How to put plants in a pond?


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Plants should be an integral part of any backyard pond, but how can you add plants to your pond for the best natural balance and easiest care?

Why Plants Are Essential

Plants are critical to a healthy pond ecosystem in many ways, and understanding what plants bring to your pond can help you add just the right vegetation to reap the biggest benefits. In your pond, different plants will…

  • Limit Algae Growth
    Because pond plants block sunlight from the depths of the water, they help minimize unsightly algae growth that can clog filters and turn water murky. Plants also use plenty of the nutrients in the water, which will also keep algae from thriving.
  • Shelter Fish
    If fish, frogs and other aquatic wildlife have a home in your pond, the right plants can provide safe shelter to protect them from potential predators. Many fish and other wildlife will also nibble on plants as a natural food source.
  • Oxygenate the Water
    Plants help raise the oxygen level of your pond’s water, making it healthier for fish and reducing the need for artificial bubblers or oxygenators. When fish lack proper oxygen, they are more susceptible to diseases and poor health. Algae also thrives in low-oxygen water.
  • Filter the Water
    Because plants absorb nutrients from the water, they are part of a natural filtration system that can keep your pond looking pristine. While overcrowded or sickly plants can die off and create murky water and excess debris, properly balanced plants are excellent natural filters.
  • Naturalize the Setting
    Plants help soften the barriers between your pond and the rest of your yard, creating a more organic, natural look to the landscape rather than stiff, artificial borders. Use plants to mask pond equipment, drains, piping or other artificial structures such as fences or posts.
  • Improve Beauty
    Plants can be a lovely feature of any pond. Unique foliage shapes and colors, aquatic blooms and interesting growth habits all add visual interest to your pond, creating a stunning waterscape you can enjoy for years.

Choosing the Best Plants for Your Pond

Not all plants will be right for every water feature, and there are certain factors you must consider when choosing which plants to add to your pond. Poorly chosen plants may die quickly or could take over your watery landscape, crowding out other plants and clogging the pond. Some plants may not adapt to your climate, while others may not be the best size or shape for your pond style. When choosing plants, carefully consider…

  • Light Levels: How much light do pond plants need for healthy growth? Is your pond shaded by other plants, trees or structures?
  • Mature Size: How large will your plants grow compared to the total size of the pond? Will they outgrow a small pond or get lost in a larger pond?
  • Hardiness: Will your plants survive cooler waters in the pond during fall and winter? What care will they need if the pond freezes? Can they tolerate sudden temperature changes?
  • Variety: Are you choosing plants that will look good together? Do you have plants of different heights, shapes and colors for more interest?
  • Fish Food: Are you choosing plants fish will eat quickly, just nibble on or leave alone? Will the interest of aquatic wildlife destroy your carefully chosen plants?

Ideally, you will want to cover approximately 60 percent of the pond’s surface with plants. This provides the best balance of water protection and healthy space for the plants.

Plants to Consider

There are three different types of plants to choose from when adding vegetation to your pond.

  • Floating Plants: These plants have foliage and blooms above the water’s surface, while their roots trail below. They work well in moderate water depths or deeper water. Water hyacinth, water lettuce, frogbit, parrot’s feather and sensitive plant are all top floating plants for ponds.
  • Bog Plants: These plants thrive in shallower water along the edges of ponds, and their foliage extends above the water’s surface. Irises, cattails, pennywort, rushes and water hawthorne are all good options for bog or edging plants.
  • Submerged Plants: These plants are almost entirely below the water’s surface and are excellent filters in ponds of all sizes. To stay fully submerged, they require deeper water. Hornwort, vallisneria, water moss, curled pondweed and red ludwigia are all popular submerged plants.

Choosing plants from each general type will help you find the best vegetation for your pond and create a thriving aquatic ecosystem. Once you have chosen the specific plants you prefer, follow instructions for adding them to your pond carefully and monitor them closely until they become established. Soon, you will have a healthy, attractive pond filled with stunning plants to enjoy.

PLANTING TROPICAL WATER LILIES: – See picture below – Annual Water Lilies prefer the crown 6” to 28” below the water surface in as much sun as possible. Make a mound of mud in the middle of the pot and around the sides of the mound push 4-6 fertilizer tablets into the mud. Tropical water lilies should be fertilized every two weeks throughout the growing season for best performance, use 4-6 tablets. Place the lily in the middle of the pot and let the roots go down over the mound. Add mud to about 1″ below the crown of the plant. Be careful to not cover the crown. DO NOT COVER THE PLANT WITH STONES. If the new leaves are smaller than the old leaves, it does not have enough food which will cause it to tuber and go dormant. Fertilize more if you notice that occurring. Place potted water lilies away from waterfalls and fountains. Lilies do not grow with Koi in nature, establish these young tender plants in a separate area before adding to ponds with large fish or Koi.


Plant bog plants as you would tropical water lilies, again making sure you don’t cover the crown of the plant. The bog plants are shipped in 2″ net pots or bare-root. If in a net pot, using a pair of scissors, carefully cut the net pot away and gently remove the plant, saving as many roots as possible. Place the plants in a shady area for them to adjust to the sun, wind and outdoor environment. Most, but not all bog plants, we consider having WET feet, but DRY ankles. Bog Plants after being planted in their new pots prefer moist soil until established and should only be in water deep enough to keep the soil moist. Basically, roots in the water, foliage out of the water. Once they are established and growing heartily, the water above the top of the pot can be as deep as 1/2″ to 3″ depending on the size and variety of the plant. DO NOT PLANT IN GRAVEL OR COVER THE SOIL WITH ROCKS. There are mid-level bog plants which prefer deeper water such as Sweetflag, Thalia & Pickerel.

LOTUS POND PLANTS – See picture below – Lotus are fairly simple to grow, as long as you follow our instructions. They do have specific cautions when planting and trimming them. They can grow in a pond and survive winters in all the USA. You can even grow them in a container on the patio, but too much freeze/thaw may damage the plant.

Lotus prefer to be planted (outdoors only in full sun) once water temperatures are consistently 60 degrees or warmer when planted. If you receive your lotus before water temperatures are warm enough to plant in your zone – Simply store your lotus tuber in its’ original packaging, in the refrigerator until it is warm enough to plant outside. Lotus tubers are very fragile, be very careful when handling to not break any of the growing tips on the tuber. Lotus, even if a smaller variety need a wide, shallow planting container. Lotus need a lot of leaf growth to provide sugar to the plant to produce flowers. Stuffing a large lotus in a 12 inch container, likely won’t provide the plant enough foliage to flower. Plant them shallow using the soil mix on the front page. Lotus like to start out using the stored energy in their tuber. Plant shallow, so this energy isn’t wasted making 1 leaf from a deep depth. We start them at between 1 to 3 inches of water, for small varieties, and no more than 6 inches from the waters’ surface for large varieties. A single, small flat rock can be used to hold the tuber on top of the mud when planting, DO NOT COVER THE PLANT WITH STONES. DO NOT fertilize when first planting. First, you will get surface pads, then aerial leaves. Once you have one or two aerial leaves you can fertilize the lotus for the first time with a light dose of 2 fertilizer tablets. Next fertilize every two weeks with 4-6 tablets until mid to late August. In late summer/fall trim stems only above the water line, as to not drown the hollow air chambers of the lotus. The hollow stems lead to the hollow tubers which can flood and cause the tuber to rot.

