Bring a Pond to Life ~ Aquatic Pond Plants

In just about every niche on this planet, you will find plants.  So you can be sure there are pond plants for every water feature, no matter how large or small, be it in a tropical, temperate, or cold climate.  While some aquatic plants flourish on the surface, others live only underwater or beside it.  A combination of situations is also possible.  

When most people think of a pond, plants are envisioned along with fish.  Aquatic pond plants are what bring the water its unique characteristics.  In addition to the pond plant’s natural beauty, specific water plants also provide additional benefits such as shelter, surface cover, and algae control.

Read on to learn about the best aquatic plants for your pond. The plants will help create a more robust pond ecosystem no matter what type you choose. 

Types of Pond Plants

water hyacinth

Floating pond plants live up to their name and float on the pond’s surface- and an excellent way to manage pond algae. They can help keep your pond clear and clean, but they are not the best option for everyone. 

Be careful when you’re considering floating plants. Some, such as water lettuce and the hyacinth, can become invasive. They can grow quickly and easily. You will need to prune them if your state allows them.

Floating Leaf Plants are similar to Water Lilies. They have a bloom that floats on the surface and roots planted in the soil at the bottom. These areas are used to hide fish eggs (babies) from predators.

The pond’s jewels are the floating leaf plants. They are essential in maintaining a healthy water garden.

blue flag iris bog plant

The pond’s outer edges will be home to bog plants.

Blue Flag Iris, like the one on the left, is one example.

These bog plants for ponds are elegant and delicate. They love lots of sun and moist soil. They bloom most often in the late spring or early summer. They can grow up to 3 feet in height, making them a stunning backdrop for ponds. The colony makes this aquatic pond plant live longer and is healthier.

Like the Rush, Bog plants thrive in shallow water (5-10 inches). The pond’s edge. They thrive in the soil around the pond’s rim.

Bog plants, also called shallow water plants, are robust root feeders that can increase water quality by absorbing excess nutrients from the pond soil.

corckscrew rush

Marginal pond plants can thrive in water up to 6 inches deep. This includes the moist soil in which bog plants thrive.

Like the one on the left, Corkscrew Rush is an excellent example. This plant is a tough-looking one, and it’s great for water features.

The name alone could be enough to tell you what this pond plant looks and feels like. Corkscrew Rush is an aquatic plant that can decorate pond edges. They can grow to about 1 foot in height and width. They bloom in small, brownish-green groups during summer.

pink sensation water lily

Emergent aquatic plants grow on the sides of the pond and then bloom above the surface.

Some of the most beautiful plants are emerging plants. Like the one on the left, the Pink Sensation lily is one of the most beautiful examples. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful lilies.

That is why it is so popular! This is one of the most beautiful aquatic plants you can find for ponds. Pink Sensation Lilies can be found blooming on the surface of the water all year. These floating plants can change their colors with the seasons. However, the flowering parts of the plant are not the whole thing. The maximum space that lilies can use is 5 feet. View a complete database of water lilies to find a suitable variety for you.

Another great choice is pickerelweed. Thanks to their violet-blue blooms, they add a stunning look to any place they grow. They can reach 2-3 feet in height. You can also eat their leaves in salads and roast the seeds for snacks.

The Arrowhead Plant is the third option. Arrowhead plants are mainly green, but they can produce small white flowers in summer. They look great with other aquatic plants for your ponds. It can grow up to 2 feet high and is fond of sunny locations. They filter the water in your pond to make it cleaner and more transparent.


Submerged pond plants may not be the flashiest, but they offer great cover!

The water will completely immerse any plants that are submerged. These plants can be used to make your pond look natural and protect your fish from predators. Hornwort and eelgrass are two examples.

Submerged plants like the Eelgrass shown in this photo will be grown in pots placed at the bottom and completely immersed in the pond.

They are known for being oxygenating plants that store carbon, as they remove excess nutrients from their leaves and have a reputation of producing more oxygen than other plants.

Some species of pond plants can quickly take over your pond. It can look more like a jungle than a pond. Five harmful plants are naiad and Cabomba, curly-leaf pondweed, phragmites, and milfoil. It is always good to verify that the pond plants you select are healthy.

Water lettuce can quickly overtake other species if introduced in small pieces. It would help if you never discarded pond plants in streams, rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water, as this could cause aquatic nuisance species to take over the natural habitat.

Certain plants are not allowed in certain parts of the country due to their ability to quickly overtake other species once established. Read about the laws for sellers by the National Plant Board. Avoid putting pond plants into rivers, lakes, and streams. This can cause aquatic nuisance species to take over the natural habitat.

Each state has its own rules regarding which plants are allowed in the United States.

The Best Pond Plants for Sale

While a complete list of pond plants to buy could be almost endless- this list features some of our favorites and links to purchase.

Creeping Jenny

creeping jenny pond plant

Creeping jenny pond plants are often used in groundcovers for terrestrial gardens. It performs well in most water gardening applications. Growing to approximately 2 inches tall and creates a vibrant contrast with the cool gray, wet stone. The plant’s tiny yellow flowers bloom throughout the summer to add appeal and turn into a brownish red in the winter. Creeping Jenny can be used in Zones 3-10 (find your zone).

Water Lily

waterlilly pond plant

The waterlily is a beautiful creature in the pond. This is why many gardeners add a small pond to their garden. Unique flowers are the hallmark of these beautiful pond plants. They come in all the light spectrum colors, including red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.

