Water features add interest to any garden. Whether your water garden is created in a half barrel or a large dug-out pond, there's just something soothing and placid about rippling water. Not all plants, however, are well-suited to water gardens. The best choices are aquatic plants and those that thrive in wet or damp soil.
Water lilies, formally Nymphaea odorata, are the first plants most people think of when someone mentions water gardens. This genus of around 70 species attaches its roots to the water garden's floor while its leaves and blossoms float on the water's surface. There are two distinct varieties of water lilies--hardy and tropical. Among other differences, hardy lilies bloom only during the day, whereas tropicals bloom night and day. Water lilies can be invasive in natural steams and ponds. The lily pads can form a sort of blanket atop the water, depriving fish and other plants of oxygen.
The Siberian iris, botanical name Iris sibirica, is a member of the Iris family that is particularly well-suited for planting in and around water gardens. The perennial plant has tall, reed-like leaves and compact, fan-shaped blossoms that appear in late spring to early summer. Siberian irises are cold hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness growing zones 3 to 9 and thrive in full sun. These plants can grow to be 24 to 36 inches tall and their tolerance of wet soil makes them a good choice for planting around water features. Siberian irises, like the more popular bearded irises, should be divided every three to four years. Popular varieties include 'Caesar's Brother,' which produces bluish purple flowers, and the white and yellow 'Butter and Sugar.'
Sometimes confused with the water lily, the lotus flower, or Nelumbo nucifera, is a completely different plant. This native of Asia is the national flower of both India and Vietnam. A common water-garden perennial, the lotus flower blooms in shades of white and pink. Like the water lily, the lotus' roots attach to the bottom of the pond while the leaves and blossoms float on the top of the water.
Water hyacinths are another aquatic perennial. This free-floating plant, native to South America, is one of the fastest-growing plants in existence. According to Texas A&M University Cooperative Extension, there are seven species of water hyacinths and blooms of all are pink or lavender in hue. Like water lilies, these plants can be invasive on open bodies of water, creating a blanket of leaves that deprive fish and other aquatic plants of oxygen.