Suggested Containers for Planting Lotus
Any water-tight rounded container with no holes is acceptable for growing lotus. The size of the pot is determined by the type of lotus you are growing with larger varieties requiring larger pots. The mature size of a lotus will be affected by the size of the pot in which it grows. Using a bigger pot allows more room for rhizome production, thus resulting in more and larger leaves and flowers. Larger pots will encourage the lotus to grow to the larger extreme for their variety. Planting the same lotus in a healthy pond environment will allow it to reach its full potential resulting in a plant much larger than if it had been planted in a small pot. Lotus classified as Bowl Lotus are prized for their ability to grow in the smallest pots, producing miniature lotus that can be brought inside easily for a day or two when they are in bloom.
Suggested pot sizes are:
Bowl Lotus: Container 12″ or less in diameter
Small Lotus – Container 15″+ in diameter
Dwarf Lotus – Container 16-20″ in diameter
Medium Lotus – 16″-30″ in diameter
Large Lotus – 24″-48″ in diameter
Round containers allow the runners of the lotus to grow around the bottom of the pot in a circular pattern rather than being jammed into a corner.

The soil that you use can be from your flower or vegetable garden. Heavy soil with some clay is good to use. Stay away from commercial potting soils, as they are too light and will float out of the container. If you do not have soil available, Calcined Clay is a great alternative to soil for planting your pond plants, but does need some soil and sand mixed with it for the fertilizer to adhere to.

The soil that you use can be from your flower or vegetable garden. Heavy soil with some clay is good to use. Stay away from potting soils, as they are too light and will float out of the container. If you do not have soil available, Calcined Clay is a great alternative to soil for planting your pond plants. A 30% mixture of Calcined Clay, 40% Topsoil & 30% Sand works best for pond plants. We carry planting containers and fish safe fertilizer for you to plant your water plants or you can use any container that you already have, if it is the recommended size for the plant. If the pots have holes in them, line the bottom of the container with burlap, newspaper or other heavy fibered material. Bog plants that grow less than 12” tall are fine in 8” wide containers. Bog plants that grow tall, should be planted in wide, deep containers so they do not blow over. Water Lilies and lotus perform best if they have more room, so a shallow 12” or wider container is recommended. To prepare the soil, mix the soil with water from the pond to make a nice thick mud. Fill the pot that you have chosen to about 2″ from the top with your mud mix. Newly potted plants can be placed at shallow depths until they become established, so they do not float up before they are well rooted. DO NOT COVER THE SOIL WITH ROCKS, THIS WILL PREVENT A YOUNG PLANT FROM GROWING WELL

Microbe-Lift Planting Media is Calcined Clay. We sell it in our store.

We carry planting containers, baskets and fertilizer for you to plant your water plants or you can use any container that you may already have, as long as it is the recommended size for the plant. If the pots have holes in them, line the bottom of the container with burlap, newspaper or some other heavy fiber material. Most bog plants will grow well in 1 to 2 gallon pots. Water Lilies and lotus perform best if they have more room, so a 2 to 5 gallon container is recommended. Small kitty litter trays make great in-expensive planting containers for water lilies and lotus.

To prepare the soil, mix the soil with water from the pond to make a nice thick mud. Then fill the pot that you have chosen to about 2″ from the top with your mud mix. Newly potted plants can be placed at shallow depths until they become established.

Tips & Tricks – Submerged Centerpieces

As a wedding planner, sometimes I have to be a “Jack of all trades.” This is especially true if I’m working with a client that has a modest budget and an ambitious set of expectations. Not everyone can afford to have a professional florist create their centerpieces. Often times, they cost between $50 and $200 per arrangement.

The easiest way to have a centerpiece look expensive is by doing a submerged floral centerpiece. They don’t use a lot of flowers and the beauty of the ones you do use are magnified by the water. I had a client that needed to stretch her floral budget. Since I’ve done wedding centerpieces before, I offered to do them for her. Now, I’m sharing my knowledge with you! 🙂
Of course, I prefer that centerpieces be done by a florist because it makes my job a million times easier and, quite frankly, they do a better job. That being said, if you are absolutely unable to budget for centerpieces done by a professional then DIY submerged centerpieces are simple, elegant and cost effective.
Start out by purchasing cylinder vases from the dollar store. Then choose glass beads and floating candles that coordinate with your color scheme. Next, order hardy flowers with full blooms. Great flowers for submerged centerpieces are Roses, Dendrobium Orchids, Spider Mums, and Gerber Daisies. I like to use wholesalers like Sam’s Club or Bunches Direct.
Make sure that you cut your flowers so that they are an inch or two below the top of the vase. You must fill the vase with the glass beads first, then place the flower. This is so they are centered.
Also, there is a trick to getting the flowers to stay in place under water. (Otherwise they will float to the top even if they are surrounded by rocks.) You must use fish weights! You can get these for $2 a bag at your local hardware store in the fishing section.
Use floral wire to secure the fish weights to the stem of the flower and then stick them into the beads. Then fill the vases with water. If you don’t want bubbles, use distilled water.

It is important to note that these centerpieces take a long time to put together.I reccomed putting them together a day or two before your wedding. If you decide to assemble them before the wedding day then you should not submerge the flowers until you put the centerpieces out on the tables. Instead, only fill the vases about a 1/4 way full so that the flowers are getting water but are not submerged.
Once the centerpieces have been placed onto the tables, use a pitcher to gently fill the vases up. Put a floating candle on top and, wallah, you have a beautiful centerpiece that didn’t break the bank! Because they are so simple, I suggest using mirrors, candle votives and petals to punch it up notch. This will definitely give all of your tables the “wow factor” you’re striving to achieve.
I truly hope that I’ve inspired! If you use this tutorial, let me know how it goes. Or better yet, send me some pictures! 🙂

You will need the following for submerged centerpieces: cylinder vases, glass rocks/beads, floating candles, fish weights, floral wire, scissors, pitcher, distilled water.

Happy planning!

Submerged Flowers Centerpiece DIY Tutorial

Are you struggling to recreate those beautiful submerged flowers centerpieces featured across wedding blogs and Pinterest? A submerged floral centerpiece does wonders to create enchanting ambience that is both romantic and elegant. Viewing a flower through glass and water creates a beautiful magnifying effect which is one reason why submerged flower centerpieces look absolutely stunning. Even though there are inspiration pictures galore, actually getting this DIY project down requires the right approach. Some tutorial suggest using aquarium glue, but aquarium glue can be difficult to remove if you plan on using your centerpiece ever again. Here’s are the materials I suggest using:

  1. Florals (real florals are ideal because silk or satin flowers may bleed colors)
  2. Glass vase (cylinder or fishbowl vases are preferable)
  3. Fishing sinkers (fishing line helps attach sinkers to flowers)
  4. Scissors
  5. Colored stones
  6. Distilled water
  7. Candle (optional)

When selecting your florals of choice, keep in mind that flowers with paper-thin petals and/or pollen will likely result in unwanted materials rising to the surface. Some plants that maintain their form well when submerged are roses, tulips, lilies, ferns, hydrangeas, and cherry blossom branches. Any type of glass vases work well, but I personally think tall cylinders and fishbowls look the best for a DIY submerged flower centerpiece. Let’s begin the tutorial, shall we?

