Water Garden Plants

Gardening in the ground and gardening in water share much in common.The idea of matching the right plant to the right place and designing for contrasting or complementary colors, textures and forms applies to water gardens, too.

And just as the selection of garden plants continues to increase, so does the selection of aquatic plants. We generally divide water plants into three categories:

  • Floating plants
  • Submersible plants
  • Bog plants

Most aquatic plants thrive in full sun – six hours or more a day. Aquatic plants are a must-have for any water garden. Not only are they beautiful, but they help maintain water quality and a good ecosystem.

Floating Plants

Floating plants are an asset because they bring beauty and shade to a pond. The general rule of thumb is if a pond gets a half day or more of sunlight, it needs about 50% of its surface shaded. That’s best achieved with plants floating on the surface of the water. These plants include:

  • Hardy water lilies
  • Water hyacinths
  • Water lettuce


Submersible Plants

Of all the water plants, the underwater plants are arguably the most important because they provide oxygen to the pond and help create habitat for fish. These plants include:

  • Anacharis
  • Hortwort


Bog plants

Often called marginal plants, bog plants live in the shallow depths of a pond – even in a consistently wet area of your yard. These plants, which prefer about four hours of sunlight a day, provide eye-catching beauty with gorgeous flowers. And they help keep the algae level down. These plants include:

  • Hardy Bog Plants
  • Iris
  • Thali
  • Arrowhead
  • Rushes
  • Cattails
  • Parrot’s Feather
  • Tropical Bog Plants
  • Papyrus
  • Umbrella Palm
  • And Much More

Papyrus and umbrella palm are great tropical plants for the water garden, with stems that shoot straight up out of the water and flower in late summer. Papyrus form large “puffs” of green, while the flowers of umbrella palm are small and inconspicuous sitting atop umbrella-like foliage. These plants provide color, but what really makes them stand out is their upright growth habit, which adds a vertical form to an otherwise flat environment. Papyrus can grow to be quite large, 6’ or more – although dwarf varieties that stay under 2’ are available. Umbrella palms grow to 3’ to 4’ tall.