Best plants for garden ponds Water lily


Best Plants For Garden Ponds

Plants will provide visual interest to your pond, they encourage wildlife and help keep the water clear of blanket weeds and algae. Choosing the best plants for garden ponds increases your enjoyment of them.

A pond and its subsequent planting will improve the biodiversity of your outdoor space, making the surrounding area a special place to relax and unwind.


Best Plants For Garden Ponds

Selecting the right plants can be a little daunting as there is such a wide range available at garden centres and pond specialists.

As with any planting scheme a variety of foliage shapes and colours, and flowering times will provide a long display throughout the seasons.


What Are The Best Plants To Choose?

The plants you choose will depend on the size of your pond, its depth and whether you want a natural wildlife area. These are your main considerations when making a decision on which plants to buy.

For example, there is an extensive range of waterlilies suitable for depths from 10cm to 1.5m

Think about the different areas of your pond or water feature. You need a mix of oxygenating plants, floating plants, marginals and as well as plants for the different depths of water.


Submerged / Oxygenating Plants

Oxygenating plants provide oxygen and shelter for aquatic wildlife.

  • Water Stalwort  Suitable for still or running water but can become a nuisance in small ponds.
  • Hornwort. Suitable for deep water and is free-floating.
  • Willow Moss This is best planted attached to a stone and is happy in still or running water
  • Water Violet Lilac flowers in summer.
  • Water Crowfoot White flowers in May, suitable for running water.


Floating Plants

Floating plants do not need to be rooted in soil. Their presence on the surface of the water reduces the amount of sunlight that penetrates, this helps to keep the water cooler, in turn discouraging algae.

Thin vegetation from the water surface as and when necessary during the summer growth period. You should aim to keep 50% of the surface clear.

  • Frogbi. Small white flowers; the plant sinks to the bottom in winter.
  • Water Soldier. Floating just below the surface, it also sinks in winter. It could become a nuisance in small ponds, needing to be reduced.


Marginal Plants

These plants are attractive, ornamental choices. Flowers and foliage soften the outlines of your pond. They also provide valuable shade at the pool margins helping to reduce algae which may otherwise multiply in the warm, shallow water.

In small ponds, I advise to plant separately in pond plant baskets. These can be placed on the differing levels of your pond affording them the correct height and depth of water. Re-pot when they become pot-bound and overcrowded.

Marginal plants provide cover, breeding areas, shade and habitat for pond wildlife.

The following list of suitable plants and depths is taken from the RHS website.


Water 30cm deep or more.

  • Great water plantain White flowers. Height 60-90cm. It can become invasive in small ponds.
  • Water Hawthorn Fragrant white flowers. Water snails will feed on this plant and kill it. Height 5cm.

Water 15-30cm deep.

  • Lesser spearwort Bright yellow flowers. Height 70cms.
  • Arum Lily  One of my favourites, Arum lilies have a white spathe, golden spadix. Fragrant. They die back with the first frost. Height from 45cm.

Water 5-15cm

  • Sweet flag Foliage variegated creamy-white, greenish flowers, can be invasive. Height 60cm.
  • Flowering Rush Pretty pink flowers in summer, very much like miniature agapanthus. Height 60-75cm.
  • Bog Arum Glossy leaves, white flowers in summer, followed by spikes of red berries. Height 22cm.
  • Iris laevigata Rich blue flowers in June. Height 60-75cm.
  • Corkscrew Rush Stems twisted in a corkscrew manner. Height 45cm.
  • Lobelia cardinalis Purplish foliage with scarlet flowers. Protect from winter frost in most regions. Height 60-75cm.
  • Golden club  Shiny leaves and spikes of yellow flowers. Height 10-12.5cm.
  • Pickerel weed Glossy leaves, blue flowers in late summer. Height 45-60cm.
  • Iris ensata Japanese water iris. Blue, red or white flowers. Height 60-90cm.
  • Iris sibirica Blue flowers. Height 45cm.
  • Iris versicolor Violet-blue flowers. Height 60cm.
Best Plants For Garden Ponds Marginal Plants
Best Plants For Garden Ponds Marginal Plants

Water Lily

It is important to choose the correct variety of lilies suitable for the size and depth of the pond. There are dozens to consider and all look spectacular when in flower. They are easy to care for virtually looking after themselves. You may need to thin them out in small ponds.

Water 75cm-1.2m deep

  • Nymphaea alba. Prolific white flower
  • N Amabilis. Salmon pink tulip-shaped flowers.
  • N Attraction. Red flowers become deeper red as they age.
  • Water 45-75cm deep
  • N Gonnere. White, scented flowers.
  • N James Brydon. Prolific red flowers.
  • N Masaniello. Fragrant, pink flowers.
  • N Rose Arey. Star-shaped and fragrant, pink flowers.


Water 30-45cm deep

  • N Aurora. Cream buds that open to yellow and orange flowers.
  • N Charlene Strawn. Delicate lemon white flowers.
  • N Indiana. Pretty apricot-orange flowers.
  • N Pink Sensation. Speaks for itself.


Water 10-30cm deep

These waterlilies are ideal for a small container water feature. Even in a small space, you can enjoy beautiful water lilies. A container water garden will still attract native wildlife to your patio, balcony or tiny garden.

  • N odorata var minor. Fragrant, pink flowers.
  • N tetragona. White flowers.
  • N Pygmaea Helvola. Yellow flowers with marbled foliage.
  • N Pygmaea Rubra. Red flowers.


Whether you are planning to dig a huge pond or even a lake or you are looking for a small water feature for your outdoor space there are suitable plants that you can introduce. The above is not an exhaustive list of ideas. Take a trip to your garden centres or a specialist aquatic plant nursery, most will have a good selection in stock and you will enjoy choosing your new water plants.

Best Plants For Garden Ponds Container Water Garden
Container Water Garden

You can buy pond plants online from the following stockists.

I may earn a small commission when you shop through the following links.

Best Plants For Garden Ponds At Crocus


Shop For Marginal Plants 

A water garden is a beautiful addition to any garden, affording you and your family hours of pleasure. The sound of a bubble of water or running stream increases well-being and aids relaxation.

Children delight in learning about the wildlife attracted to the area.

Frogs, toads, newts, birds, and insects will all benefit. Introducing fish to your pond will increase the biodiversity too.

Best Plants For Garden Ponds Wildlife Pond
Best Plants For Garden Ponds

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you find it useful. Please share with family, friends and on social media. If you have any queries or anything to add please post in the comments box below. I always reply as soon as possible.

Thank you

Happy Gardening.

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