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11 Aquatic Plants That Are Perfect For Small Ponds

By June 9, 2021March 22nd, 2022Ponds
lily pad shading pond

It’s the perfect season to enjoy your pond, and what better way than to experience the greenery and blooms that grace its edges, surface, and even the space beneath the water?

Different pond plants serve different, and important functions, from filtering water to imbuing oxygen, keeping algae at bay, supporting fish and other wildlife, and more. And of course they add beauty with their various colors, textures, movement and even scent.

That’s true whether you have an expansive ecosystem pond, or a mini water garden on your patio. Today we’re talking about small ponds – the kind that fit in small spaces or in bowls on your patio – and the plants that will keep them healthy and look great, too.

These 11 plants are perfect for small ponds and water gardens thanks to their ability to thrive in small spaces, and the ease of care they offer.

Dwarf Papyrus1. Dwarf Papyrus

This perfect little pond plant grows well in small spaces and containers. If it has one superpower, it’s that it is an excellent environmental steward, helping to clean up the area where it’s growing and maintaining healthy soil.

Its tufted foliage has a bowl-shaped look that resembles a living burst of green and yellow fireworks.

Plant in full sun or part shade, in wet soil at the edge of your pond, or even right in shallow water in a small container, and this plant will grow quite well on its own.

parrots feather2. Parrot’s Feather

The feathery fronds of this pond plant give it its name, and its soothing, underwater sway will delight you. Whether all green, or the red-stemmed variety, this plant is an excellent oxygenator that will help control algae, and provide hiding spaces for fish.

It can be planted at the bottom of your pond, or in a container water garden on your patio. Full sun is best, but it will also thrive in part shade. It’s a prolific grower, so you may occasionally want to trim it back. Otherwise, just sit back, gaze at its hypnotic underwater dance, and enjoy!

variegated sweet flag3. Variegated Sweetflag

The dwarf variety of this plant is a flexible option that can grow in as many as four inches of water. That makes it a great choice for your pond’s edge, where its striking clumps of yellow-green, grass-like foliage will provide excellent ground cover and transition between water and landscape.

It grows well in full to partial sun and is semi-evergreen, which means you can enjoy its unique colors and texture through all four seasons. As an added bonus, this hardy plant is deer resistant, too.

pickerel4. Pickerel

Looking for a bit of height and color? You’re in good hands with this elegant plant. It’s native to North America and grows like a weed – which in this case is a good thing! You won’t have to exert any effort to enjoy its blue-green, heart-shaped leaves, and pink or purple-blue spires.

Its six-inch long flowers will decorate your small pond from summer through fall, offering a nectar source to bees and butterflies. Fish enjoy playing among its stems, and dragonflies often lay eggs on them, making this the ideal plant for wildlife enthusiasts.

Grow in full sun in shallow water and this plant will thrive all on its own. Fun fact: did you know that you can harvest and eat the seeds – raw or roasted – at the end of its growing season?

aquatic pond plants cardinal flower5. Cardinal Flower

For a bold pop of color you can’t beat this striking border plant. Its unique scarlet flowers will attract a variety of wildlife, from butterflies and other pollinators to hummingbirds. For small ponds, simply place it in the damp soil at the edge of your pond, or in the case of a mini patio garden or micro pond, plant an inch or two beneath the water’s surface.

They bloom in late summer when most other perennials are done with their showy display, which makes them a great addition for extending visual pleasure through fall.

They can be grown in full sun to partial shade and can thrive just as well in a wildflower landscape as they can at the edge of your pond.

6. Water Lettuce

As its name implies, this unassuming plant resembles a miniature blooming lettuce! Like many floating plants, this one doesn’t need potting or much attention at all. It will simply float happily in your pond, quietly soaking up excess nutrients, helping to keep the water clean and free of algae.

Its roots provide food and spawning areas for fish, and its leaves offer much-needed shade to keep water clear and healthy during hot summer months. Its velvety green leaves enjoy shady to part sunny locations, and its charming rosettes can be grown indoors as well as out. Grow right on the surface if your pond, or in a patio water garden.

water hyacinth7. Water Hyacinth

This is one of the most popular floating pond blooms for good reason. It’s easy to grow, and will adapt nicely to just about any size environment it finds itself in. That makes it a great addition to ponds large, small and micro.

It has gorgeous, eye-catching lavender flowers that can grow up to six inches in height, and sleek, glossy green leaves. It’s also an excellent natural filter, removing excess nutrients, nitrogen and ammonia to keep water clear, clean and healthy.

Grow in full sun to partial shade and enjoy these blooms from July right through September.

creeping jenny8. Creeping Jenny

The distinctive rounded leaves of this plant will create a lovely light green carpet at the edges of your pond, as it drapes itself over rocks and logs to create a beautiful contrast against the water.

It grows only one to three inches in height, and is a favorite not only for its charming growing habits, but also because it’s so easy to care for. This hardy plant will grow in both cool and warm water and enjoys full sun to part shade.

It’s great for container gardens where its tendrils can hang over the edge, and is a perfect complement to taller plants and blooms, creating harmony and visual balance.

anacharis9. Anacharis

This submerged plant is suitable for any pond size, from the largest ecosystem pond down to the smallest container water garden. Its bright green, feathery leaves will help oxygenate the water, eliminate harmful bacteria, and keep it clean. The delightful bottle-brush fronds are a favorite resting spot for fish, too.

Depending on water depth and sunlight, the fronds can appear in multiple shades of green, from light to richly dark. As fronds grow and reach toward the pond’s surface throughout summer, they will produce tiny white flowers that will float beautifully on top of your pond.


10. Hornwort

Like most submerged plants, this one is an excellent oxygenator and water purifier, but it has another unique characteristic: it actually secretes a substance that inhibits algae growth.

Its unique characteristics don’t end there. This plant doesn’t have roots, which means it can either be anchored in a pot, or left to float freely about your pond. And it’s incredibly versatile, thriving as well in full sun or full shade.

yerba mansa11. Yerba Mansa

If you want a small, long-blooming flower, this one is a great choice. A cone-shaped center is surrounded by delicate white petals in spring, which develop charming pink-red edges and spots of color as cooler weather sets in through fall.

This plant thrives at water’s edge, in full sun to partial shade, and requires little to no maintenance.

Fun fact: this plant has a long history in homeopathic medicine. While there is no hard and fast science to support its use, it has been used to treat everything from colds to wounds. Even without medicinal benefits, the roots can be eaten cooked or raw, or pulverized for use in breads for a peppery flavor.

There are myriad other plants that make excellent additions to small ponds and water gardens – Helvola Waterlily, Yellow Water Snowflake, Red Stemmed Taro, and Impatiens to name a few – that the fun is in the choosing.

Be sure to choose a variety of plants that serve their key functions, and add natural beauty, too. If you have a small pond, or wish you did, contact us for a consultation and let’s talk about how we can beautify yours for all-season enjoyment.