Water Features & Landscaping


Landscaping using water features like ponds, fountains and waterfalls creates a whole new kinetic layer to your design. You can create water features in nearly any size suited to your garden or yard. Having water as part of the landscape makes your environment feel serene, and the sound of a keynote feature like a waterfall helps mask any city sounds nearby.


Water features appeared heavily in Roman gardens such as Ptolemy's garden in Alexandria. The Moores in Spain likewise used ponds as landscape features, as did Buddhist temple gardens in Japan. In Persia, melted snow water became part of landscape design as early as 800 B.C. The water had a practical application for irrigation, but became cleverly intertwined into the vegetation through the use of ponds and feeding fountains, like the garden at Pasargade written about in the Book of Kings. Water features were not unknown in the New World either. Science Daily reports that in 1999 archaeologists uncovered a fountain water feature from Mexico's classic period (250 to 600 A.D.).


Water features come in a variety of forms. An example of an easy water feature is a bird bath placed on a patio with container landscaping. A more complex possibility is using a hand pump in combination with a commercial aquarium pump to keep water moving. Alternatively, use three successively smaller bowls with a pump, one beneath the other with a hose that directs the water from the bottom bowl back to the top. The experienced do-it-yourselfer might choose a water feature like a pond, stream or a waterfall kit. This is a bigger operation, and much more labor intensive. Sometimes it's best to hire a professional for large water feature projects because they'll know about potential snags.


Planning complex water features requires time and know-how. Check local zoning regulations and acquire any necessary permits before you begin or hire someone. Depending on planned vegetation, the landscaping area with a water feature should offer both sun and shade. This provides comfort for plants, animals and people who want to sit and enjoy the garden space. Another consideration before adding a water feature to your landscape is maintenance. Ponds, for example, require regular filtration and cleaning to avoid algae as well as removal of the pump in winter.

Water Plants

Water features allow you to add various types of water plants to your landscape design. Some of this vegetation floats on the surface, offering the benefit of filtering the water. Examples include water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). Other water plants like hornwort (Ceratophyllum) survive beneath the surface of the pond or stream and oxygenate the water, while bog plants like cattail (Typha spp.) and marsh marigold survive effectively both above and under water. Finally, deep water plants live in water down to depths of 10 inches, with water lily being the most commonly used.


Well-planned water features offer water and habitat space to wildlife. Once ponds naturalize, for example, they attract birds, butterflies, bunnies, frogs, ducks and dragonflies. Some return year after year, like migrating geese and mallard ducks, so you can look forward to some company in the spring.

Keywords: water features landscaping, landscaping ponds waterfalls, garden streams birdbaths, healing gardens, gardening history

About this Author

Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.