Photo of Pond with Aquatic Plants
Aquatic plants are incorporated into ponds and water gardens for several reasons. Not only do they add beauty to the surrounding landscape design and create a more natural-looking water feature, but they also play an important role in the ecological balance of a pond. Aquatic plants act as a pond’s filtration system, removing various substances such as ammonia, nitrates, and minerals that algae feed on. They also provide protection, shade, oxygen, and food to fish that live in the pond.

There are four types of pond plants: oxygenating, floating, deep water, and marginal. Adding the different types of pond plants to your water garden will benefit the quality, health and beauty of your pond.

Oxygenating Pond Plants

Pond with Waterfall and Lush PlantingsOxygenating pond plants benefit both the water quality and aquatic life. These types of pond plants are placed in the water and use waste provided by fish as fertilizer; in exchange they provide much needed oxygen to the water. However, the plants alone may not be able to provide all that’s necessary for sustaining aquatic life. You may also need to incorporate an aeration device such as a waterfall, bubbler, or fountain to maintain an optimal level of oxygen in the pond.

Oxygenating pond plants also help reduce the growth of algae by competing for nutrients found in the water. Optimally, oxygenating plants should be added to ponds early in the spring before other water plants have a chance to start growing.

Curly Pondweed is an oxygenating plant that has wavy edges which are usually reddish brown or green. These provide good cover for fish to fertilize their eggs. Willow Moss grows slowly but thrives in both shade and sun. Hornwort is great for controlling algae. This type of oxygenating plant sinks to the bottom of the water during winter months, and then grows new stems each spring. They do not have roots so they are very easy to keep under control.

Floating Pond Plants

Floating plants live on the surface of the pond water and usually cover a large portion of the pond. Their roots hang down into the water. Many of these types of aquatic plants are tropical, but there are some perennials that are able to handle harsh winters. Floating pond plants help inhibit the growth of algae and provide shade.
Pond with Floating Water Lilies
There are several types of preferred water lilies which float on the water’s surface. The lily blooms are seen above the water. A nice mix of water lilies can add a beautiful touch to the pond. Other popular floating plants include Water Lettuce, Water Hyacinth, and Duckweed.

Water Lettuce basically looks like a floating head of lettuce and may grow as a single plant or in a group. The leaves are very thick and light green in color. Its flowers are small and berry-like. Water Hyacinth is free-floating with dark green blade-like leaves. They have thick, fibrous root systems and produce a pleasant light blue or violet flower. Duckweed is a small pond plant with no stem and very small leaves. It produces a dainty little flower that can add a soft touch to the aquatic area of a landscape design.

Deep Water Pond Plants

Water Garden with Waterfall and Plants

This type of plant can be very beneficial to a backyard pond or water garden. Deep water plants help to maintain a well-balanced ecosystem, reduce evaporation, and keep the water at a constant temperature. They also produce oxygen and help keep algae growth to a minimum.

Brazilian Waterweed is a popular deep water plant. It has small leaves that grow along cylindrical stems and is very good at providing oxygen in the water. The Japanese Pond Lily is another deep water plant and has dainty yellow flowers that protrude just above the surface of the water during the summer months. This plant has leaves that grow in two very distinct shapes: one leaf is narrow and oval shaped; the others are heart shaped and wavy.

Marginal Pond Plants/ Bog Plants

Natural Koi Pond with AzaleasMarginal plants, or bog plants, thrive along the edges, or margins, of a pond or body of water where the water is shallow and the soil is moist. They are grown in containers that are placed inside the pond on shallow shelves, with most of the plant visible above the surface. Like other aquatic plants, bog plants provide filtration and enhance the natural look of a pond or waterfall.

There are many types of marginal pond plants. The Aquatic Iris comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. These beautiful, blossoming flowers bloom in spring and early summer. The colorful blossoms are located at the end of tall stocks, which help hold the flower up high.

Another favorite is the Cattail. Cattails help provide interesting texture and remain green in winter months. Pickerel Weed is a hardy bog plant that has large heart-shaped leaves and long stems with clusters of violet-blue flowers at the top. Its leaves provide good cover for fish.

Water plants will add beauty to your waterscape, as well as complement your overall landscape design. A landscape specialist can help you choose which pond plants will be able to survive in your climate. Many water plants can provide greenery to your pond or water garden all year long.

About the Author: This guest post was written by Doug Byl. Doug Byl is the president of Stout Creek Landscapes, a company that specializes in landscape design in Grand Rapids MI. Doug has many years of experience in doing landscape design and believes that proper backyard landscape design can bring many years of joy to the entire family.

Photos courtesy of
East Coast Landscape Design