1) Measure and cut your blooms to the appropriate size. If you’re planning on placing a floating candle at the top of your centerpiece, make sure to leave adequate space so the candle doesn’t just sit on top of your arrangement.

2) Anchor a fishing weight to your bloom. Attaching the weight can be accomplished by a number of ways. I found that some flowers, like roses, have stems that make attaching weights very easy. All you have to do is insert the weight’s metal loop into the stem. Oftentimes that will do the trick, but sometimes attaching the weights can be a little tricky!

If that fails, you can peel part of the stem back and then tie it around the sinker’s metal loop with a secure knot. Still not working for you? Try using a paperclip or some fishing line!

3) Next, place the bloom upright in your vase, and cover with colored stones to hide the fishing weights.

4) Fill the vase with water and top it off with a floating candle. Ideally, you should use distilled water to prevent bubbles from appearing on your flower (my picture below is the EXACT reason you shouldn’t use tap water!). Depending on your location and the quality of your water supply, tap water may damage the bloom and/or become discolored due to minerals found in your water.

And that’s all there is to it. If you’re using real flowers for the event, you’ll want to set up these flowers the day before and refrigerate, or set them up the morning of your event. Thank you for reading!


Did you find this article useful? Please share it! Feel free to comment with any extra tips or suggestions in the comment box below!

This post was submitted to Between Naps on the Porch. Come join us on Tablescape Thursdays!

Centerpieces that give “putting flowers in water” a new meaning

Underwater flower arrangements are a current trend in centerpieces. Not only are they extremely easy to make, they are very inexpensive and will add an elegant touch to your tables at your reception! If you decided to create them the day of the wedding, they will last long after the big day, giving you the opportunity to adorn your house with them or even give them away for your guests to enjoy. Almost any kind of flower will work for these arrangements, except for ones that produce a lot of pollen, which can cause the water to look cloudy. Orchids and tulips are both extremely popular and shape well under water.

For a truly striking arrangement, use multiple cylinders in varying heights in the center. You can either use the same kind of flower in each vase, or choose different flowers in the same color palette. To enhance your centerpieces, place a layer of stones, pebbles, beads, marbles, or crystals in the bottom of the cylinders. You can also add lit floating candles to the tops of the arrangements to add to the romantic atmosphere.

Here are the steps to create your underwater masterpieces!

Step 1: Place stones, pebbles, beads, marbles, or crystals (of your choice) in the bottom of each vase. Create a double layer of whatever your choose.

Step 2: Choose two to three flowers for each vase. Then, cut each of the two to three flowers to varying heights. Hold each group of flowers together by placing a rubber band around the stems about a half-inch from the ends.

Step 3: Slip a fishing weight inside the rubber bands on each arrangement that you make. This is used to weigh down the flowers so they won’t float up in the water-filled vase.

Step 3: Push the stems of a group of flowers down into the stones on the bottom of each vase. Be sure the rubber band and weight cannot be seen.

Step 4: Fill the vases with distilled water. Fill the water to within 1 inch from the top of each vase. Float a candle on top of the water in each vase. Keep in mind that plain tap water can be used if desired, although sometimes it can be cloudy or create bubbles in the vase.

Step 5: Place small tea candles around your centerpieces and enjoy!

If you are looking for a way to really make a statement with your wedding flowers, underwater flower centerpieces will certainly do the trick!

The Best Plants for Small Ponds, Patio Ponds & Water Bowls 2020

Help Spread Pond Keeping Knowledge!


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Even the smallest garden ponds will benefit from having plants, and luckily, there are many species perfect for smaller-scale.

Plants play a critical role in healthy aquatic ecosystems and can benefit your water garden in many ways, whether it’s the size of a small water bucket or an entire lake!

This article focuses on the former; that is, small ponds such as mini bowls, bucket ponds, patio ponds, and very modest water gardens which have limited space, but would still benefit from a range of easy to care for plant species. Although many pond plants tend to grow quite large, we’ve researched and chosen in this article some of the best smaller species perfect for smaller-scale planting.

As well as looking great, these plants come with a huge amount of benefits to keep your little pond and native wildlife happy, so there is little reason not to include them!

Why Are Plants Important in Small Ponds?

Not only do plants add to the overall aesthetic, they also provide functions that would typically not be as efficient if replicated by other means. Perhaps most importantly, they oxygenate the water, which is in turn tied to many other things. Properly oxygenated water allows for the survival of fish and any other organisms that decide to visit or settle in your pond, however small it may be.

As well as the water quality benefits, plants also help attract wildlife and provide a safe haven for vulnerable species.

With the establishment of these critters, your pond can become a functioning mini ecosystem! They can help to control insect populations, feed on algae, and form mutualistic (that is, mutually beneficial) relationships with each other. For example, the relationship between fish and flowering plants – ponds that have fish tend to be surrounded by more flowering plants, and a greater diversity of them as well. This is because those fish feed on insects that would otherwise demolish the plants, thus allowing the plants to flower and other important insects, like bees and butterflies (both of which are declining rapidly worldwide), to pollinate the plants. This in turn assists in the survival of the pollinators as well as the plants!

In addition, plants will help to control algae and phytoplankton by filtering any excess nutrients and pollutants that algae would thrive on, as well as shading the water and limiting the amount of light available to these potentially harmful microorganisms (please refer to our article that covers the types of microorganisms found in ponds to review which ones are considered harmful and helpful). Resultantly, your pond’s residents and visitors, be they fish, newts, salamanders, butterflies, birds, and so on, will benefit greatly, in turn attracting other organisms and wildlife that can turn your pond or water garden into a balanced, beautiful microhabitat.

The Best Small Pond Plants For Small Ponds (Top Species)

Regardless of your pond’s size, there are plants that are well-suited to live in and around it. The four main groups of aquatic plants are bog, marginal, floating, and submersed. Here we will cover the latter three as well as their suitability for both small (less than 500 gallon) ponds as well as mini-bowl (less than 100 gallon) ponds.

Best Small Floating Pond Plants

1) Dwarf Water Lily(Nymphaea leibergii)

Dwarf water lilies do best in anywhere from 1 to 18 inches of water, and can be white, pink, purple, yellow, or some combination thereof. They look almost exactly like standard water lilies, but are obviously much smaller with leaves and blooms that are only a couple of inches across. Their rhizomes are quite delicate and fleshy, so they shouldn’t be planted in stones that could harm them. These fragile rhizomes do, however, make dwarf water lilies very easy to trim back if they start to multiply too much for your liking or take up too much space in the water. They do best in full sun to partial shade.

2) Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

One of the most popular and easy to grow floating plants, water hyacinth is able to adapt to just about any size ecosystem that it’s in, able to grow to only a few inches in height and diameter or closer to a meter. They have gorgeous, eye-catching lavender colored flowers and glossy, broad leaves. The ease with which they grow and adapt is both a boon and a burden – they can grow quickly and overtake the water and other plants, but the perk of having a small pond or micro-bowl is that it’s quite simple to monitor this and keep them trimmed so that they don’t cause an issue.

