Aquatic Plants for Your Water Garden

Most homeowners will agree that a backyard is not complete until the right plants are in the ground. The same goes for backyard ponds. Aquatic plants are important elements for establishing balance in an aquatic ecosystem like a pole is for a tightrope walker. There are different types of aquatic plants, each contributing a different benefit:

  • Floating plants help trap pond sediment and draw excess nutrients from the water through their roots. They also provide shade to cool water and reduce sunlight that might promote algae growth.
  • Submerged plants add oxygen to water and help reduce algae by using the nutrients algae feed on.
  • Marginals are often tall, and as such cast shadows to cool pond water. They also create a pleasing transition between water and land. Some, like cannas, also help keep water clean by drawing excess nutrients from the water.

A water garden or pond with a good mix of aquatic plants, moving water, a rock and gravel bottom, fish, and a filtration system can establish balance in a natural ecosystem that nearly takes care of itself. To create that balance, cover the surface of your pond with at least 40-60% of floating vegetation and have a variety of underwater plants. Let’s dive in and find out what aquatic plants you can put in your pond!

Learn more about pond ecosystems >>

Pond with different types of aquatic plants

A Glossary of Popular Aquatic Plants for Your Water Garden 

Following is a list of popular plants homeowners use for landscaping their water garden:

Waterlilies

Luciana
One of the most popular pink hardy lilies, it will grow beautiful flowers throughout the season.
Flower size 6-7”; leaf size 8-9”; leaf spread 3-4’
Good for any size pond.

Pink Sensation
Many people consider this to be the best hardy pink lily as it stays open longer. Pink sensation blooms the entire season.
Flower size 5-6”; leaf size 10”; leaf spread 4’.
Best for medium to large ponds.

Atropurpurea
Hardy lily with deep red flowers that deepen in color each day.
Flower size 7-8 “; leaf size 10”; leaf spread 4’.
For any size pond.

Laydekeri Fulgens
Huge burgundy flowers appear in spring and last into fall.
Flower size 5’-6”; leaf size 8-9”; leaf spread 4-5’.
Fits any size pond.

Virginalis
Fragrant, white, and free-flowering, a best all-around lily.
Flower size 4-6”; leaf size 9”; leaf spread 3-4’.
Fits ponds of all sizes.

Pink water lily aquatic plant for pond

Chromatella
A white and yellow lily known for both beauty and performance.
Flower size 4-5”; leaf size 8-9”; leaf spread 3’.
Good for any size pond or tub garden.

Colorado
Hardy bloomer with multiple large peach/salmon color flowers with lighter tips.
Flower size 4-6”; leaf size 8-10”; leaf spread 4-6’.
Suited for ponds of all sizes.

Green Smoke
A tropical day bloomer, it’s flowers are an interesting mix of yellows, greens, and blues. The leaves beneath have purple marks and speckles.
Flower size 6-8”; leaf size 10-12”; leaf spread 5-6’.
Ready for any size pond.

Carla’s SunShine
Beautiful yellow flowers and mottled foliage, its the only yellow viviparous Nymphaea on the market and it blooms all season long.
Flower size 5-6”; leaf size 8-9”; leaf spread 6-8”.
Can fit all ponds.

Red Flare
A great tropical night bloomer, it has deep red flowers and large, dark bronze leaves.
Flower size 7-10 “; leaf size 10-12”; leaf spread 5-6’.
Fit for any pond.

Now let’s look at some different types of lotus:

Aquatic plant- white lotus

Types of Lotus

Mrs. Perry Slocum
Blooms are pink flushed with yellow the first day, changing to pink and yellow the second day, and finally turning cream with pink on the third day. Flower size 8-12”; height 4’-6’; for water depths up to 4’.
Best in medium to large ponds.

Shiroman
Double snowy-white blooms.
Blooms 8-10”; height 4-6’; for water depths up to 4’.
Good for medium to large ponds.

Momo Botan
Double blooms are rose-pink.
Flower size 4-6”; height 2-3’; for water depths up to 2’.
For small ponds and tub gardens.

Lutea
Single yellow blooms.
Flower size 4-12”; height 3-5’; for water depths up to 4’.
For medium to large ponds.

Rosea Plena
Double, rosy-pink blooms.
Flower size 6-10”; height 4-5”; for water depths up to 4’.
For medium to large ponds.

Chawan Basu
Single blooms that start as white edged with pink and turn all white.
Flower height 4-6”; height 2-3”; water depths up to 2’.
For container gardens and small to medium ponds.

Aquatic plant- white lotus

Hardy Marginal Plants

Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
Stiff shiny green strap-like leaves that resemble those of iris. Full sun to partial shade. Grows at pond edge.
Grows 2-4’.
Zones 4-11.

Spike Rush (Eleocharis montevidensis)
Forms clumps of grassy quills and button like flowers from May – October. Grows at the pond edge and requires full sun to partial shade.
Grows up to 12”, water depth up to 4”.
Zones 3-11.

Dwarf Horsetail (Equisetum scirpoides)
Grows in attractive clumps of thinner, dark green segmented stems. Grows at the pond’s edge. Requires full sun to partial shade.
Grows up to 12”, water depth up to 4′.
Zones 4-9.

