have you heard of “Elephant Ear” or “Alocasia?” Both are alternative names for this plant. However, most often, we know of this plant in the UK as a houseplant, not a pond plant!

To many people’s surprise, Taro is a water-loving tropical plant. In fact, it loves water so much that it needs to be kept constantly wet, so ensure it’s in a spot that has constant access to water.

In addition to its role as an attractive pond plant, Taro is also a root vegetable grown in many places for culinary purposes.

Why not incorporate taro into your garden? Perhaps it can offer more than just a pond plant!


Aquatic Plant Care and Maintenance

Aquatic Plant Care and Maintenance

Caring for your aquatic plants is essential to keep them healthy and maintain a balanced pond ecosystem. Proper plant care and maintenance, such as pruning, trimming and winterising tropical plants, can help ensure your pond plants thrive and continue to provide beauty and functionality to your water garden.


Pruning and Trimming

Pruning and trimming pond plants involves cutting back stems and leaves, removing dead or damaged growth, and tidying up extra foliage to keep the plants healthy and looking good. Regular pruning and trimming are essential for maintaining the health and appearance of your aquatic plants. They also keep invasive species in check, which is a must!

To prune and trim your pond plants effectively, use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut back stems and leaves, remove any dead or damaged growth, and excess foliage.


Winterising Tropical Plants

Winterising tropical plants is essential to protect them from cold temperatures and ensure their survival during the winter months. Without proper winterising, these plants may die and not return in the early summer.

To winterise your tropical pond plants, consider adding insulation, mulching, and covering plants to protect them from the cold weather.


Choosing the Right Pond Plants for Your Garden

Choosing the Right Pond Plants for Your Garden

Selecting the right pond plants for your garden involves assessing pond conditions and balancing aesthetics and function. By considering factors such as the size of the pond, sunlight exposure, water temperature, and potential risks of invasive plants, you can create a thriving and visually appealing aquatic environment. 

Get these elements right and combine them with some of the best pond lights, and you’ll have an awe-inspiring pond, that’s for sure!

READ NEXT: The Best Underwater Pond Lights


Assessing Pond Conditions

When assessing your pond conditions, consider factors such as the water depth, sunlight exposure, and water quality. Knowing the conditions of your pond will help you select plants that will thrive and contribute to a healthy ecosystem.

For instance, measure your pond’s depth before buying new plants, as some ponds have sloping or shelved edges that can accommodate a wider range of plants.

Additionally, be aware of the potential risk of invasive plants when selecting pond plants. Make informed choices and properly maintain your plants to prevent them from dominating the pond environment and disrupting the ecosystem balance.


Balancing Aesthetics and Function

Creating a visually appealing and functional pond involves balancing aesthetics and function when choosing pond plants. Consider the size, shape, colour, light, and water requirements of the plants to ensure they contribute to the overall health and beauty of your pond.

Popular pond plants like water lilies, pickerelweed, frogbit, and hornwort offer both beauty and practicality. By selecting plants that not only look great, but also serve essential functions, such as oxygenating the water and providing habitat for aquatic life, you can create a pond that is both visually stunning and supports a diverse range of wildlife.


Summary

In conclusion, selecting the right pond plants involves understanding the different categories, choosing popular and exotic species, and considering essential care and maintenance tips. By assessing pond conditions and balancing aesthetics and function, you can create a thriving and visually appealing aquatic environment that supports a diverse range of wildlife.

Now that you have the knowledge to make informed choices, it’s time to embark on your journey to create the perfect haven for your garden pond.

If you loved this article and can’t wait to get started, our article, 28 Natural Garden Pond Ideas (Raised & Waterfall Designs), is perfect for you!


Frequently Asked Questions

What plants do I put in my pond?

For a balanced pond ecosystem, consider adding oxygenating plants such as hornwort and water milfoil, marginal plants like iris and marsh marigolds, and floating plants like water lettuce and water hyacinth.

These plants will help create a healthy and aesthetically pleasing aquatic environment in your pond.

What is the most common plant in a pond?

The most common plants in ponds are waterlilies. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, making them an ideal choice for small or large ponds.

With the right cultivation and care, waterlilies will help create a beautiful aquatic environment in any pond.

What plants should not be in a pond?

It’s important to pay close attention to the plants you put into your pond, as some species can grow quickly and become invasive. To keep your pond healthy and attractive, it’s best to avoid plants like algae, duckweed, mosquito fern, and parrot’s feather.

How many oxygenating plants should I have in my pond?

Looking for the right number of oxygenating plants for your pond? It’s recommended to have two to three oxygenating plants per square metre of pond surface.

So, if your pond is 8m2 in area, you’ll need 24 bunches of oxygenating plants to help keep your pond healthy.

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