An added bonus is that water hyacinth is exceptional at filtering water, outcompeting algae for nutrients, and is also one of the most adept plants at removing excess nitrogen and controlling ammonia levels! However, it’s also an invasive plant in most areas, so make certain that you do not plant it if there is potential for it to spread outside of your pond or if it’s illegal in your area to have it.

3) Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water lettuce produces small leaves that develop into a swirling rosette shape (hence the name “lettuce”), and like water hyacinth will grow to suit their environment’s size. Their roots provide food and spawning areas for fish, while their thick leaves add oxygen to the water and provide a charming floating aesthetic. It also grows quickly, and some of it will need to be removed from time to time to keep it in check. Start by planting a small cutting (with a stolon attached) and either letting it sit free floating in the water or anchor the stolon in some form of substrate. You can also simply plant a seed or two in the substrate.

Best Small Marginal Pond Plants

1) Corkscrew Rush (Juncus spiralis)

As with all marginal plants, corkscrew rush can exist either in shallow water or moist soil. It’s quite a unique little plant, smaller than most other rushes and with thin, green curly spiraling stems that will add some distinctive flair to your pond. This plant was derived from the soft rush (Juncus effusus), which can also be suitable for small ponds as well as micro-bowls, but soft rush is capable of growing several feet in height and so may need to be trimmed down, whereas corkscrew rush will tend to stay shorter due to its leaves growing in a curled as opposed to straight fashion.

2) Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)

Sweet flag’s name was coined from the sweet, fragrant scent that it produces when bruised, cut, or otherwise damaged. With bright green and yellow grass-like leaves, this marginal plant makes a vibrant addition to any pond and can be grown in either small or large clumps, making it ideal for any pond size. However, it is important to note that some species of sweet flag are invasive to North America and Europe (only Acorus calamus and Acorus Americanus are known to be native to these continents), so be sure to choose these species over Japanese sweet flag species. There are also dwarf varieties available, which would be well suited to micro-bowls. Sweet flag can be planted in either full sun or partial shade.

3) Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

It’s obvious why creeping jenny is a favorite among pond garden owners – this small marginal plant likes to grow on rocks and logs, draping over them to flow on top of the water’s edge in a splash of bright green. It’s very low maintenance and grows to only 1 to 3 inches in height, and is unlikely to extend too far beyond the edge of the pond, so it won’t overtake other plants or crowd the water. If it does happen to grow too much for your liking, it’s very easy to remove. It’s also hardy, suitable for both cool (as low as 59°F) and warm water (up to 75°F).

4) Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

As its name suggests, cardinal flowers have striking, immensely vibrant scarlet flowers that will attract a large variety of pollinators and hummingbirds to your pond. Around small ponds, you can simply plant them in the damp soil right on the edge of your pond, and in the case of water gardens and micro ponds, you can place them in miniature pots an inch or two below the water’s surface. It does well in shady environments, though partial sun is fine, and will grow from 1 to 4 feet in height (so be sure to incorporate it toward the back of your water feature so that it doesn’t block your view of anything). It’s hardy, able to grow in climates as northerly as Canada and as far south as Columbia.

Best Small Submerged Pond Plants

1) Anacharis (Anacharis Canadensis)

Also known as elodea, anacharis is suitable for any pond size, large or tiny, so long as the water is at least a few inches deep. In the case of very small ponds, place them in small pots so that the plants remain small and don’t outgrow the pond. They have bright, feathery leaves that help to oxygenate the water and keep it clean, while also providing a favorite place for invertebrates and small juvenile fish, and produce tiny white flowers that float atop the water’s surface. These leaves will often extend to the water’s surface and spread out, so you’ll likely need to trim them back from time to time.

2) Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

A submerged free-floating plant, hornwort doesn’t have roots and can either be allowed to float about or anchored down. In the case of very small ponds, such as bucket ponds or bowl ponds, placing them in a tiny pot at the bottom of the water may work best – this will keep them from spreading in the tiny area. Hornworts, like most submerged plants, are excellent oxygenators and purifiers. In addition, hornworts and some other bryophytes secrete substances that inhibit algal growth, thus further aiding in purifying the water.

Five pond plants

Water enhances any garden, and there’s a wide range of aquatic plants that will thrive in a pond – be it fully submerged, floating on the surface or growing on the pond edge, as a ‘marginal’. Discover five plants for garden ponds, with advice on how to grow them.

Advertisement If you have a garden pond, no matter how small or large, then you’ll be able to grow aquatic plants.

If you have a garden pond, no matter how small or large, then you’ll be able to grow aquatic plants. In addition to looking attractive, pond plants can provide useful surface cover and shelter for aquatic wildlife.

Grow pond plants in aquatic compost, topped with grit, and be sure to choose plants that are suited for the space you have available. The required planting depth varies from species to species, with some plants needing just 2.5cm (1in) of water above their crown, and others needing 30cm (12in) or more.


Water forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides

From May to July, Myositis scorpioides produces blue forget-me-not flowers. Grow it in water, to a depth of 7.5cm (3in), or in wet mud at the pond margin. It can be divided or grown from seed. Newts use the leaves to lay their eggs in spring.

Pale-blue water forget-me-not flowers 2

Carex elata ‘Aurea’

Carex elata ‘Aurea’ is a vigorous, long-lasting sedge, with vivid yellow-green foliage. Allow to reach its required size and divide when necessary. If kept in a small pond, it will probably need to be divided every two years.

Golden sedge 3

Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga

This pretty British native bears delicate blue flowers from May to July. Plants will look best if they’re renewed from cuttings every year (cuttings should be taken from new, leggy stems). Newts use the leaves to lay their eggs in spring.

Oval, serrated leaves of brooklime 4

Iris pseudacorus ‘Berlin Tiger’

Flag iris, Iris pseudacorus, is a fantastic choice for a large pond. ‘Berlin Tiger’ bears eye-catching yellow flowers with brown markings. The rhizomes should be divided every two years, after the plant has flowered in June.

Advertisement Deep-yellow flag iris bloom 5

Nymphaea ‘Hermine’

From May to September Nymphaea ‘Hermine’ bears large, star-shaped pure white flowers in contrast with large olive-green leaves. The flowers are good for pollinators and the leaves make a good landing pad for bees and other insects. Ideal for medium-sized ponds, grow it in water depths of 30-75cm.

White water lily ‘Hermine’

Pond Plants to Control Algae & Balance Your Water Garden

Selecting the right pond plants will help you balance your water garden and maintain a healthier pond environment with less nuisance algae.

Learn how to use aquatic plants and natural pond care techniques from water garden expert, Kelly Billing. With her knowledge and insights, you will learn how to create a balanced pond that doesn’t rely on toxic chemicals or expensive mechanical filters by using natural solutions.

In this guide, we will explain the preferred types of aquatic plants, how to use plants for oxygenation / filtration, the difference between cool / warm season plants, and when to choose floating, submerged, shallow water, and other plants for your pond that will naturally improve water quality.

