13 Water Garden Plants for Your Backyard Ponds

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Ponds are picture-perfect additions to the landscape of your backyard. When you get a pond installed, you are getting a scenic spot to relax at, right within the confines of your home. To further increase the beauty of these aquatic bodies you can add plants to them.

Water plants are easy to maintain and grow, besides being naturally captivating. Moreover, if your backyard pond has fishes or other aquatic creatures, the inclusion of water plants will transform it into a thriving ecosystem.

In selecting the right water plants for your pond, you should pay attention to the size as well as the special needs of a particular plant. To help you with all that, we have put together a list of 13 water garden plants to suit various requirements. First up though, is a quick look at the basic types of water plants you can get.

Types of Plants for Water Garden

water garden plants

Water plants can be either freshwater or saltwater depending on the aquatic medium they prefer.

Based on the depth at which the plants grow, they can be free-floating, deep floating, or rooted. Choose either type or get a mix of all three to make the pond healthy and viable. Aside from these, there are marginal plants as well that grow along the sides of a water body.

Having seen the types of water garden plants, let’s jump right to the plants themselves.

Best Water Garden Plants

1. Lotus

water garden plants

The iconic lotus flower is the ideal plant for your water garden. Reminding you of a tropical summer, this hydrophyte is tolerant to cold weather conditions as well.

Lotus flowers come in a variety of colors and contrast beautifully with the floating green leaves.

Sunlight Requirements: Bright sunlight

Soil and Water: Grows in water; heavy topsoil required in the water bed where the roots are fixed.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Lotus needs at least six hours of sunlight each day for adequate blooming.
  • When preparing the water bed for planting Lotus, make sure to not use soil too rich in organic matter as it might lead to the seeds rotting.
  • Instead of seeds, if you want, you can propagate this plant using tubers. Just ensure to keep the growth tips on the tubers pointing upwards while covering them with soil on all sides.
  • For faster growth, you can add fertilizers specific to aquatic plants to the soil.

2. Water Forget-Me-Not

water garden plants

Water forget-me-nots with their small, sky blue-colored flowers are the quintessential marginal plants to surround your backyard pond with.

As opposed to terrestrial forget-me-nots, which are biennial (lasting for two years), water forget-me-nots are perennial (lasting for a long time). Another plus is the non-invasive nature of the plant. This means that you won’t have to worry about it crowding out the other hydrophytes in your pond.

Sunlight Requirements: Full sunlight, which is not too bright

Soil and Water: Clay, or moist soil; shallow water

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Water forget-me-nots should be planted in the water around ten centimeters deep and not more than that.
  • If the flowers fade or falter in their growth, it helps to cut them back slightly. This restores appropriate flowering.
  • Need tips and recommendations for backyard garden plants? Read this guide.

3. Water Lily

water garden plants

Combining utility with beauty, water lilies are the perfect plants to complete your pond hydrophytes set. Their full-bloom in a water garden makes for a breathtaking view.

Water lilies come in two chief varieties: hardy and tropical. Hardy types suit colder climatic conditions, while the tropical variety can grow in warmer regions.

Sunlight Requirements: Full, bright sunlight

Soil and Water: Grows submerged in water; heavy topsoil or clay in the water bed is ideal

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Do not let water lily completely cover the surface of the pond as it will lead to low-light penetration inside the water. This will not only suffocate other members of the water body’s ecosystem but also cause the stunting of water lily growth.
  • When adding topsoil to the water bed, remember to not make it too rich in organic materials as they will result in the rotting of the plant.
  • Divide the plant once every three to four years. This will check unwanted growth.

4. Mosaic Water Plant

water garden plants

This plant has diamond-shaped leaves and grows in pretty circular patterns that look like a mosaic when it achieves full bloom. Its beautiful red and green leaves have a 3” diameter each. Over an entire season, the leaves will spread to cover around twenty-four inches of area.

Sunlight Requirements: Bright sunlight to partial shade

Soil and Water: Aquatic planting media are required; water should not be too alkaline (upper limit of pH should be 8)

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Mosaic roots can be placed directly on the surface of the water or planted in the soil filled with aquatic planting media and mixed with appropriate fertilizers.
  • Avoid using a potting mix or lightweight soils as they do not remain settled and will pollute the pond water.
  • For speedy and proper growth, add fertilizers to the water bed at regular intervals.
  • If the leaves show signs of browning or yellowing, cut them and discard them leaving only the undamaged leaves intact. They regrow in time on their own.
  • In colder climatic conditions, remove the plant before frost sets in and replant it when temperatures start to rise.

5. Japanese Iris

water garden plants

Among easy-to-grow plants for a water garden, the Japanese iris is a remarkable option. It is a perennially growing flower available in a wide variety of striking colors such as purple, pink, and blue.

