While some gardeners love the clean lines of an empty pond, others realize the value that aquatic plants add to a pond. Pond plants are both beautiful and functional. They serve as a hiding place for fish, add water to the oxygen and inhibit the growth of slimy algae. While it's true that uncontrolled aquatic plants can quickly became a nuisance, with proper care, those same pond plants will enhance and benefit your pond.
Water Lily (Nymphaea)
Over 50 species of water lilies exist, and although they can vary widely in size and hardiness, they are all still easily recognizable by their beautiful, many-petaled flowers and round, green leaves. The flowers and leaves of the water lily either float directly on the surface of the water or protrude several inches above the water. The roots of the water lily are anchored in sediment at the bottom of the pond, often in pots. Most species of water lily are easy to grow (some are even considered invasive). That, along with the flower's showy beauty and pleasant fragrance, makes the water lily the perfect starter plant for your pond.
Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)
Water lettuce is a floating pond plant. Unlike water lilies, these plants truly float on the surface of the pond, the roots hanging lose in the water. Water lettuce is an annual and will die if the pond is exposed to cold conditions. Still, the rapid growth of the plant (which thrives in full sun conditions but will still grow, albeit more slowly, in the shade) and the shade it provides for wildlife makes wild lettuce a good choice for re-introduction to the pond each spring. Water lettuce also inhibits algae growth, which makes it a good choice as a starter plant.
Papyrus Reed (Cyperus papyrus)
Reeds are considered marginal pond plants, meaning they usually line the edges of ponds, creating a wonderful transition from landscape to waterscape. The papyrus reed can grow up to 6 feet tall, but it does come in a dwarf version which is much smaller (3 feet) and lighter green. The papyrus reed is very cold-hardy, which means you can plant it and forget about it. The umbrella variety of the papyrus reed is especially attractive and easy to grow.
In the wild, duckweed is considered an invasive or noxious weed even though it holds the distinction of being the smallest flowering plant in the world. Fast growing and incredibly strong, this floating pond plant will quickly overtake any other, desirable plants. Although this may not sound like a good starter plant for your pond, in reality it is the perfect plant if your pond has fish, especially Koi. Duckweed is a favorite food of Koi and they will gobble it up much more quickly than it can grow, leaving just enough of the plant to reproduce itself. Waterfowl also love the plant, as do frogs.