Whether you are just setting out in the world of aquatic planting or looking for some extra plants to fill your aquascaping out, it can be daunting to know exactly which ones to choose for your garden pond.
After all, there are a plethora of types and species of pond plants available on the market, all of which can be used in different ways. In this article, we illustrate the top 7 plants which are perfect for any pond.
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What Type Of Aquatic Plants To Choose
There are four types of plants for the aquatic gardener to choose from. In general, most ponds will contain one or two species from each category. This ensures that not only do you include aesthetically pleasing specimens, but also those that are beneficial in various ways.
Submerged Aquatic Plants
Submerged pond plants are those that grow beneath the surface of the water. Being submerged, they are rarely seen by the passing eye. They are, of all the types of aquatic plants, the ones that provide the most benefit and for this reason, generally classed as vital.
Generating oxygen and absorbing potential contaminants such as nitrates is the submerged plant’s forte. This not only ensures that fish and other inhabitants are supplied with dissolved oxygen (DO) but also helps to keep pests like algae at bay.
Emergent Aquatic Plants
Emergent plants are those that grow from the floor of the pond and break the water’s surface. These, in general, need to be planted nearer the pond’s edge where the water is shallower. Lillies, however, are a notable exception to this rule as they prefer deeper waters where they grow leggy stems that end in their floating pads.
Though emergent plants also supply a pond with dissolved oxygen (DO) this is not their main attribute. Rather, emergent plants provide a pond with more ‘passive’ benefits. Two such benefits are; being a crucial source of food and providing cover and shade for fish that may seek it.
Floating Pond Plants
Floating plants such as Water Lettuce sit on the surface of the water and have roots that literally dangle downwards and require no substrate. They feed by absorbing nutrients directly from the water itself. They are extremely attractive to look at as they free-float in gently flowing water.
Again, although floating plants do provide dissolved oxygen (DO) this is not their main benefit. In fact, The benefit they do provide in this regard can be outweighed by the fact that some also consume high levels of oxygen. Rather, floating plants invite everything from insects to beneficial bacteria to your pond. They also provide a surface layer of shade.
Marginal Aquatic Plants
Marginal plants are those that are usually grown around the edge of a pond and thrive on a boggy environment rather than being submerged. However, this is not always the case: Some marginal plants will also delight in being under the water.
Pond health benefits are limited with marginal plants, although they will provide a low level of dissolved oxygen. Rather, these plants are used for their aesthetic benefits and to merge the land planting with the water.
Read out article: 21 Container Pond Ideas for some amazing small pond solutions.
Top 7 Aquatic Plants Perfect For Your Pond
Following are our top seven choices of pond plants from the floating, submerged, emergent, and marginal choices:
1. Water Lettuce (Pistia Stratiotes)
|70-80° F, pH 6.5-7.5
Named for its resemblance to, yes you guessed it, lettuce, this floating plant is light green in coloration with thick. coarse-haired covered leaves. It is inexpensive, free-floating, and easy to care for.
Water lettuce only really requires being kept out of direct sunshine. This is due to direct sun possibly scorching the Water Lettuce’s leaves causing them to turn yellow and potentially dry up. This plant also prefers slow-moving waters as it can be damaged by being pushed under filter outflows.
Water Lettuce propagates easily with mother plants growing daughters that will float nearby connected to them by a short stolon. Mothers can reach an exceptionally large size of up to 10 inches and you will have to ensure that they do not take over your pond by forming dense mats.
Please note that Water Lettuce is classed as invasive and may be illegal to keep in some US states.
2. Water Lilies (Various Scientific Names)
|70-80° F, pH 6.1-7.5
|From 2 Inches - 8 Inch Flower
Available in various different sized species, the Water Lily has to be the quintessential plant that every pond keeper has, or at least seriously considered growing. They come in an amazing array of colors, flower varieties, and sizes and are incredibly easy to keep. They are classed as emergent plants even though they thrive best in deep water.
Being perennial, Water Lilies flower in summer with the bloom lasting three to four days before dying off. They require planting in the spring to early summer and are hardy enough to leave in your pond all year round. They should be kept in baskets of an appropriate size with aquatic soil and a gravel top. Dead flowers and leaves should be removed just below the water line before they sink and rot.
