Plants for ponds, often called garden pond plants or water plants, play a vital role in the development of a pond, both from aesthetic and a functional point of view. Most pond owners aim to create a natural looking water garden environment and plants are an excellent way to create a more organic look. Plant life has a way of transforming a dull landscape into a healthy, fresh atmosphere capable of housing beneficial animals and insects such as dragonflies. Most garden pond plants are most at home when set in the water itself. They not only help filter the water, but also provide beneficial nutrients, oxygen and shade to fish that may be living in the pond.
One of the largest benefits that garden pond plants have to offer is their natural biological filtration. Plants for ponds are able to absorb certain metals, phosphates, nitrates and ammonium from the water. In addition, plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen back into the air and water. Plant life in a pond also acts as natural competition to algae, using up nutrients from the water that algae would otherwise thrive on.
There are four main types of plant life you can use to create your perfect garden pond oasis. Each has a specific purpose and specific planting requirements to thrive in your pond ecosystem. Many pond owners aim to simulate a natural environment when choosing plants for water gardens and ponds. That means using complementary plants that look good together as well as using water plants that will benefit the quality and health of the pond. The four main types of pond plants are:
Oxygenating Pond Plants are exactly what you might expect them to be, they grow directly in your pond water and introduce oxygen into the water. At the same time, they clean your water by feeding on decaying organic material in your pond like leaves or fish waste. A high level of oxygen in the water is very beneficial for keeping algae levels under control. As well, in order for fish to thrive, a certain level of oxygen in the water must be maintained. This can be achieved by adding numerous oxygenating plants in addition to mechanical aeration devices like bubblers, fountains or waterfalls.
Floating water garden plants are an important part of a healthy pond because they help cover the water surface, providing much needed shade to the water below. There are a couple advantages to this. The first is shade helps keep the water from overheating which in turn protects your plants and fish. Shade also helps inhibit algae growth since algae thrives in direct sunlight. To read more, please see our page on floating pond plants.
Deep water plants, as the name implies, like to be placed in deeper water. Typically a deep water plant will grow to the surface of the water, giving the appearance of a floating plant that is anchored to the ground. The most common type of deep water plants are lilies.
When choosing plants for ponds, a good variety will almost always include marginal plants. Marginal plants are placed within the pond itself inside planting pots. Generally, the plant is placed in deep enough water such that the water only covers the pot by a couple inches. The bulk of the plant will then be out of the water in the air above. Like other water plants, marginal plants offer excellent natural filtration, while adding a very nice look to your pond. The only disadvantage to marginal plants is that some kind of shallow shelf is required in your pond. If you have a shelf in your pond, then great, but if you don't, you will need to either build one, or figure out a way to elevate the pots off the bottom. One thing to keep in mind when building shelves in your pond is shallow shelves are often the perfect place for predators like raccoons to stand and fish for your koi in the deeper waters adjacent to the shelf.
For more information on how to choose, plant and grow plants for ponds (also known as hydrophytes), please see our page entitled How to Water Garden. For more specific information on combining plants with koi and other fish, please see our page on Koi Pond Plants.
Looking to purchase plants for water gardens and ponds? Check back soon for our recommendations on where to buy.