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How To Choose Aquatic Plants For Your Pond And Water Garden

By March 2, 2016March 22nd, 2022Ponds
How To Choose Aquatic Plants For Your Pond And Water Garden

Whether you have a large pond or a petite container water garden, the right aquatic plants will not only look beautiful but will help to maintain the biological balance of your ecosystem. If you’ve ever been faced with all the choices at a home improvement store or local nursery, you probably understand how overwhelming it can be to choose the right plants.

To compound the challenge, different plants play different roles, and without the right balance, your dreams of watching peacefully as koi slice delicately through the pond, or sitting garden-side as your succulents bask in the sun may soon turn to a nightmare of algae and sick (or worse!) critters.

Here are a few things you must understand about aquatic plants along with a selection of plants that can fill important roles and create the effects you want.

The Role Of Aquatic Plants

There are, generally speaking, three main categories of pond and water garden plants.

Floating plants do exactly what it sounds like – float atop your pond or garden, where their role is to trap pond sediment as well as draw excessive nutrients out of the water through their roots. They are also instrumental in keeping algae at bay by shading water from the hot summer sun.

Submerged plants grow underwater where they make ideal hiding and nesting places for fish. They also help filter water, reduce algae and add necessary oxygen to the water which is essential if you’re keeping fish.

Marginals grow in the shallow water along the edge of your pond and work double duty, both shading the pond from the sun and keeping water healthy by absorbing excess nutrients. In both a pond and container garden, they can be useful for adding a touch of dramatic flair as well as creating boundaries and smoothing the transition between water and ground.

A balanced, healthy pond includes a variety of all three, so keep this in mind as you think about your water garden.

For Summer Color

A great pond can be beautiful year-round, but let’s face it – we all love the bright, vibrant blooms of summer. While some aquatic plants flower and die off early, some will bloom all summer long, creating spots of color for you to enjoy all season.

The Lotus grows well in both containers and ponds, and while it does require some TLC, especially at first, it will reward you with large, gorgeous blooms all summer. Lotuses come in a variety of colors and in a variety of heights. They tend to be late bloomers, so expect to see yours sometime between mid-June and July.

aquatic pond plant lotusLotuses love heat and sun so be sure your water garden gets a good dose of daily light. As a floating plant, the Lotus will help keep your full-sun garden free of algae.

For Height

In a small space or water garden, Sweet Flag adds striking color, height and serves the key role of a marginal plant.

Not only does Sweet Flag thrive in containers but it’s a good idea to keep it potted even in your pond. Like the Lotus, this aquatic enjoys full sun. It’s also pretty prolific and requires very little maintenance beyond ensuring that it’s always growing in a moist environment.

aquatic pond plants sweet flagFor Texture

A beautiful pond or water garden is more than just pretty colors. It also has a textural element to create visual interest. Another marginal that will achieve this effect is the Cattail.

But be forewarned! Cattail is aggressive and even considered invasive. It grows and spreads fast so be mindful of where you plant it. Like Sweet Flag, it enjoys a wet environment, but you may want to keep it in a container to prevent unintended consequences.

Done right, Cattails add a bit of drama and much-appreciated texture to any water garden.

For Attracting Wildlife

If you love birds and butterflies, choosing the right aquatic plants will invite them into your garden.

aquatic pond plants cardinal flowerThe Cardinal Flower is a gorgeous red bloom that attracts hummingbirds to the edge of your pond. They can grow up to three feet tall, which makes a bold statement in any water garden. They bloom from July through October, thrive in acidic soil and can be grown just as easily in a pond as in a container on your patio or deck.

For more plants that attract wildlife, read this.

For Low Maintenance

Hibiscus fits the low maintenance category easily but it can also fit the bill if you want bold, dramatic blooms all summer. Its white and pink varieties are hardy and easy to grow. As an added bonus, they’ll come back year after year and will thrive when planted directly in your pond or when kept in a water garden container.

Maintenance involves no more than removing brown or yellow stems and doing a bit of trimming at the end of the season so they’ll be ready to bloom again in spring.

For Reducing Algae

Like the Lotus, the beloved Water Lily is a floater that shades water during hot, sunny days, a key component in inhibiting excess algae growth.

aquatic pond plants water lilyThey come in gorgeous shades of color, from white to pink, yellow, orange and red. As an added bonus they bloom all summer and into fall. They’re adaptable to any size water garden, from large ponds to tiny, tabletop containers and when cared for, will return spring after spring to delight you all season.

For more about keeping unwanted algae at bay, read this.

We’ve given you a few great aquatic plant options but there are myriad more! You can read about a few more of our selections here or contact us for a consultation and let us plan the perfect pond and water garden for you.