3. Lemon Bacopa (Bacopa Caroliniana)
|Seeds & Cuttings
|70-82° F, KH 3-8, pH 6.5-7.5
Lemon Bacopa is a dainty yet incredibly hardy plant that is classified as marginal. It prefers to be grown in the boggy ground. However, it will also thrive submerged in the water. It is an excellent choice for the edge of a pond or as a trailing plant in waterfalls or streams.
Spreading quickly, Lemon Bacopa gives great ground coverage with a brilliant blue flower adorning it throughout the summer months. It also gives off the scent of, as its name suggests, lemons all year long. When walked on, the scent will become even stronger as the leaves are crushed. A delight for those who like heady garden scents and seeing the insects attracted by it.
4. Anacharis (Elodea Densa)
|59-82° F, KH 3-8, pH 6.5-7.5
A submerged plant, the Anacharis is fairly hardy and fast-growing. Fish love it both as a food source and a place to hideout. It is also extremely popular in home aquariums as well as ponds where it can grow to a width of around 2 – 4 centimeters and reach heights of 40 – 100 cm plus.
Anacharis is easy to plant, requiring little more than 4 – 6 stems bunching together, weighting, and dropping. It will root quickly at the bottom of the pond and start growing immediately as long as the light is bright. Be aware, however, that dull light can kill this plant and the first signs of this happening will be its gorgeous green tendrils showing light coloration and growing thin.
5. Red Ludwigia (Ludwigia Repens)
|72-82° F, KH 3-8, pH 6.5-7.5
Hailing from Northern and Central America, this gorgeous emergent plant will add a splash of color to any garden pond. More commonly found in home aquariums. It grows quickly in good lighting and also develops a deeper red coloration.
Red Ludwigia also likes to emerge from the water ensuring that you will be able to enjoy the sight of it easily. Its leaves can range from dark green to brownish red, and in full sunshine deep red.
Preferring marginal positioning in shallower waters, Red Ludwigia can either be weighted and dropped into position or potted. It enjoys full sunshine but will also thrive in partial shade, although as stated before its color is made better by bright light. Red Ludwigia can reach an optimal height of around 12 – 20 inches and requires at least 2 inches of water to thrive.
6. Fanwort (Cabomba Caroliniana)
|50-52 cm Max
|72 to 82 °F (22-28 °C)
|Available in Green or Red
|Natural or Moderate
Similar to other water weeds, Fanwort needs to be fully submerged to thrive. It can grow up to two meters in height and is an incredibly dense plant. Care needs to be taken to ensure that you do not let this plant take over, especially since it has an incredible growth rate of up to an inch per day.
During spring, this plant has feathery leaves ideal for eggs to be laid on and newly hatched fry to hide in. In summer, it bears tiny white flower blooms on the water’s surface. It prefers moderate temperatures and should not be planted in areas that remain consistently warm. Weighting and sinking is the most popular way to introduce this plant to your pond. You can also use a gravel filled pot.
7. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris Thalictroides)
|Water Sprite-Indian Fern
|66-82° F, KH 3-8, pH 5.5-6.5
Also known as Indian Fern, this submerged plant can also thrive floating. It has delicate and lacy leaves that make it great cover for fry to hide amongst. It is relatively easy to care for although it does have a poor root system, so it needs to take nutrients from the water. Water Sprite will, nonetheless, thrive under the correct and favorable conditions.
As a pond addition, Water Sprite is great as it is incredibly decorative and provides a great contrast to other plant leaf shapes that are around it. It grows profusely, up to around 1 foot in height, and is a favorite snack of pond snails. This should not cause too much concern, however, as Water Sprite reproduces and replaces itself quickly and easily.
Conclusion: Top 7 Plants Perfect For Any Pond
It has to be said that for me, the ultimate pond plant is hands down, every time, the magnificent Water Lily. However, that is just my personal choice and it won’t be the same for every pond keeper.
Some will like greenery, some will like flowering, and others will lean to fascinating and attractive leaf shapes. Everyone likes different aesthetics and isn’t that what partially keeps the world of fishkeeping interesting?
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I have been working in the tropical fish industry for over 30 years now and I’m still learning. Everyday is a school day in this hobby. In my spare time I play golf very badly!