They can be as small as 2 inches in diameter or larger blooms that measure 12 inches or more. The leaves are usually floating unless they are crowded. They are rounder than others and can measure from 2 to 6 feet in length for the Victoria. The waterlily is perennial and can be divided into two primary groups: hardy and tropical.

Blue Iris

blue flag iris aquatic plant for ponds

The elegant beauty of the aquatic iris water plant is a favorite among pond owners. It blooms in spring and is a real head-turner. There are many varieties of aquatic irises. If you don’t count thousands, you can find hundreds of natural and cultivated hybrids. Blue Flag Iris, a native plant, can reach up to 4 feet in height. The Blue Flag pond plant is a lover of wetlands, and its large, stunning flowers range in color from pale blue to deep purple.

Sweet Flag

This plant, also known as the golden Japanese sweet flag (Acorus Gramineus “Ogon”), is great for ponds and other small water features. You can grow it with the roots submerged in water or fully immersed. Its beautiful, light-green leaves are highlighted by bright yellow stripes and can be enjoyed all year round. It is an excellent addition to any water feature; it is a cheerful and optimistic plant!

Water Hyacinth

water hyacinth plant

Water hyacinth floating pond plants are beautiful but can be destructive in the wrong setting, Eichhornia crassipes ) are some of the most spectacular water garden plants. The flower stalks grow to approximately six inches (15 cm) in length. The rosettes that rise from the center of the rosettes in spring produce the flower stalks. Each plant can hold up to 20 beautiful purple flowers. These flowers can be cut into striking cut flowers and last until fall.

Water Lettuce

water lettuce water plant

Water lettuce makes fuzzy, lime-green rosettes with leaves that look almost like tiny heads of lettuce. It is easy to grow. Let the plant’s roots hang below the water surface and float on the surface. Great for placing in pond filters as additional filtration. As the number of water lettuce grows during the season, you can share your harvest with friends or move them to container water gardens. Zones 9-11 are hardy.


Mosaic Plant

mosaic pond plant

The mosaic pond plant is a beautiful combination of red and green, diamond-shaped leaves with 3-6″ wide rosettes. This floating plant can produce bright yellow cup-shaped flowers in the summer. The plant is easy to grow and provides shelter for finned friends. Mosaic, a tropical plant, is hardy in Zones 1-12.

Pickerel Plant

pickerel rush aquatic plant

Pickerel comes in various colors, including pink, white, or pink lavender spiked flowers. Its shiny, green, heart-shaped leaves make it a great choice. Pickerel blooms last for a long time and create a stunning display planted in large quantities. It can grow to 24-30 inches in height and is a good choice for Zones 4-10.


Taro Plant

taro pond plant

Pinakpani, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There are many Taro varieties that you can choose from for your pond. They do well in both full and part sun. This tropical plant is suitable for Zones 8-11. However, it can be brought inside in the winter months if the climate is colder. This leafy, impressive water lover can grow to approximately 48 inches and makes an outstanding appearance in the pond.

What are the Benefits of Water Plants for Wildlife and Fish?

Because water plants provide oxygen and habitat, they are very beneficial to fish and wildlife. They are the foundation for a naturally balanced pond.

Including plants that can thrive in cooler climates provides roots that can absorb nutrients and stay active before the warm weather hits.

Floating plants can keep the water cool in warmer seasons by providing shade on hot summer days.

There are many other benefits that plants can offer to wildlife. Bog Beans are a great shallow water plant for frogs. Their buoyancy allows them to hang on to plants and protect them from predators. Water Poppy is a favorite food source for turtles and Frog Bit and Frog Bit.

Spatterdock is a great waterlily option because it’s liked by the koi as well as other fish.

Submerged plants provide oxygen to your fish and are an excellent place for them to hide from predators. This plant is also a great place for babies (fry) to hide. To prevent koi from being eaten, it is best to put up protective barriers around them.

How to Plant Aquatic Plants

The first step in planting pond plants is to make sure your pond was designed correctly for them.  Certain water plants need specific conditions in your pond.  

For most water gardens, you will want to create a series of shelves that cater to the types of plants you will include. Here are some key points to remember.

Width of Plant Shelves

  • The first plant shelf should be 8″ or wider and 0-8″ deep for marginals. Remove these from containers.
  • The second plant shelf will be 12-18″ deep and provide a good spot for water lilies.
  • The third shelf usually goes down to 2-3′ deep, and plants are not usually planted here. 

Except for a few cases, it is best to remove the pond plant baskets to make a pond appear more natural. When removed from their pots and put into the gravel substrate, they filter nutrients and effectively prevent pond algae. The roots will grow through the gravel substrate once they are planted. Sometimes, the roots can reach as far as three feet from the base of a plant. The plant is now a large filter. Keep the number of plant baskets you use to a minimum, and your plants and eyes will be grateful.

Plant pockets should be excavated during the construction of your pond. It is the best time to plant water lilies and other deeper water plants.

Most pond plants will include aquatic soil in the pot. Lift the plant from the pot and place it in the plant pocket. Cover the plant with gravel to prevent the soil from stirring into the water column.

You can also use a rock crevice to place marginal plants around the pond’s edge. Follow the same steps as above.

Aggressive Spreaders and Tropical Water Plants

If you live in a cold climate and intend to bring your tropical pond plants indoors during winter, keeping them in containers is a good idea. To keep lotus and other aggressive spreaders in check, it is a good idea to keep them in baskets as well. They could spread uncontrollably throughout your pond.