What Kind of Plants Live in a Pond?

Overview

Aquatic plants that live in ponds and other wet environments can add beauty to a back yard with their attractive foliage and colorful flowers. Pond plants provide oxygen, which enables fish and other animals, such as aquatic insects and other small creatures, to live in your pond. They also provide shelter and food. In large bodies of water, aquatic plants help to reduce wave action, which can prevent erosion. But some aquatic plants have become invasive in estuaries and lakes, so it's wise to do a little research before you decide on the best type of pond plant to add to your water garden.

Species For Homes

If you are the owner of a small or large pond, certain plants can help to keep the water from growing algae and becoming stagnant. Beneficial pond plants provide food for fish and other animals that live in your pond. They also can help to keep the water clean. The list of aquatic plants that you can grow in your home pond is long. Many people like the appearance of floating plants such as the water hyacinth, lotus and water lily, all of which have attractive flowers.Water lettuce also has attractive foliage. Other pond plants include a type of morning glory, alligator weed, water spinach, sedges, papyrus and rushes, water iris and marsh marigold. Special nurseries carry pond plants and offer many choices that can be appropriate for your climate zone and pond size. You can create a small water garden by using a large pot with no drainage hole.

Care

Desirable pond plants such as the water hyacinth and water lily respond well to care that you give them during the winter. You'll need to get in the water and pinch off dead leaves and remove dead plants. If your plants are crowded, thin them. They make a suitable component for your compost pile. In cold climates, pond plants will be killed in the winter, so take a few out and pot them in a rich potting soil that you keep indoors and keep constantly moist. Special fertilizers are available for pond plants. Use only these, which you can purchase at your local nursery that sells pond plants, and avoid using nutrients such as fish emulsion. Apply pond plant fertilizers in the summer, when the daytime air temperature climbs above 75 degrees F. Keep your pond full of water and check the pH to make sure it remains between 6.8 and 7.4. If it drops below or rises above these measurements, consult your nursery for products you can add to either lower or raise your water's pH. The growth of algae is one of the most common maladies that ponds experience and it can present a challenge to the homeowner who wants to keep his pond clean and fresh. To get rid of algae, you'll need to either kill it or get rid of the source of its nutrition. If you set up a source of ultraviolet light over your pond, this can be effective in killing algae, as it cannot survive under that type of light. By using pumps and fountains in your pond to keep the water circulating, you can help to control mosquitoes. Certain fish eat mosquito larvae, so they would be a wise addition to consider, especially if you live in an area that has large mosquito populations.

Invasive Species

The first step in controlling invasives is to identify them. If you notice any plant that you did not introduce, search for its identity. Algae and duckweed are common and can both choke our your desirable plants and cause your pond to look unattractive. Be aware that certain native aquatic plants can be good for wildlife, so every strange plant you might see growing in your pond is not necessarily an undesirable invasive. If you have a small pond, you will be able to easily control invasive aquatics that might appear as weeds in your water garden. If you have a large pond or lake, they can present more of a challenge.

Controlling Invasives

After you have successfully identified a plant as invasive, there are several steps you can take to get rid of it. Hand pulling or weeding, is effective when you catch an invasion early and only a few plants exist. Keep in mind, however, that spores or seeds might remain in your pond, which can sprout and grow into more plants. So keep your eyes on your pond after an initial invasion and hand pull any future invasives that you find. Herbicides are sometimes used to control invasive aquatic plants. One class of aquatic plant herbicide is dipotassium salts of endothall, which is available in either a liquid or granular form. Copper sulfate is also called "blue stone," and is often used to control unwanted pond plants. If you use chemicals of any kind, follow label directions and be sure you follow any water use restrictions (see Resources).

Caution

Be aware that water hyacinth is toxic to dogs and cats, so if you have an adventuresome pet that likes to eat strange things, it's best not to plant this species where your pet can reach it.

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.

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