Aquatic plants don't just enhance a pond or water garden. They also keep the ecosystem balanced and healthy. Choose from marginal plants that thrive in the moist soil around pond edges, plants that bob and float on top of the water and submerged plants that grow underwater.
Easy-to-grow aquatic forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) produces delicate, pale blue, pink or white flowers from June until frost. Hardy in zones 5 to 9, this species can be invasive if it escapes into public waterways or lakes. Check the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services plant database for information on plants that may be restricted or illegal in your area.
Dwarf cattail, or Typha minima, produces small brown catkins in the summer. The foliage is narrow and grass-like. Grow these attractive plants, which reach 36 inches tall, in moist soil around ponds and other water features.
Parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) has fine-cut, lime-green to bluish-green foliage that helps oxygenate the water and shelter fish. Hardy in zones 6 to 11, the plants take sun or shade. Since they can be invasive, use them only in containers, lined ponds and other water gardens; check to be sure they're legal to grow in your area.
Nymphaea 'Red Attraction'
Showy ‘Red Attraction’ is a hardy water lily with dark garnet-red to watermelon-red inner petals surrounded by lighter outer petals. Although it does best with at least 4 to 5 hours of sun a day, 'Red Attraction' tolerates some shade and fares better in the summer heat than many water lilies.
Wait until the temperature in your pond warms up to at least 75 degrees F before you add tropical mosaic plants (Ludwigia sedioides). The plants' diamond-shaped, red and green leaves float in clusters that look like the patterns of mosaic tiles. They help shade the water and control algae.
Nymphaea 'Laydekeri Fulgens'
‘Laydekeri Fulgens’ is one of the earliest-blooming water lilies. Its lightly-scented, burgundy flowers are backed by green leaves with purplish splotches. For best results, give these hardy pond plants full sun.
Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
Grow creeping Jenny as a groundcover, around and between the rocks in your pond or in submerged containers. It thrives in moist soil or water up to an inch deep, in full sun to part shade. The plants have chartreuse leaves, tiny yellow flowers and a trailing growth habit. Recommended for zones 3 to 10, it can be invasive but is easily managed by pulling. Never discard the plants in lakes or public waterways where they can spread.
Saururus cernuus is a perennial that grows 4 to 5 feet tall with spikes of white flowers that droop into an arching “lizard’s tail." The plants have heart-shaped leaves and a subtle orange-like fragrance. New plants are produced from rhizomes, stems that grow sideways under the water or under mud.
Exotic-looking lotus blossoms can overpower a small pond, so choose a variety that's right for your space. Lotus need water temperatures from 75 to 87 degrees and 5 to 6 hours of daily sun, but dislike humid climates. After the blooms fade, the seed heads dry, forming pockmarked holes in which the seeds rest.
Mentha aquatica, aquatic mint, has a minty-fresh fragrance and lots of lilac to lavender-pink flowers that attract butterflies and butterflies. It tolerates full sun to partial shade and is hardy in zones 5 to 11. Use aquatic mint in the moist soil around your pond or grow it in water up to 2 inches deep.
Invite hummingbirds to your pond with the violet-lavender flowers of purple pickerel (Pontederia cordata). This fast-growing plant blooms from spring to fall in sun to part shade. Also known as pickerel rush or pickerel weed, it grows in water about a foot deep.
Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) has spongy, floating foliage that may remind you of heads of looseleaf lettuce. The bright green, velvety leaves reproduce rapidly. Destroy any extras that you pull by leaving them on a sidewalk or driveway to perish in the sun— but before you grow water lettuce, make sure it's not restricted in your area.