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Pond Plants 101

Pond Plants 101

Pond Maintenance & Care , Pond Plants 🕔June 24, 2021 0 comments

Pond Plants may be very pretty and the bonus is thay have many benefits that create balance and for a healthy home for your fish. Here are some reasons why you should have plants inside your water feature, especially if you are having problems balancing your pond chemistry.

  • Improves Pond Health- Pond plants are one of the most important components to a healthy, well balanced pond. The Biology of the pond depends upon the Nitrogen Cycle- ammonia is broken down by beneficial bacteria into Nitrates, Plants then use this as fertilizer. Plants actually “clean” the water making it a healthy environment especially for fish. If you do not have enough plants in the system, algae growth is common result – nature’s solution to help balance this cycle. 
  • Visual Appeal-Pond plants are attractive providing structural appeal, foliage color or produce blooms with the bonus is most are hardy perennials. They help visually soften the hardscape and rocks while providing coverage and protection for fish.
  • Less Algae- Pond plants help shade the water (less Sun exposure, cooling the water and reduces algae blooms). Generally speaking: Having Pond Plants= Less Algae. You do need a good amount and variety of plants- about 40%-60% coverage to achieve this.
  • Edible & Important to Wildlife. Many pond plants attract pollinator insects and hummingbirds or are a food source for wildlife. Many pond plants are edible or have been used as medicine by Native Americans and in Asian Cuisine.
  • Versatile- Pond Plants can used in bog filters, planted directly into the pond during installation or potted. The same rule applies to ornamentals- Right Plant = Right Place. Some pond plants can be invasive or over grow their spot, we try to avoid that situation. Aquatic plants grow either by running or clumping-so placement is important. Running plants do better in bogs, filters or pond edges (rather than in streams where they can overtake or cause leaks). Clumping plants do best in streams, bogs or pond edges.
  • Many Types-There are many types of pond plants that can be placed in many levels- pond and stream edges (Marginal & Bog Plants) float on the surface (Floaters) or be submerged (Water lilies & Lily-like)  and finally the “oxygenator” water weeds- I would stay away from those generally, they break off and get stuck everywhere, they are very messy- work better in aquariums.

Types of Pond Plants

There are four main plant categories of Pond Plants relating to the depth the plants can thrive in water- ranging from Bog plants to completely Submerged plants.

Marginal & Bog Plants

1. Marginal & Bog Plants- Plants that have their roots growing in the water, near surface or in wet areas. The foliage and flowers grow out of the water. Most pond plants belong in this category. Marginal Plants have their aerial portions growing out of the water or creep along the edges with roots growing in shallow portions of the pond. Examples: Cattails, Iris, Lotus, Rushes, Sweet Flag. Bog plants can survive in wet soil, in “bog gardens or filters” or in very shallow areas in the pond with crowns above the water. Examples: Ferns, Gunnera, Hosta

2. Lily / Lily-like- These plants have their roots completely submerged in water, growing in up to 2-3’ of water depth (more or less) with leaves and flowers at or above water surface. Examples of “lily-like”: Floating Heart, Water Hawthorne, Water Lilies, Water Poppy  . There are Hardy Water Lilies and Tropical Water lilies and new on the market are hybrids of tropical & hardy lilies. Most pond owners choose “hardy water lilies” that come in red, pink, white, yellow and salmon. There are many different varieties to choose from that vary in size and spread. See our water lily blog for more information.

3. Floating Plants- Free floating plants with roots submerged in water, foliage growing above water surface. Most are not hardy in our zone 6-8 area in the PNW. Examples: Fairy Moss, Frogbit, Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Water Velvet

4. Submerged Plants- Grow completely submerged under water surface. Also known as “oxygenators” these plants may look like weeds yet provide food, shelter and “oxygen”. These plants a better suited for aquiriums

Water Hyacinth in bloom with Fairy Moss

Choosing Plants- How many?

For smaller ponds, you may wish to keep your plants in pots- mesh plastic or fabric pots- to control spread and growth patterns. For larger ponds you can directly plant them into the pond in rock or keep in pots. See Pond Plant Care Blog for more information on planting pond plants blog coming soon.

So how many plants should you have in your pond? As many as you like, make sure you leave room for your fish. As a general rule or thumb, about up to 30% – 60% of your pond should be covered with plants. Choose a variety of plants, refer to the following generalized examples:

4’x6′ Pond: 1 Dwarf Waterlily &/or 1 Lily-Like (Water Hawthorne,etc.), 2-3 Marginals- 1 Tall (Iris), 1 Mid-range (Cotton Grass, Sweet Flag), 1 Short/Ground Cover (Water Forget-me-not or Mare’s Tail) 1-2 Floaters (Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, they will multiply)

8’x11′ Pond: 2-3 Waterlilies, 1 Lily-Like (Water Hawthorne,etc.), 6-8 Marginals– 2 Tall (Iris, Cattail, Canna, Calla Lily), 3 Mid-range (Cotton Grass, Pickerel Rush, Sweet Flag), 2 Short/Ground Cover (Water Forget-me-not, Mare’s Tail, Creeping Jenny, Water Celery) 4-6 Floaters (Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce- they will multiply)

11′ x16′ Pond: 3-5 Waterlilies, 1-2 Lily-Like (Water Hawthorne,etc.), 10-12 Marginals– 3 Tall (Iris, Cattail, Canna, Calla Lily), 5 Mid-range (Cotton Grass, Pickerel Rush, Sweet Flag), 3 Short/Ground Cover (Water Forget-me-not, Mare’s Tail, Creeping Jenny, Water Celery) 8+ Floaters (Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce- they will multiply)

Hardy White Waterlily

I hope this helps you choose your plants, and keep in mind that there clumping vs running growth patterns. If your pond is smaller then choose plants that have a more clumping habit rather than those than run and grow faster. Keeping your plants in pots can help control excessive growth as well as yearly dividing.

Stop into our shop and learn more about pond plants or email me at

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