It’s hard to imagine a lovelier vision on a summer day than a shimmering back yard pond with a cascading waterfall, colorful fish, bold blooms, swaying grasses and a few birds and butterflies to round out this living daydream.
A beautiful, healthy pond is made up of the right balance of natural elements – and that includes plants. Plants not only add a uniquely engaging aesthetic but they play important roles in maintaining the health of the water and the critters that live in it.
These are just a handful of the plants that will both delight you and make your job as a pond owner easier by keeping your ecosystem healthy and balanced.
These sun-loving plants are a dramatic addition to your pond, ranging anywhere from 8-12 inches in height for smaller varieties, up to 60 inches for large ones. They range in color from white to creamy yellow, rose and bright pink.
These floaters will not only add height and beauty but they’ll protect your water from the worst of the hot sun, acting as a natural remedy for summer algae.
They’re fairly hardy, too. Once you get them growing, they will proliferate happily, and can even withstand cold New Jersey winters as long as the tubers don’t freeze.
This stately plant is a pond favorite for good reason. Their stunning burgundy stems and scarlet-red leaves make for an excellent focal point, growing typically between two and four feet tall. They bloom all summer long and can last until as late as October.
And cardinal flowers aren’t just a pretty face – they’re also the perfect magnets for hummingbirds and butterflies.
Water lettuce gets its name from the salad green it resembles. Its fuzzy green leaves float on the surface of your pond, providing safe spaces where fish can hide, and shading your pond from the summer heat that can lead to algae blooms.
These are true floaters, requiring no soil to grow and thrive. But be careful to keep them from getting sucked into your filter. Some strategically placed natural branches or other barrier should do the trick.
Aquatic irises are comprised of a large group of natural hybrids that typically range in color from pale blue to purple, but are also seen in other hues like white and yellow. They can grow up to four feet tall and are one of the first plants to bloom in spring.
These beauties are easy to grow and are very tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions. They are most often used as marginals, to blend the pondscape with the surrounding landscape, and they also help to prevent soil erosion at the pond’s edge.
Sweet flag is a highly versatile plant that can be grown right at the edge of the water or partially submerged. It’s not the showiest plant in the pond, but it adds a textural and dimensional aspect to your water garden and serves as the perfect complement and backdrop for some of the more vibrant blooms. It’s also a great playmate for a summer breeze, adding motion and sound to your landscape.
Different varieties come in different shades of green or yellow, and some are variegated with green and gold stripes. Like the Iris, Sweet Flag is a marginal that protects the water’s edge and smooths transitions between water and dry land.
Anacharis is another submerged oxygenator that can be free-floating or planted in containers. It produces tiny white flowers that will float on the water’s surface, and will grow well in either full sun or full shade. This plant works well in both large and small ponds and its soft green leaves are well-adapted to colder outdoor temperatures.
As an added benefit, Anacharis is a favorite hiding spot for fish and pond invertebrates like beneficial insects, snails and other small critters. Be careful though, because koi enjoy munching on this plant as much as hiding in it. Keep that in mind and be sure to provide a variety of plant and food options for koi and other fish.
Oxygen is essential to a healthy pond and fish, but it can be in short supply during summer months as temperatures rise, reducing the amount of oxygen that the water can hold. One way to add vital oxygen to your pond is with an aerator or waterfall. Another is with oxygenating plants, and that’s where the lovely Hornwort comes in.
The softly swaying tendrils of Hornwort may look delicate but it’s an incredibly hardy plant. Hornwort grows entirely underwater, creating something like a shimmering pale green underwater fantasy garden where fish can hide and play. It is an excellent oxygenator, is tolerate of light and temperature fluctuations, and can grow either free-floating or anchored down.
Submerged plants like Hornwort may be easy to overlook but they play a vital role in the health of your pond.
No list of pond plants is complete without perhaps the most popular and widely recognized – the water lily. This stunning plant will reward you with blooms all season long. Flowers typically last between 3-5 days and new ones are constantly growing to take their place.
Water lilies come in two varieties: hardy and tropical. Hardy water lilies are better suited to the cooler growing zones in New Jersey, and can even withstand winters to return in spring. Tropical water lilies prefer warmer growing climates but they can also be grown in cooler ones as annuals. If you’re willing to test your green thumb, you can overwinter tropical lilies in your home and return them to your pond next spring.
Water lilies not only look great but they serve an important function in your pond. Their broad leaves provide shelter for fish, and hiding places from predators. They also play a role in shading your pond to help protect against algae blooms during hot summer months. Lilies are excellent at soaking up excess nutrients from the water and adding oxygen back in – two crucial tasks necessary to maintain a healthy, balanced ecosystem.
These are just a few popular and beneficial pond plants among many. Once you become more familiar with different types of plants and their benefits, you can begin to experiment with other lovely additions like Water Hyacinth, Creeping Jenny, Pickerel and more.
If you have questions about which plants would best suit your pond aesthetic and keep it healthy, too, get in touch with us and ask. Our pond pros are available to guide you, to provide maintenance services, or to redesign your pond entirely.