Selecting & Adding Pond Plants


Pond Plants Add Beauty, and Fragrance to the Water Garden

All pond plants, like those on land, undergo photosynthesis during daylight hours which involves combining the chemical compounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) to produce carbohydrates and oxygen (O2). Any fish pond environment needs abundant oxygen since this is required for your fish to be able to breathe and is also needed by the beneficial bacteria in the pond to convert ammonia to nitrate during the nitrogen cycle. In addition to functioning as a oxygenaters for fish and bacteria, pond plants also provide the last but vital step in the nitrogen cycle by consuming nitrates and competing with and controlling algae growth.

Pond plants provide cover for fish from the sun and predators as well hiding places for newly hatched fry. They also provide a snack for your koi to supplement what you feed them.

Finally the most obvious benefit of pond plants is the natural beauty and fragrance that they add to water garden. Flowering pond plants, such as water lilies  and lotus, are among the most beautiful  and unique  creations that can found in gardens.

Below are the five major types of pond plants that I stock in my ponds:

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Submerged Pond Plants

This class of pond plants are very productive due to the fact that they provide oxygen, remove excess nitrates from the water, reduce algae by competing for nutrients and serve as food and hiding places for fish. There are a variety of pond plants that can be used for this purpose. I have use Anacharis in my ponds as the submerged plant. My current pond is roughly 40 ft by 20 ft.(800 sq ft) I originally planted 25 bunches ($1 to $2 per bunch) of these plants embedding the roots into the rocks on the bottom of the pond. This is less than the amounts that are normally recommended for a pond of this size but the plants have now spread across the pond. I have had no problems with koi either overeating or uprooting these plants. There has been virtually no maintenance involved with these pond plants.


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Fire Opal Water Lily


Water Lilies

These are magnificent pond plants with rich colors and delicate blossums. There are two types of water lilies – Tropical and Hardy. Living in a cold weather location I have only planted hardy water lilies. I could also plant Tropical Water Lilies and remove them from the pond during the winter. While the tropical lilies are even more beautiful then their hardy siblings and some even bloom at night, I decided it is not worth the extra work involved in removing and replanting these lilies .  If we ever live in a warm weather location, I will definitely plant tropical lilies. In the current pond, I planted 5 water lilies of different colors in pots ($25-$35 ea.) with the soil covered with rock. These water lilies have grown and spread and one has even magically managed to escape the pot and root itself into the rocks at the bottom of the pond. Each year the lilies can be divided creating more plants for the pond. In the height of summer I like the water lilies to cover at least 50% of the surface area of the pond. There is some work involved in maintaining these plants. I fertilize them three times (spring, and mid and late summer) a year pushing tabs that can be purchased at any online store that sells pond supplies. In the fall I have to trim them back and move them into deeper water that is below the freeze line. In the spring I move them back into water that is 1 to 2 feet deep. The trimming back in the fall involves the biggest effort but in total I spend a couple of hours per year maintaining these plants and it is well worth it. In addition to their beauty, the water lily pads add cover for the koi and provide a nice platform for the frogs to hang out on.


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"First Lady" Water Lotus



The water lotus is a larger cousin of the water lily and is sure to compete with it for attention in any water garden. Similar to the lily, lotus tubers are simply planted in pots the are filled with soil and placed in water that is 1 to 2 feet deep.  I place river rocks or gravel on top to protect the plant from the fish and to hold the soil in the pot.  Like most pond plants, the lotus comes in a variety of colors and sizes ranging from 18 inches to 5 feet in height. A large lotus can look quite out of place in a small pond so dwarf varieties are recommended for ponds with limited surface area.  The blooms of this regal plant can be up to a foot wide and common colors include white, red, pink, yellow, cream and blue. Lotus are perennial plants and will come back year after year, spreading throughout the pond. In most locations in North America, they will begin blooming in early June and continue through out the summer months. Like the Water Lily I fertilize them 3 times. When the weather turns cooler they will die back and are winterized in the same manner as the water lily.


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Violet Hyacinth


Floating Pond Plants

These pond plants feed on nutrients in the water, multiply rapidly when introduced to a pond and help control algae. They also provide shade and cover for fish. I use Water Hyacinths for this purpose. I usually add 5 of these plants after Memorial Day ($2 -$3 ea.). By Labor Day they have reproduced and there are close to 100 Hyacinths in the pond. These plants also bloom with a nice purple flower. Again there was no problem with the koi. The biggest issue with the Hyacinths is that they have to be removed from pond and disposed of in the fall otherwise they will die in the winter and pollute the pond. This is a fair amount of unpleasant work that takes me 4 to 5 hours some of it spent in cold water.


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Canna - Bengal


Bog Plants

These pond plants are basically ornamental in nature and add color and shape to the backyard pond. I plant several types of bog plants: rushes, iris and cannas.The rushes are planted in groupings on the edge of the pond. I have to cut them back in winter and occasionally thin them out to keep them from extending to far into the pond. They grow back every spring. The iris are in pots and kept in shallow water. They produce a beautiful flower in the spring and are available in a variety of colors. In the fall I just move them into deeper water so they survive the winter. The Cannas are kept in pots in shallow water and produces a gorgeous orange bloom during the summer. In the fall I remove it from the pond to keep in the house like any other indoor plant. I put it back in the pond in the late spring.

How Many Pond Plants Should be Stocked in a New Water Garden?

A common rule of thumb is that for each 10 square feet of surface area consider adding:

  • 2 bunches of oxygenating pond plants (submerged plants)
  • 1 bog plant
  • 1/2 large water lily (1 lily for 20 sq ft)

    This is only a rough guide and can be varied to fit different circumstances.

    Wait a few days and starting adding Pond Fish.

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