Freshwater Plants in Kentucky

Kentucky's freshwater wetlands provide a transition from its deep water to its upland areas. They include marshes, sloughs, swamps and bottom lands. More than 80 percent of the Bluegrass State's original wetlands are gone, according to the Kentucky Division of Water. Those that remain are home to a variety of freshwater plants, including trees, flowering shrubs, ground covers, grasses and plants that live completely in the water.

Sweet Flag

Sweet flag (Acorus calamus) grows along the edges of Kentucky ponds and in other wet places throughout the stated. A fragrant perennial, it has grassy leaves up to 5 feet high. Its fleshy flowering stalk emerges from the water between June and August, bearing small yellow-green flowers. An erect single leaf rises behind the stalk. Sweet flag's underground root has been a candy ingredient. Bruising any part of the plants releases a sweet aroma, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC). Plant sweet flag in sun to partial shade and moist or wet acidic soil with a pH below 7.0.

American Water Plantain

American water plantain grows in the shallows of Kentucky's freshwater marshes, brackish ponds, streams and lakes. Its clumps of long-stalked green leaves around a flowering stem have small white or pink flowers between June and October. This plantain grows from submerged, edible bulb-like roots, says the LBJWC. Plant it in full sun and moist or wet soil.


Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a hummingbird-attracting annual of Kentucky's shady wetlands. A tall, densely leaved plant with semi-transparent stems, it has hanging, red-splotched yellow-orange flowers that bloom between June and October. Jewelweed often grows in large colonies. Butterflies and bees, as well as hummingbirds feed on its nectar, says the LBJWC. However, the berries that follow the flowers may be toxic to humans if ingested. Its stems' juices are fungicidal. Plant jewelweed in a shady spot with moist or wet sand, loam or clay.

American White Waterlily

Across the United States, American white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) is a floating plant of Kentucky's freshwater ponds, lakes and slowly running streams. Its nearly round leaves, a deep trough through their centers, have purple or reddish undersides and bright green surfaces. The leaves float just underneath or on the water's surface. Each of the lily's stems has a single showy white or pale pink flower with multiple rows of pointed petals. Blooms also have up to 70 stamens. The fragrant flowers are usually open between early morning and noon, according to the LBJ WC. Use them in water gardens, where they will grow in any shallow water or pond bottom and full sun to shade.

Keywords: Kentucky water plants, KY aquatic plants, water gardening, water lilies

About this Author

A freelance writer, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961 and draws on her travel experiences to provide articles for such websites as Chincoteague Island Vacations and Berlin Dude. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona.