A pond is about a lot more than just the water! From the tiniest bit of gravel to the liveliest koi, a naturally balanced – and beautiful – pond is a multi-sensory delight. Everything from the critters you invite to live there, to the plants you choose to surround it, will become part of that experience.
And when it comes to choosing aquatic plants, there’s a lot more to it than you might think! That’s because planting a pond is a little different than planting your flower beds. There are different types of aquatics for different locations – around your pond, on the surface of your pond, and even underwater in your pond – and they each serve a unique Purpose.
If you want a pond that is both healthy and gorgeous, these are some of the things you will want to consider as you choose aquatics.
Yes, plants are functional! Some help oxygenate your pond, some help keep it clean, some provide shade from the sun and protection against algae, some offer shelter for fish.
The function of the aquatic plants you choose will depend in part on where they are placed.
Marginals, for example, are plants that will grow along the edges of your pond. As an aesthetic element, they’re ideal for smoothing the transition between water and the surrounding landscape. They also offer shade, and because they grow right at the edge in shallow water, they will absorb excess nutrients from the water and keep it cleaner and healthier.
Floating plants, like those crowd-pleasers lilies and lotus, are not only stunning to look at but provide vital shade during hot, sunny months. Without proper shade, water temperatures will rise, creating perfect conditions for unwanted algae blooms. Without proper shade, you also risk losing too much water to evaporation.
Submerged plants, or those that grow underwater, add oxygen and act as little vacuum cleaners, filtering nitrates and fish waste to keep your pond healthy and clean.
There are plenty of varieties of each type, so be sure to choose aquatics that fulfill these three key functions.
This one is strictly personal and purely aesthetic. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important! The colors you choose can have different visual effects, so be sure to choose the ones that work for you.
If your pond is located in a shady area, colors like yellow and orange can help to brighten it up. In a very sunny spot, shades of blue and violet can help tone it down a bit and create a soothing atmosphere.
Of course, this is entirely up to you. If you love the way bright colors pop in the sun, then choose the plants you’ll enjoy watching grow.
Consider the interplay of colors, too. Certain combinations generally have more visual appeal. Bright yellow flowers combined with lighter blue or violet is a gorgeous combination. Be careful not to overdo it. Too many colors can cause a bit of visual havoc and your eye won’t be able to rest.
Don’t underestimate the power of greenery, either. There are so many shades and hues, from deep forest green to bright lime and even variegated shades, that can be combined to create a uniquely calming space.
Choosing a variety of plants with different characteristics will create a far more visually interesting space than randomly picking plants or merely considering their function.
Plants come in a variety of textures, heights, shapes, sizes, and with a variety of growing habits. Combining these elements is not only visually pleasing, but helps to create the multi-sensory experience you want from a pond.
Choose plants with unique and varied textures to add visual depth to your space, incorporating everything from glossy green leaves, to the fuzzy fronds of ornamental grasses.
Place smaller and low profile plants in front of taller ones to add height and to make use of three dimensional space. Be sure to consider your view! A pond may have no real “back” side, but if you want to enjoy the sight of your pond from a patio or a kitchen window, then be sure to place tall plants toward the rear of your view and smaller ones in front.
Tall plants – especially tall grasses – are wonderful auditory additions, creating soothing susurrations as the breeze blows through them.
And do be sure to consider how your aquatics will behave throughout each season. Even the hardiest lily won’t bloom through December, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a bland, lifeless pond during winter months. Choosing the right aquatics means selecting for four-season appeal, so as one lifecycle ends, a new one begins.
A great pond isn’t purely a work of nature – it involves the right equipment, too, whether filters, pumps, fountains, pipes, irrigation, or something else. These are smart and practical additions, but they aren’t the prettiest.
Plants to the rescue!
With a strategic combination of sizes, shapes and placement, plants can do extra duty as camouflage for the less lovely bits. Plant to surround pumps and filters, to hide skimmers, and of course to create that smooth and seamless progression from water’s edge to surrounding land.
Natural stone is also a good ally in this department, so be sure to combine these two elements for a harmonious look.
Birds, butterflies, bees and other critters are welcome additions to any landscape. But to attract them, you need to provide them with nesting spots, hiding spaces, food and water, and an inviting atmosphere.
Tall grasses make great nesting spots for birds. Butterfly bush will – you guessed it – attract butterflies, which are excellent pollinators and beautiful to watch. Bees are also vital for pollinating plants and helping them grow and thrive. Dragonflies love lilies, and even small animals like rabbits and foxes will enjoy taking a moment to rest among the greenery you provide.
This is great for your winter pond, too. By offering wildlife a safe space to stay, and some forage during sparse months, you’ll be able to enjoy life and movement even on the coldest day.
There are so many aquatic plants to choose from, and even more considerations for planting – from the size of the space you’re working with, to the weather conditions in your yard. It can seem overwhelming, but it should also be tremendous fun to plant a pond that you will love from season to season, year after year.
If you need help choosing aquatic plants or designing a pond that will be healthy, beautiful, multi-sensory and four-season, contact us for a consultation. We’re passionate about bringing the joy of water to every outdoor space.