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Types of Plants Found in a Pond Habitat

water lily image by Darren Nickerson from

Bringing an enchanting new dimension to your garden could be as simple as adding a pond or other water feature. Water's reflective surface will multiply the effect of the pond habitat plants above and around it. The four different classes of pond plants have different functions, from cleansing the water to sheltering and feeding aquatic creatures. Properly balancing these plants will result in a healthy pond and a refreshing landscape retreat.

Deep Water Plants

Deep water plants tolerate more than 10 inches of water over their crowns, according to the University of Iowa Extension. Bringing colorful blooms to a pondscape, lotus and waterlilies are two of the most familiar. Their large, flat leaves shade fish. Quick removal of their dead flowers and leaves discourages algae growth. American white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) has vivid green, deeply cut, 10-inch leaves with red or purple undersides. Its sweetly scented, white flowers appear between March and October, opening from early in the morning until midday.

Shallow Marginal Plants

Marginal, or bog, plants tolerate crowns submerged up to 3 inches deep. Many add colorful flowers or height to a pond’s edge. They grow directly in the ground around natural ponds, or in containers on the underwater shelves of artificial ones. They provide shelter from drinking or hunting wildlife. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), up to 6 feet high, has dense, green leaves and upright spikes of brilliant red, May-to-October flowers. American water plantain’s (Alisma subcordata) tall, thin stalks bear airy, white or pink flowers above a base of flat, broad green leaves. It blooms from June to October, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.


Submerged close to the pond’s surface, oxygenators, prevent stagnation by renewing the water’s oxygen. They also filter out algae-feeding nutrients. These plants grow from unrooted cuttings floating free in the water, or in underwater containers plants, according to the University of Iowa Extension. Once established, they provide fish with continuing food and shelter. Common waterweed (Elodea) retains its dark green color even in winter. Coontail or hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum) has up to 15-foot branches. Small flowers grow from the bases of its finely divided leaves.

Floating Plants

Floating plants grow directly on the pond’s surface, absorbing their nutrients from the water. In the process, they also remove the algae-sustaining nitrogen. Mosquito-deterring duckweed (Lemna minor) quickly forms a surface barrier that suffocates the insects’ larvae. Water fern (Azolla filiculoides) has a similar effect, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Its foliage, green in shade and rosy-purple in sun, becomes purple in autumn. Water lettuce (Pistia stratiodes) has small, white April flowers rising on leafless stalks above dense clumps of reddish-green leaves.

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