Blue Flag (Iris virginica)
Mid-season bloomer that grows in full sun, in moist soil.
Grows to 3’ high, water depth up to 6”.
Zones 4 –11.

Corkscrew Rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’)
Spiraling twisted dark green wiry stems with small brown-green inconspicuous flower clusters in summer. Requires full sun to partial shade.
Grows 12-18” tall, water depth up to 2”.
Zones 3-11.

Blue flag iris

Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata)
Violet-blue, spike-like flowers exhibit from spring through early fall. Thrives in dense colonies along pond edge and in bogs.
Grows 2-3’ tall, water depth up to 12”.
Zones 4-11.

Duck Potato (Sagittaria latifolia)
Its arrow-shaped leaves can reach 20” or more, making it perfect for foreground planting on the margins of ponds and streams.
Grows 18-30″ tall.
Zones 3-11.

Powdery Thalia (Thalia dealbata)
With foliage appearing to be dusted with white powder, it has small violet flowers that form on panicles about 8” long carried high above the leaves.
Grows 6’ tall, water depth 12-18”.
Zones 3-11.

Cattail (Typha latifolia)
Blooms appear in late spring and turn brown in summer. Best in full sun.
Grows 4-5’ tall, water depth up to 12”.
Zones 3-11.

Miniature Cattail (Typha minima)
Small brown cylindrical seed heads rise above slender, stiff leaves in late summer. Grow in full sun.
Foliage grows 18” tall, stalks 20-30”, water depth moist to a maximum of 2”.
Zones 3-9.

Trailing Plants Great for Naturalizing Edges

Water Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis scorpiodes)
Fragrant, dense clusters of small, bright blue flowers with yellow eyes appear in early spring. Requires sun or shade.
Grows 8-10”, water depth up to 6”.
Zones 3-10.

Water forget-me-not flowers

Pennywort (Hydrocotyle spp)
Sometimes known as “the poor man’s lotus”, it has circular, crinkle-edged waxy leaves with white tufts of flowers from July through August. Requires full sun to partial shade.
Grows 2-5″, water depth up to 2”. 
Zones 5-11.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Also called moneywort, it has round green leaves and vibrant yellow cup-shaped flowers. Requires full sun to partial shade.
Grows in mats around 3″ tall, water depth up to 2”.
Zones 4 -10.

Parrots Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
Fast growing, lush with lacy lime-green foliage. Good oxygenator and fish shelter, it thrives in sun or shade.
Grows 4-6″. water depth maximum 24”.
Zones 6-11.

Tropical Marginal Plants

Water Hyssop (Bacopa monniera)
Tiny oval leaves form a busy clump that grows best in full sun. Delicate blue blossoms persist all summer.
Grows up to 6″, water depth up to 2”.
Zones 9-11.

Taro (Colocasia esulenta)
Grown for its heart-shaped leaves that can reach 3-10” across and up to 3’ in length.
Water depth up to 6”.
Zones 9-11.

Taro aquatic plant

Bog Lily (Crinum americium)
Long petalled, white flowers and green strap-like leaves. Full to part sun.
Grows 18-36” tall, water depth moist to 3”.
Zones 8-11.

Canna Tropicanna (Canna indica var. ‘Phasion’)
Striped stunner with colored stripes changing from burgundy to red, pink, yellow, gold and deep green. The center vein remains a zingy chartreuse. Leaves seem to shimmer when backlit by the sun. Brilliant tangerine flowers.
Sometimes mislabeled by water garden retailers as ‘African Sunset’.
Grows 4-6’ tall, water depth moist to 4”.
Zones 7-11.

Note: tropical varieties can be grown equally well in warm or cold climate zones, but in colder areas, they must either be protected, taken in for the winter, or treated as annuals.

Floating Plants

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
One of the most beautiful and useful floating water plants. Fast growing, it fills a pond with purple blossoms suspended above floating green leaves. Valuable in water purification, but it can be invasive in warm climates.
Grows up to 3′, leaves 4-8″.
Zones 9-11.

Fairy Moss (Azolla caroliniana)
A small tropical plant that forms mats of bluish-green, lacy fronds. Pale green in summer but turns red in autumn. Fast-growing surface cover.
Grows up to 6″.
Zones 9-11.

Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes)
Has velvety blue-green ribbed leaves that form a rosette. Roots offer a shelter for fish and absorb nutrients.
Grows up to 10″.
Zone 9-11.

water hyacinth enjoying a pond shower

Submerged Plants

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
Hardy plant resembling a spruce tree. Branch-like stems with spiny foliage, they provide great fish spawning spots.
Stems can grow up to 2′, leaves .5-1.5″.
Zones 5-11.

Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana)
Cheery, green segmented leaves. They grow on the bottom of a pond anchored by rocks. White flowers can sometimes be seen at the surface.
Stems can grow 10-33′.
Zones 5-11.

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Pretty Plants for Ponds

These aquatic plants are great for almost any pond, it only depends on how much maintenance you want to do. Tropical plants will take the most, but it’s a great investment for pond hobbyists. Each of these aquatic plants has their own unique contribution to a pond ecosystem, whether it be beauty or function. Plants are an important part of any pond ecosystem, so what are you waiting for? Go ahead and beautify your pond!

If you want to further lower pond maintenance, check out the Ion Gen system >>