Table of Contents – Pond Plants for Your Water Garden

  • Why Should I Add Water Plants To My Pond?
  • Types Of Aquatic Plants For Your Water Garden
  • How To Add Plants To Your Water Garden
  • Should I Use A Container For My Pond Plants?
  • Choosing the Right Water Plants For Your Pond
  • Maintaining A Natural Water Garden

Plant Tips from A Water Gardening Pro:
From our interview with Kelly Billing, we learned these helpful tips about maintaining pond plants to keep in mind while reading this article. If you have any experiences to add, please leave them in the comments section at the end. Please read this other article to learn specific tips for Spring start-up and debris clean up in your pond.

  • Have a good mix of warm season, cool season, and perennial plants.
  • Remove any foliage that is leaning or deteriorating into pond, this is fuel for algae.
  • Keep things neat, orderly, and fresh so you can naturally maintain the pond over depending on chemicals.
  • Use a pump or filter to circulate water in your pond for oxygenation. Movement in water will enhance your plants’ natural ability to uptake nutrients and trap more sediments.

Kelly Billing, Water Gardening Expert And Lotus Enthusiast

Kelly Billing

Career: Owner of Water Becomes A Garden

Location: Forest Hill, MD

Mantra: “I am determined to change the way water becomes a garden!”

Water Gardening Background: A longtime member of the commercial water gardening community with 30+ years in the industry. Passionately involved in educating and inspiring water gardeners everywhere. Most recently involved in making unique art from Lotus leaves.

Why Should I Add Water Plants to My Pond?

By adding pond plants you will provide competition to opportunistic algae.

There are many ways to maintain a balanced pond, but using plants is the best long term solution to combat nuisance algae and provide a healthy habitat that your fish will love!

If your pond is 100 gallons or 100,000 gallons the addition of pond plants will decrease the amount of maintenance to keep your pond water clean and is a great alternative to expensive products that kill algae by chemical or mechanical means.

How Does a Plant Filter Naturally Filter My Pond?

Pond plants filter sediments and pollution from your pond, just like trees filter carbon from the air we breathe to produce oxygen.

Water plants consume nitrates from pond water. Algae require sunlight, water and nutrients (nitrates & phosphates) to prosper. By incorporating sufficient plantings into the pond the higher order of plants will work to out compete the nuisance algae. Algae has no competition in their absence. Aquatic plants that have high nutrient uptake will be extremely helpful to clear up your pond.

Using plants in combination to maximize their respective benefits will further their ability to outcompete algae.
Floating plants provide shade and cover; limiting the sunlight. Submerged plants primarily consume their nutrients from the water column rather than from their roots, limiting the development of algae. It is important to understand that all plants have the ability to improve water quality and that each has different strengths.

How Do Aquatic Plants for Ponds Combat Algae Growth?

Plants combat algae growth by filtering out excess nitrate & phosphate nutrients, producing oxygen, and providing shade for your pond. One of the leading causes of algae growth are from waste and decaying plants. So remember to always remove decaying plant matter before it builds up!

By providing lots of shade, floating pond plants, waterlilies and creeping plants block excess sunlight limiting photosynthesis of algae in the water and keeping the water temperature cooler. (Algae love warmer temperatures which is why we see some algae blooms become toxic in the Summer.)

Although pond plants are not going to be able to help you remove all algae from your pond, a good mix of aquatic pond plants can really help prevent and control algae in your pond during peak algae season. Some algae on surfaces and in streams is normal and necessary. Limiting abundant and toxic algae is the key.

“It is best to have established water plants prior to the peak of algae seasons, early spring and late summer, so the purifying benefits can be optimized.”

– Kelly Billing

How Are Water Plants Good for Fish and Wildlife?

Water plants are extremely beneficial for fish and other wildlife because they contribute to balanced ecosystem producing more oxygen, providing the necessary habitat for all levels of life forms to thrive. They are the foundation of a naturally balanced pond.

It is important to include plants that thrive in cooler seasons, so roots are active and absorbing nutrients before warm weather arrives.

In warmer seasons, floating plants can keep the water temperature down by providing shade during the hot summer days.

Plants have added benefits for wildlife too. Bog Beans is a good shallow water plant for frogs because their buoyancy allows frogs to hang onto the plant and provides valuable protection from pond predators. Turtles love Water Poppy and Frog Bit as a food source.

Spatterdock, is a good waterlily alternative because the koi and other fish like it.

Submerged plants are vital in providing oxygen for your fish while also acting as a good place for them to hide from predators. This type of plant also acts as a critical area for fry (babies) to hide. However, when koi are present it is a good idea to create protective boundaries around them to prevent them from getting eaten.

“Consider your goals prior to selecting plants to accommodate the needs of the pond inhabitants along with algae control.”

– Kelly Billing

Types of Aquatic Plants for Your Water Garden

Click the tabs below to learn about the different varieties of plants to choose from and which to avoid. There are of course hundreds of varieties and we are focusing on why to choose each type of pond plant for your pond.

It doesn’t matter which style pond you have, adding plants will greatly help you to maintain a healthier ecosystem.

  • Floating Plants
  • Bog & Shallow Water Plants
  • Submerged Plants
  • Prohibited Plants

Floating leaf plants, like the Water Lilies pictured here, are characterized by the bloom floating on the surface with roots anchored in soil on the bottom.

These underwater growing areas act as a hiding place for fish to raise their fry (babies).

Floating leaf plants are beautiful, the jewels of the pond and are vital in keeping a healthy water garden.

Bog plants, like the Rush shown in this photo, thrive in shallow water (5-10 in. deep) along the pond’s edge. These grow best in saturated soil on the rim of the pond.

Bog plants, also known as Shallow Water or Marginal plants, are heavy root feeders and can improve water quality primarily by absorbing excess nutrients in the pond soil.

Submerged plants, like the Eelgrass in this photo, are meant to be grown in pots placed at the bottom of the pond and completely underwater.

They are also known as oxygenating plants because they remove excess nutrients via their foliage and have a reputation for producing more oxygen than other plants.

Prohibited plants like water lettuce are dangerous because they can quickly take over other species after just a single piece has been introduced. Always be careful not to discard your pond plants in rivers, lakes, or streams because this can lead to aquatic nuisance species effecting the natural habitat.

Some plants are prohibited in certain areas of the country because they can quickly take over other species after getting established. Always be careful not to discard your pond plants in rivers, lakes, or streams because this can lead to aquatic nuisance species effecting the natural habitat.

In the United States, each State has different rules on which plants are prohibited. Check to browse a list of prohibited plants Browse a list of prohibited plants.

Will My Climate and Location Affect Plants?

You will find that different plants will be more appropriate for your pond depending on what climate zone you are in and what time of year it is. It is best to plant a combination of cool and warm season plants so that you have algae control from pond plants year-round.

Plants will rapidly grow in the early spring for cool season and during summer for warm season plants. Algae blooms most often occur in early spring before the plants bloom and late summer when the plants start to rest. Effectively planning ahead to include plants during these seasonal changes will greatly increase your chances of avoiding nuisance algae.

Cool Season Water Plants

Cool season plants start growing in the winter so they can be active during early spring to combat early spring algae blooms. Some rest through the summer and fall before waking up again in the following late winter.

Warm Season Water Plants

Warm season plants start growing in the late spring so they are active through the summer to battle late summer algae blooms. They rest during cooler seasons from late fall until late spring.

