Beautiful, clean white sand along the bottom and edges of your pond or aquarium has a definite aesthetic appeal, but it can create challenges when it comes to growing water plants. Many natural aquatic plants are used to the rich soil that often collects around ponds, streams, bogs and other waterways; sand doesn't provide the high level of nutrients and not all water plants will survive in it. There are some plants, both submerged and marginal, that will live in white sand.
Marginal water plants are those that grow around the edges of the water source, not actually submerged. Their roots can handle wet soil and some of them can also tolerate periods of dryness, as might occur during the peak of summer. Marginal plants add privacy, structure and interest and connect your pond with the rest of the landscaping, creating continuity as they grow along the edges and up the banks of the pond.
Ornamental grasses are ideal marginal plants, and several varieties thrive in the combination of sandy soil plus moist conditions. These include blue fescue (Festuca cinerea), which is a smaller clumping grass, growing to about 18 inches high and ranging in color from blue to bright green. It will grow in sun to partial shade and is evergreen to USDA zone 5.
Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster) is also popular; it gives height and a showy structure to the edges of a pond, growing up to 3 feet tall in arching clumps. Its foliage is bright green, turning yellow or orange in the fall, with flower spikes that last into winter.
Memorial rose (Rosa wichuraiana) is a small, semi-evergreen, creeping ground cover. It can tolerate drier soil but will bloom where the roots are in moist ground; it bears dainty white flowers and needs full sun.
Canadian pondweed (Elodea canadensis) is native to both North and South America. It grows submerged in the water of pond or aquarium and serves as an oxygenator. It will grow in sandy soil; it is such a vigorous grower that it can become invasive, so keep an eye on it to make sure it does not take up the space required by other plants. Canadian pondweed is a graceful plant; it grows up from creeping stems, and the vertical stems are narrow and arched, with small, rounded leaves that grow in sets of three on the stem.
Jungle val (Vallisneria americana) prefers sand or sandy soil and will grow prolifically in it, able to reach up to 6 feet high. Jungle val grows under the water and grows up in wavy, narrow blades and does well when planted in groups: place several clumps about 3 to 4 inches apart and they will fill the area. They are a bright, light green in color.