Sunlight Requirements: Shady to moderately bright

Soil and Water: Heavy soil like red clay plus sand; acidic water

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Before planting the rhizomes, treat the soil with organic, nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
  • Since the plant prefers acidic water, it is best to add a couple of teaspoonfuls of vinegar to around four liters of water. This will ensure just the right pH for your Japanese irises.
  • The plant is resistant to attacks by pests of the traditional terrestrial bearded iris.
  • Divide the rhizome once every 3 to 4 years to avoid overcrowding.

Want to further improve your backyard? Consider building a DIY backyard oasis using this guide.

6. Water Lettuce

water garden plants

Water lettuce is found in slow-moving or stagnant water bodies. This makes it a great choice for those looking for water garden plants to grow in their backyard pond.

Although it is named lettuce due to its similar appearance to the popular vegetable, water lettuce is not used as food.

Sunlight Requirements: Moderate to bright sunlight

Soil and Water: Sandy moist soil; grows floating or partially submerged in water.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • The plant grows through vegetative propagation using the stolons. However, seeds might also be used for initial planting. They should be kept covered with sand and partially submerged in water.
  • Water lettuce is low-maintenance. Post plantation it requires minimal additional care. The only thing worth looking out for is invasive growth. If it appears to be getting over-crowded, trim and remove undesirable leaves.

7. Duckweed

water garden plants

If you have fish in your large backyard pond, you might want to give them a nutritious supply of food. In that case, duckweed is the perfect choice for you. Your fish will love to snack on these adorable looking tiny water garden plants.

Growing duckweed does not require a lot of hard work. As a bonus, it reduces your pond cleaning liabilities by constantly purifying the water.

Sunlight Requirements: Full sunlight

Soil and Water: It doesn’t require soil, as it floats on water.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Place the weed in water in several places. This provides a proper microclimate for growth.
  • Add organic hydroponic nutrients to the water for speedy growth.
  • Duckweed grows better in warmer temperatures.
  • Remember to cut back extra growth to avoid overcrowding of the plant.
  • Keep adding oxygen in regular intervals to ensure appropriate supply.

8. Vallisneria

water garden plants

Vallisneria is a freshwater plant that can be grown in a backyard pond with ease. For gardening beginners, this is a great plant to test the waters (literally).

Sunlight Requirements: Low to moderate sunlight

Soil and Water: Organic substrate rich soil; can grow in acidic or alkaline, fresh or brackish water.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • After planting in soil mixed with the substrate, Vallisneria does not require a lot of extra care.
  • Use sharp scissors to cut the leaves if necessary, as improperly cut leaves tend to rot and pollute the water.
  • This plant propagates through runners, which take root and grow into new plants.

9. Swamp Lily

water garden plants

With large showy flowers, this hydrophyte is a beautiful option for lovers of water garden plants. They are well-suited for growth along the edges of your backyard pond.

Sunlight Requirements: Bright or filtered sunlight

Soil and Water: Moist soil; bulbs should not sit in water.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Propagated through bulbs, it is important to not let the bulbs submerge in water but maintain them along the edges of the water body on moist, well-drained soil.
  • If the foliage appears shabby and overgrown, it can be trimmed at times to make it look tidy.

10. Cattail

water garden plants

Having brown velvety tails, these freely growing plants can be found on most standing bodies of water. Their addition to your pond can provide a haven for your aquatic animals besides giving your backyard a touch of the wild.

Sunlight Requirements: Bright sunlight

Soil and Water: Grow well in most soil and water conditions.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • The seeds need to be planted on the waterbed. A few seeds are sufficient for an average-sized pond as the plant grows aggressively.
  • To check expeditious growth, apply regular herbicides to the leaves and roots.

11. Water Snowflake

water garden plants

Tiny snowflake-like flowers give this plant its adorable name. The yellow varieties are known as floating hearts owing to the shape of their leaves. If you are looking for easy-to-grow water garden plants, you should consider this beauty.

Sunlight Requirements: Partial or full sunlight

Soil and Water: Sandy soil; one to two feet of standing water

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Water Snowflake must be planted in rich sandy soil and is easy to maintain thereafter.
  • Prevent exposure to cold by bringing it indoors before the first frost.

12. Cardinal Flower

water garden plants

Ideal for planting along the edges of your pond, the bright red flowers of this plant look mesmerizing when in full bloom, besides attracting birds to it.

Sunlight Requirements: Morning sun and afternoon shade

Soil and Water: Moist soil rich in organic matter; does not need water submersion.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Ensure proper moisture in the soil when you plant the seedlings.
  • Use compost to fertilize the plant.

13. Creeping Jenny

water garden plants

This glossy, evergreen plant grows well in the nooks and crevices between rocks around your garden pond. It has bright yellow flowers and small lime green leaves, oval in shape, making for pretty foliage.

Sunlight Requirements: Can grow well in bright sunlight as well as shade

Soil and Water: Compost mixed soil; does not need to be submerged in water.

Planting and Maintenance:

  • Plant the seeds at least 18 inches apart in moist soil, as these plants grow and spread rapidly.
  • To keep its growth in check, give it regular snips and trims.


Selecting plants for water garden will lead you to a host of options. This article lists 13 water garden plants to help refine your search.

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