You have to factor seasonal and temperature differences when building and maintaining your pond. For instance, northern areas require a pond depth of 24 to 36 inches to ensure that the pond won’t freeze solid during winter. Meanwhile in warmer and tropical areas, it is important for additional depth due to excessive warm temperatures.

For example – Giant Sensitive Plants, Mermaid Plants, and Water Wisteria will do very well in Southern tropical weather whereas Forget-Me-Nots and Water Hawthorns will do well in the north as cool season plants.

How to Add Plants to Your Water Garden

Build your pond with sloped sides for planting terraces or shelves, stepping down toward the pond area to allow for plant and habitat diversity for critters. Introduce your plants onto each plant shelf along the edge or into a container where necessary.

An alternative to planting directly into the pond is a vegetative filter, which is a heavily planted area adjacent to the pond that has water recirculated through it to flush nutrient laden water over the roots. It is of considerable importance to help keep Koi from ravaging the plants because they don’t have access to them.

How Many Plants Should I Add?

The following table offers a rough guide to how many plants you should plant according to your pond’s approximate surface area. A good rule of thumb is to plant one bunch per square foot of water surface.


2m² 4m² 6m² 8m² 10m² 12m²
Water Lilies 1 2 3 3 4 5
Marginal Plants 8 14 18 24 30 36
Oxygenating Plants (bunches) 15 30 45 60 75 90
Floating Plants 2 3 4 6 8 12

Should I Use a Container for My Pond Plants?

To begin planting, you must decide whether your pond plants will be directly planted or kept in containers. It is best to have a combination of both naturally planted and potted plants in your pond. Plants such as Lotus, Cattails and Reeds should be kept in shallow containers with no holes for easy maintenance and to set boundaries.

Marginal or shallow water plants like Hibiscus, Iris and Pickerel, are good filter plants because of their massive root systems. These plants should be kept in baskets or geo-textile bags of soil, pea gravel or calcined clay so their roots can penetrate to spread and grab nutrients from the water column. Combine tall and spreading plants in the same container to disguise the pots. .

Will a Liner Affect My Pond Plants?

Whether your pond is lines, covered with stone or gravel or naturally earth bottom will dictate what type of plants are acceptable.

Plants to Avoid:

Earth Bottom Parrot’s Feather Water Hawthorn Clover Horsetail
Rock Lined Water Willow Clover Horsetail Cat Tails

Some plants like Cattails, Reeds and Thalia have sharp growth tips that can penetrate liner even if covered in gravel or stone. They shold be confined to a container to prevent puncture and leaks.

Choosing the Right Water Plants for Your Pond

It’s time to select the perfect water plants for your pond!

While there are many options for pond plants, we’ve compiled a list of popular aquatic plants to help you establish your water garden. Based on the expertise from pond experts and pond owners, if you are new to the hobby we recommend water lilies due to their resilience to any region or season and their iconic image in backyard ponds.

Plant Name: Water Lily
Plant Type: Floating
Season: Warm
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: Water lilies are a top choice among pond owners. This popular water plant does well in any region and season.

They provide a lot of surface cover against heat during the warmer weather and shelter fish from predators.

Plant Name: Water Lotus
Plant Type: Floating
Season: Warm
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This pond plant is one of the oldest cultivated aquatic plants out there for your water garden.

Lotuses are known for high nutrient uptake particularly stunning foliage and flowers. They have a substantial growth rate and are characterized by their upright habit as opposed to waterlilies that have floating leaves.

Plant Name: Water Hawthorn
Plant Type: Floating Leaf
Season: Cool
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This plant has a unique characteristic of only growing and blooming when pond water is below 65 degrees in temperature.

These are a good season extender since they are active when waterlilies are not and the blooms are fragrant as well as edible.

Plant Name: Anacharis, Coontail & Vallisneria
Plant Type: Submerged
Season: Warm
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This plant is a good filter for trapping sediments to improve water clarity. They also provide a lot of oxygen during the daylight hours and are often referred to as oxygenators.

Set groups of them near waterfalls or where water moves by for the best effect.

Remember to reinforce boundaries with this plant because the koi love to eat them.

Plant Name: Water Celery
Plant Type: Bog/Shallow Water
Season: Cool
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This plant is ideal for ponds without rocks because they get embedded problematically.

Edible leafy parts, growth begins early when there is still ice in the pond: an excellent early season plant.

Plant Name: Iris
Plant Type: Bog/Shallow Water
Season: Warm
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This is another popular plant among pond owners. Irises are typically planted in pots before being submerged. They thrive best in direct sunlight or partial shade.

These plants will begin growing in early Spring. Divide in fall for best bloom the following year.

Plant Name: Giant Sensitive Plant
Plant Type: Floating
Season: Warm
Critter-Friendly: Yes
Benefits: This intriguing plant folds its leaves after you touch it and appears “sensitive”. They will thrive in warmer seasons and provide good surface cover during hot summers to reduce algae while also providing shade for your pond inhabitants.

Maintaining A Natural Water Garden

There are a number of ways to minimize maintenance and provide a healthy and balanced pond for maximum enjoyment. I must emphasize that natural is key. Try to use the natural elements already existing in your pond to promote the ideal situation before resorting to mechanical and chemical vices.

I recommend natural products like barley, beneficial bacteria, and Nualgi Ponds which promotes diatom growth to absorb excess nutrients, similarly to plants, and starve off algae.

Products like Algaecides, UV Clarifiers and Ion Generators, although effective can mask the problem of excess nutrients rather than solve it. If there is algae in your pond, this may be indicative of an existing natural imbalance. Natural products should be considered a good practice to implement as opposed to trying to take corrective action after imbalances have noticeable consequences.

Remember – be patient when starting your water garden, for nature will always set a pace for the best outcome.

Balance Your Pond with A Natural Solution

Safe for Fish, Plants, Amphibians, Birds & Pets!

Nualgi Ponds significantly improves water quality as well as the health of fish and plants. For many eutrophic ponds, results may be visible by afternoon.

By restoring missing nutrients this brings balance to the natural marine food chain from the bottom up, by promoting the growth of diatoms and zooplankton.

Try Nualgi in Your Pond!

“Natural products should be considered a good practice to implement as opposed to trying to take corrective action after imbalances have noticeable consequences.” – Kelly Billing

The 10 Best Oxygenating Pond Plants For Healthy & Clean Pond Water

by Tory Jon | Last Updated: January 25, 2020

Pond Academy is reader-supported. Buying through links on our site may earn us an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Oxygenating pond plants are vital for the health of your pond.

They can act as a filter for undesired pollutants, consume nutrients that would otherwise feed algae growth, and provide shade to protect pond fish and other animals.

Oh, and they help deliver oxygen to your pond!

But, with so many types of pond plants available, how do you know which ones will add oxygen and help clean up your pond?

Let’s take a look at 10 of the best oxygenating plants for a small pond and learn more about these natural wonders.

Psst! Pin Our Pond Plants Guide For Future Reference

10 Best Oxygenating Pond Plants

1) Anacharis (Elodea densa)

Elodea, or Anacharis as it is still commonly known in North America, is a fast-growing oxygenating plant popular in aquariums and ponds alike. Pond fish tend to love this plant both as a food source in its own right and as a hiding place for small worms and other morsels. The same hardiness and aggressive growth rate that make it such a mainstay in ponds have also led some states to ban this variety of Anacharis as an invasive species.

