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How to Add Aquatic Plants to Your Pond
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How to Add Aquatic Plants to Your Pond

Having pond plants is essential for your pond's ecosystem. In addition to being decorative, they help keep the water clear. Aquatic plants help absorb nutrients in the water that feed algae blooms and cause other water quality issues. How do you add aquatic plants to your pond?

Beware of Invasive Species

Make sure you don't add any invasive species of aquatic plants to your pond. Instead of searching for plants in neighboring ponds, creeks, and lakes, go to a nursery and make sure you get the right kind of plants. Invasive species are dangerous to native plants and spread quickly. If you decide to get rid of an aquatic plant, compost it instead of releasing it into a local water source.  

The Three Types of Pond Plants


Free-floating plants have no roots anchored in the soil. They absorb all of their nutrients directly through the water. Floating plants look beautiful in a pond, helping it look natural. These plants provide shade and shelter to pond life from predators above. The shade helps keep the pond water cooler and can prevent algae from blooming, as the floating plants take up the surface area that the algae need to absorb sunlight. 

Popular floating plants: water hyacinth, water lettuce, and Salvinia. 

Tip: Some floating plants are illegal because they're so invasive and quickly take over waterways. 

Submerged Plants

A submerged plant grows entirely underwater. They root into the bottom of the pond and tend to be more delicate than other plants. Submerged plants are great at filtration and help to oxygenate the water. They also provide places for fish and other pond life to hide at the bottom of the pond to escape predators.

Popular submerged plants: Vallisneria, water willow, hornwort, mermaid weed, and water snowball.

Emergent and Marginal Plants

Emergent (also called marginal plants) are rooted in the pond and bloom out of the water. They are typically planted at the edge of ponds and have pretty flowers and leaves. When you think of "pond plants," emergents are often what comes to mind; they filter and oxygenate the water. Emergent plants are essential for baby fish hiding and frogs laying eggs. 

Popular emergent plants: water lily, mosaic, iris, pickerelweed, arrowhead, and cattail.  

How to Add Aquatic Plants

Floating plants are easy to add to a pond because they have no root system and can float on the surface. Submerged, emergent, and marginal plants require a bit more care to make sure they root correctly. Adding all three types of plants helps the pond to feel organic, blending in with nature. 

Emergent and marginal plants do great on plant shelves, so they can grow out of the water to receive the sunlight they need. These plants should be placed on a plant shelf so just the tip of the plant extends past the water's surface. 

Submerged plants can be placed at the bottom of the pond. They can sprout a little bit out of the water but, for the most part, enjoy being fully submerged. Place your submerged plants about 12 inches below the surface of the water 

Tip: Plant shorter plants in front of taller plants and group plants together, mirroring how plants naturally grow in the wild.  

Soil and Containers

Rooted aquatic plants need to be planted in a soil mixture that is part regular soil and part gravel. Aquatic plants need less soil than a normal plant would, so the mixture can have more gravel than soil. The top of the soil should be covered with gravel or rocks to secure the plant. 

It's a good idea to use lightweight plastic containers (underwater plant baskets) to plant emergent aquatic plants. Submerged plants can be planted in plant bags or plastic containers, and they can even be planted together. Make sure your plants are not overcrowded and have enough space to grow in their containers. Containers make winterization easier as you can conveniently move and adjust plant placement throughout the seasons. 

Aquatic plants are an important part of water gardening and are easy to add to your pond. They help make the pond look more natural while also maintaining water quality and water clarity. Pond plants absorb excess nutrients in the water and add oxygen. Floating plants give the pond shade and help fish and other pond critters hide from predators outside of the pond. Plants are functional decor for the pond and help balance the pond's natural ecosystem.



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