Backyard ponds vary as much as any part of the landscape. Water plants are as rich in diversity as their solid ground counterparts. Homeowners who incorporate a mix of plant types in their pond, increase the health of the pond and decrease the amount of maintenance they have to perform on the pond to keep the water clear. As with any body of water, homeowners should take basic precautions and follow any laws or ordinances to keep small children and pets safe around the pond.
Most people do not have a natural pond in their backyard, however, some homeowners elect to add a pond to their landscape. Major home improvement stores and online suppliers sell pond liners, filters and other equipment to create a pond. Specialty garden centers sell plants for artificially created or natural ponds.
The pond's shape, depth and geographic location influence the type of plants that will work best in the pond. The pond needs certain types of plants to stay healthy, but gardeners make choices within those types to tailor the look of their aquatic landscape.
Backyard ponds give children and adults a chance to observe an aquatic ecosystem up close. Water plants and ponds help to provide food for wildlife, as well as places for wildlife to live, breed and hide from predators.
Water plants that live below the surface of the water increase the oxygen level in the pond, which increases the overall health of the pond. Floating plants work to keep the water clear by limiting the amount of sunlight algae receives. Floating plants provide a landscape that changes each time the water moves.
The Texas Agrilife Extension Service describes four groups of water plants: Algae, floating plants, submerged plants and emergent plants. Algae are very primitive plants ranging in size from microscopic plankton to very large plants.
Algae are a natural part of the pond, but few pond owners seek to add algae. Floating plants float on or just below the surface. Submerged plants reside primarily below the surface and anchor their roots to the bottom. They have flaccid stems that make it difficult for the tops of the plants to rise above the surface. Emergent plants, also called marginals, root themselves near the pond's shoreline with portions of their stems rising above the water.
The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service suggests using a mix of submerged, emergent and floating water plants in your backyard pond. Submerged plants include Eel grass (Vallisneria americana) and Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana).
Common emergent plants include cattails (Typha spp.) that usually grow in dense colonies and help to prevent erosion along the margins. Arrowhead (Sagittaria spp.), an emergent perennial with triangular leaves. Duckweed (Lemna minor) and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), floating plants that provide food for waterfowl and support insects. Under some conditions, floating plants create problems for pond owners by covering the entire surface. Covering the pond blocks out sunlight, reduces oxygen levels and prohibits movement on the pond.
Naturally occurring ponds may dry up during times of drought as the water table rises and falls. Consult your local ordinances if you choose to create an artificial means to trap the water.
Use a rigid pond liner, a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) liner or concrete to add a pond to your backyard. You construct concrete ponds in a similar manner as liner ponds, however, Texas Cooperative Extension program notes that a "poorly constructed pond will cost more to maintain, repair or replace than it did to install." Preformed liners work best for smaller ponds. Use free formed liners for large areas and to give your pond a personalized shape.