  • How to plant: Elodea densa fends well for itself. Bunches of 4-6 stems can be weighted and simply dropped into the pond every three feet or so. Once they have reached the bottom, they will quickly anchor themselves and begin to grow upward.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: Minimum 10″ of clear water

2) Anacharis (Egeria najas)

This variety of Anacharis features narrower leaves and is less hardy overall. This offsets somewhat the tendency of Elodea densa to outgrow its environment. On the other hand, Egeria najas can thrive both as a rooted and as a floating plant, conveying the benefits of each depending on how it is planted.

  • How to plant: Because Egeria najas does not form a significant root structure, it can be either planted traditionally or placed on the pond’s surface to grow as a floating plant. When used as an oxygenating plant, it is grouped in bunches of 4 to 8 stems and the bunches weighted as with Elodea densa.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 6″ to 10′
  • Water Depth: Minimum 10″ of clear water

3) Red Ludwigia

Red Ludwigia is a fast-growing, highly adaptable pond plant that thrives in shallower waters. When conditions are right, it can reach the pond’s surface, qualifying it as an emergent plant; it has even been known to float unanchored to the ground. Its beautiful leaves, which grow more deeply red with more sunlight, make it an attractive complement to other pond plants, and a favorite hiding place for young fish.

  • How to plant: Red Ludwigia can be weighted and dropped like other especially hardy pond plants, or it can be potted and its container submerged.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: 2” minimum

4) Hornwort

Also known as coontail, hornwort is a hardy oxygenator whose frilly leaves provide excellent cover for eggs, small fish, and tiny invertebrates. Hornwort doesn’t grow as rampantly as some other pond plants, nor does it like to double as a floating or emergent plant. But that can be a point in its favor: its more deliberate growth means that Hornwort is less likely than plants like Anacharis to displace other pond plants.

  • How to plant: Hornwort is usually sold as bundles of live plants, which can be weighted like other submerged plants and dropped every two feet or so from the water’s surface and left to sink and develop roots in the pond’s floor.
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: Up to six feet

5) Mermaid Plant

Mermaid plant, or Mermaid Weed, is an excellent choice for shallow waters near your pond’s edges. While it can thrive as a fully submerged plant, its delicate fern-like leaves especially enjoy emerging above the water’s surface. When allowed to do so, Mermaid Weed offers an ideal location for young fish to hide: its leaves provide cover from airborne and water-dwelling predators, and its preference for shallow waters means that the ambient temperature tends to stay high. Mermaid Weed is a relatively slow-growing plant.

  • How to plant: Bunches of Mermaid Weed can be weighted and sunk every two feet or so, or can be placed in planters or baskets.
  • Light Requirements: Full Sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: Up to eight inches

6) Cabomba

Unlike the first five plants on this list, Cabomba, or fanwort, is a vivaciously flowering pond plant. During springtime, its feathery leaves provide an ideal landing place for eggs and a perfect safe zone for young fish. In the summer, it reaches for the water’s surface and blooms with tiny white flowers. Cabomba prefers moderate temperatures, and should not be planted in areas that remain consistently warm.

  • How to plant: Cabomba can be weighted and sunk every two feet or so, or can be planted in gravel-filled pots.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: 6” to 3’

7) Vallisneria

Vallisneria, also known as eelgrass or tapegrass, is a popular aquarium plant that thrives in ponds as well. Unlike many pond plants, Vallisneria aggressively develops runners beneath the soil and propagates across wide areas if left uncontained. When planted in large pots, it grows lush lengths of flat leaves up to six feet long that provide excellent oxygen generation and ample cover for young fish.

  • How to plant: Because it can quickly take over large stretches of your pond, Vallisneria should always be potted, ideally in light, sandy soil.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: 10” to 6’

8) Moneywort (Creeping Jenny)

Moneywort, also known as Creeping Charlie or Creeping Jenny, can be a scourge of lawns. But in ponds, it can quickly grow around the water’s edge to provide an attractive transition between land and water and an important habitat for frogs, insects, and young fish. It is extremely hardy, grows rapidly, and stays low, so Moneywort should always be planted near the water’s edge, in boggy conditions. Even rocky barriers between a pond’s edge and grassy areas may not stop Moneywort’s advance; weeding may be necessary if it is intended only to grow around your pond or water garden.

  • How to plant: Moneywort is a bog plant that is best planted in shallow water near the edge of your pond and around rocks or a waterfall.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: 1″ to 4”, or in boggy soil

9) Lemon Bacopa

Lemon Bacopa is another fast-growing plant ideal for the boundary between your pond’s surface and the surrounding land. It can thrive as a completely submerged plant, but does especially well when planted close enough to the pond’s edge to allow it to reach the surface and bloom into bright blue flowers. Its small, succulent leaves give off a lemony scent, especially when crushed; some pond owners allow Lemon Bacopa to grow well inland, where it releases even more fragrance when crushed underfoot.

  • How to plant: Lemon Bacopa is a hardy bog plant that is best suited near the edge of ponds, but can flourish fully submerged or even as a floating plant.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: Up to 6” if submerged; otherwise in moist, boggy areas, or as a floating plant

10) Rotala

Rotala originates in Southeast Asia, where it is commonly found on the edges of rice paddies. It is another versatile pond plant, happy either fully submerged or emergent when planted near the pond’s edge. Rotala is an excellent oxygen producer and is especially adept at absorbing excess nutrients before they feed unwanted algae growth. While most species of Rotala feature thin, generously spaced leaves that provide marginal habitat for invertebrates and young fish, it grows densely and quickly, making larger patches of Rotala especially inviting safe zones for vulnerable aquatic life.

  • How to plant: Individual specimens can be planted in shallow water; to keep Rotala from propagating, it may be placed in containers with its roots in fresh water.
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water Depth: 2″ to 24″ of clear water

Types of Pond Plants

Water plants convey some immediately recognizable benefits to your pond. While providing an attractive border along the water’s edge, they control the pond’s margins by inhibiting soil erosion. Lilies and other plants that reach beyond the pond’s surface can offer a refreshing and ever-changing visual element, and provide valuable cover to fish from birds and other predators.

But the most vital advantages of pond plants are conveyed underwater. Plants, especially submerged plants, generate oxygen and help regulate the growth of algae by casting shade and absorbing excess nutrients. They also serve as hiding places for eggs and fry.

Some plants live entirely underwater, some simply float, and others split the difference. A mix of these three broad categories tends to be best for most ponds.

Submerged Pond Plants

Though they’re rarely seen by casual observers, submerged plants, or oxygenating plants, are crucial to the health of any pond or water garden. These aquatic plants live entirely underwater, where they generate oxygen, absorb potential contaminants such as nitrates, and help control the growth of algae by consuming nutrients.

Submerged plants also offer several passive benefits. Their shade inhibits the growth of algae, which in turn contributes to healthy oxygen levels. Many oxygenating plants also offer excellent hiding places for eggs and baby fish. Unlike a lot of plants, most submerged plants are hardy enough to survive winter dormancy. Most can be planted in weighted pots.

