Pond Planting


Tucked into a garden corner or complete with waterfall and sophisticated biological filters, the garden pond provides a focal point for the entire garden. It reflects light upward into trees and plants around it and attracts birds and wildlife. Choose water plants and marginals to complete your pond's environment and make it an integral part of your landscape.


Water and shoreline plants connect the pond with its surroundings, produce a modest amount of oxygen and hold bottom soil in place. Pond plantings use nitrites that build up in water as food. They also give resident fish a place to hide from the neighborhood cats.


Water plants are submerged "oxygenator" plants like curly pond weed, anchored plants like water lilies or free-floating plants like water chestnut. Emergent plants like cattails and rushes root underwater but grow above the waterline. Marginal plants like cardinal flower and Siberian iris line the shores of wetlands; although they tolerate wetness, they prefer moist soil and often continue blooming during dry summers.


The well-planted pond contains a progression of types of plants with more marginal plants than any other type. King County, Washington, recommends waiting a year to landscape shorelines to find sunny and shady areas and test plants to see what works well. Try the same approach with your pond before deciding on expenditures for plants.

Go Native

Consider using native plants in and around your pond. There are water lilies and other popular choices that are natives in most areas and planting of non-native invasive plants like purple loosestrife threatens local landscapes as well as native vegetation. The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point recommends these hardy natives for pond shorelines: swamp milkweed, blue vervain, chokecherry, big bluestem, bergamot, black-eyed Susan, snowberry, big leaf aster, Pennsylvania sedge and columbine. Check with your local university extension or the database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to find natives for your area.


Avoid choosing willows and shrubs like bridal wreath that will hang over water. These plants not only produce litter in ponds, they also shade the pond, creating nitrites that rob the water of oxygen. Their organic litter contributes a boost of nitrogen to algae development.

Keywords: pond planting, wetland plants, water plants, shoreline landscaping

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.