The Best Plants for a Water Garden

Water gardens or bog gardens are fun ways to change things up in the landscape. Whether you are digging a pond or using a barrel, or just going to work with a natural swampy spot in the yard, knowing the right plants that can take standing water can help you choose ones that should perform to your expectations.

Alligator Bonnet

Alligator bonnet, or Nymphaea odorata, is from the Nymphaeaceae, or water lily, family. It is a perennial. Flowers are 4 to 9 inches wide with pure white petals, and they bloom all through summer. Leaves are 4 to 5 inches wide, and the entire plant can spread 4 to 6 feet. Flowers float on top of the water. The plant requires full sun and needs to be under 3 inches to 6 feet of water. To propagate alligator bonnet you would divide the rhizome.

Water Hyacinth

Water hyacinth, or Eichhornia crassipes, is part of the Pontederiaceae, or pickerel weed, family. There are 5 to 20 purple blue flowers that come out from a rosette center with spoon-shaped leaves. Roots can hang 1 foot or longer. Water hyacinth requires full sun and can either float on top of the water or be rooted in mud. Propagate via offshoots.

Water Lettuce

Water lettuce, or Pistia stratiotes, is from the Araceae, or arum, family. It has ruffed pale green leaves with white, black or purple roots hanging down a foot or more from the surface. Water lettuce is velvety to the touch. It requires full sun or partial sunlight, normally floats on the water's surface, and can be propagated via seed or growing stolons.


Horsetail, or Equisetum hyemale, is from the Equisetaceae, or horsetail, family. It is an evergreen perennial. It gets 3 feet tall with small leaves and brown cone strobilus. There are 25 species to choose from. The plant requires full or filtered sun and is better suited for bogs than water gardens. Propagate via dividing clumps.

Swamp Mallow

Swamp mallow, or Hibiscus moscheutos, is from the Malvaceae, or mallow, family. It is a perennial. It will get 7 feet tall with 2- to 3-inch-wide leaves that get 6 to 8 inches long. Flowers are 6 inches wide in white or pink. It will die in the winter and have a spring resprouting. Swamp mallow likes good moist soil, full sun and regular water. It is better suited for bog gardening. Propagate via seeds or by dividing the roots.

Keywords: water garden, bog garden, water plants

About this Author

Tina Samuels has been a full-time freelance writer for more than 10 years, concentrating on health and gardening topics, and a writer for 20 years. She has written for "Arthritis Today," "Alabama Living," and "Mature Years," as well as online content. She has one book, “A Georgia Native Plant Guide,” offered through Mercer University; others are in development.