Emergent Pond Plants

Emergent plants grow from the pond’s floor to above the water’s surface. Because they have so far to travel before reaching maturity, many emergent plants prefer to live near the water’s edge. Water lilies are a notable exception, but the lotus, cattails, and other bog plants tend to prefer warm water and plenty of sunlight.

Emergent plants offer the same benefits of shade and cover as submerged plants, and tend to be crucial sources of food for aquatic life. While emergent plants can thrive in most hardiness zones, most are not equipped to survive harsh winters. They can be planted in anything from lightly submerged pots to highly saturated soil.

Floating Pond Plants

Floating plants absorb nutrients directly from the water, through delicate root systems that needn’t be anchored to the soil. They provide a vital if often overlooked zone of interaction between water and air, inviting everything from insects to beneficial pond bacteria to grow on them. Their leaves and petals provide the pond’s first layer of shade, and their roots convey the same cover and dietary benefits as submerged and emergent plants.

Some floating plants consume high levels of oxygen, so they should always be balanced with significant additions of oxygenating plants. Some particularly aggressive floating plants, such as water hyacinth, are so disruptive to natural waterways that they are banned in some locations.

Floating pond plants are sensitive to cold, and most varieties do not tolerate temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Most are purchased as whole plants and are simply placed on the pond’s surface.

Benefits of Oxygenating Pond Plants

Plants that grow entirely underwater are vital to the health of your pond or water garden. They act as pond filters for nitrates and other pollutants, absorb nutrients that would otherwise drive the growth of undesirable vegetation, and provide shade that inhibits the overgrowth of algae. But their primary benefit is their ability to generate healthy levels of oxygen for your pond.

Because water does not hold oxygen nearly as well as air, your pond must include a continuous, reliable source of oxygen. Most fish species begin to suffer when levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) drop below 6%. At that point, they may recover less readily from injury, be less resilient to changes in weather and food availability, and spawn less successfully. DO levels below 3.5% may be lethal to fish.

While mechanical pond aerators alone can maintain sufficient DO levels in some ponds, submerged plants are an effective complement, and are more attractive, reliable, and economical, to boot. They also provide several side benefits. Most importantly, they consume nutrients and sunlight that would otherwise encourage unhealthy levels of phytoplankton and other algae. Phytoplankton is a vital part of any pond’s ecosystem, but it and its cousins can easily grow too successfully; when algae grows beyond useful levels, it consumes oxygen and nutrients needed by the rest of the pond’s inhabitants and can look terrible, too.

Oxygenating plants also provide vital hiding places for fish and other animals like pond snails. Both koi and goldfish lay clutches of eggs designed to stick to stable surfaces within your pond; when they anchor themselves to a plant that offers dense cover from external threats, eggs have a much better chance of developing into healthy mature fish.

Can You Have Too Many Oxygenating Pond Plants In A Pond?

Ponds are complex environments and tend to do a good job of regulating themselves. Still, it is technically possible to overstock your pond with oxygenating plants.

During sunlit hours, aquatic plants generate oxygen and fish and other animals consume it. But after dark, plants consume oxygen along with their neighbors. Because water retains oxygen far less readily than air, this daytime-nighttime cycle can lead to dramatic drops in DO levels as the night wears on. A pond featuring too many oxygenating plants may never see DO levels drop to levels fatal to fish, but its DO cycle might include periods of undue stress.

The most proven approach to DO management uses an aerator to establish a consistent baseline of oxygen production, complemented by a selection of submerged plants taking up roughly a third of the pond’s total volume. This keeps the DO cycle steadily within a healthy range for fish, while conveying all the side benefits—algae suppression, habitat for young fish, and so on—that make submerged plants so useful.


Oxygenating plants to grow

Oxygenating plants are vital for maintaining a healthy garden pond. They grow mainly underwater, producing oxygen and absorbing impurities, which help keep the pond clear and clean. They also limit the spread of unwanted algae by competing with them for nutrients.


Submerged plants produce oxygen during the day and provide cover for aquatic life, such as newts and frogs. Some oxygenators have dual functionality, being only partly submerged. This boosts oxygen levels in the water, while leaves and stems above the water level offer shade, protection and food for wildlife.

Choose native plants as they’ll withstand cold and ice through the winter months. They’re also unlikely to upset the balance of natural waterways, should they ‘escape’ your garden pond. It’s a good idea to have a mix of oxygenators if your pond is large enough. Plants can then be thinned out in spring, if necessary.

Related content:

  • Four tips for summer pond maintenance
  • Three ways to improve your pond
  • Ponds in shady gardens

Check out some of the best plants to grow in garden ponds, below.

Submerged plants produce oxygen during the day and provide cover for aquatic life in the water

Spiked water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)

This British native oxygenator has submerged olive green feathery foliage. Small yellow and red flowers appearing above the water surface between May and August. It suits all sizes of pond, as long as there is a minimum depth of 30cm and a max of 90cm. It’s easy to confuse with other non-native milfoils.


Fool’s watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum)

This is a hardy British native that makes an excellent oxygenating plant. It produces foliage both above and below the water surface. In summer, the above-water stems bear small white flowers that are good for attracting bees, hoverflies and butterflies.


Hornwort (Ceratophyllum dermensum)

A common British native, this is a permanently submerged oxygenator. It’s best suited to a still water pond in sun or partial shade. The dark green feathery foliage floats in the water, growing loosely. Can be thinned out in summer. Leave the dark coloured stems and only take out the yellow or clear coloured ones.


Water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)

This is a British native oxygenator that is mostly submerged with some foliage appearing on the surface and white flowers in May. These will draw in the hoverflies, bees and butterflies. It will tolerate most water conditions including streams and rivers. It doesn’t generally require any maintenance.


Water moss (Fontinalis antipyretica)

This British native oxygenator grows deep under the surface of the water. The dark green branched stems and foliage will cope with still ponds or moving water and it will grow in sun or partial shade. It will spread, but can be easily managed by removing clumps by hand.


Slender club rush (Isolepis cernua)

Slender club rush, Isolepis cernua, is an evergreen annual or herbaceous perennial with a cosmopolitan distribution. It grows as a marginal aquatic plant, though can be grown in bog gardens and ponds in tubs, too. Creamy-white flowers dot the grassy foliage in summer.


Curled pondweed (Potamogeton crispus)

A very common choice, this submerged British native oxygenating plant has olive green, slightly seaweed-like foliage. It also produces small pinkish flowers above the surface in early summer. It grows equally well in sunny or partially shaded ponds and spreads easily. If it’s a new introduction to your pond, leave it to fill up to one third of the pond, then thin out older stems regularly to keep under control.


Water violet (Hottonia palustris)

This is a dual-pupose plant, functioning as a good oxygenator with pretty flowers above water. The foliage is attractive and feathery, with pinkish-violet primrose like flowers appearing above the water in May to June. It needs a minimum water depth of 60cm. Although it can be a little tricky to settle into a new pond at first, it will spread easily once it is happily established.


More oxygenators to grow

  • Hair grass, Eleocharis acicularis
  • British native mare’s tail, Hippuris vulgaris
  • Goldfish weed, Lagarosiphon major

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