Plants add lush foliage and colorful flowers to the pond. They also improve water quality and provide shelter for fish and other aquatic creatures. Tropical plants are ideal for ponds. Most do well in any climate, as long as you remove them from the water when the weather starts to cool off--long before the first frost.
Tropical Water Lilies (Nymphaea)
Tropical lilies take the center stage of a pond with their colorful blooms. The fragrant flowers rise above the water and stay open longer in the day than non-tropical lilies, with some even blooming through the night. Tropical lilies have serrated or jagged leaves, which differentiate them from other types of lilies.
Using generous amounts of heavy garden soil is the best way to grow tropical water lilies. Heavy clay soils will also work; however, it is necessary to add a little sand and fertilizer before planting. Maintain a depth between 6 and 18 inches when first transplanting tropical lilies. Once established, they can have depths from 12 to 30 inches, depending on the variety.
Tropical lilies cannot survive the hard frost; removing them from water before the first sign of frost is essential in their survival. Place the lilies inside a greenhouse or use hydroponic lamps during the winter. Take the lilies back outside once the pond water warms up. Varieties of tropical water lilies include Panama Pacific, Tina, August Koch, Director Moore and Shirley Byrne.
Elephant Ears (Taro)
Elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta), also known as taro, are native to swampy areas in tropical southeastern Asia. Grown as ornamental foliage plants and food crops, elephant ears grow in the uplands of China, Japan and the West Indies as well as in the wetlands of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands. They grow in zones 8 to 11, returning perennially in zones 8B and 9, while grown annually elsewhere. Elephant ears are almost evergreen in tropical climates.
Elephant ears make a bold statement next to a water garden or along a small stream. These wetlands plant will grow in water that is 12 inches deep. They seldom produce viable seeds; however, they will spread fast when not contained properly, giving them a weed-like characteristic. Planting in containers before submerging under water will help prevent the elephant ears from overspreading in your pond.
According to the Comox Valley Naturalists Society, horsetail is a primitive perennial plant that dates back 300 years. It grows in wet areas or in standing water. Horsetail has hollow, segmented stems that are dark green and ¼ to ½ inch thick.
Oftentimes, single stems appear in rows as they spread in rhizomes; however, they may also have several whorls of needle-like branches radiating from a single stem. Horsetails with single stems produce spores that appear cone-like.
Horsetails can be extremely invasive, especially when planted near water. Similar to elephant ears, careful planting is necessary in order to control spreading. Planting in pots before submerging in water helps prevent spreading.