Native plants for a pond

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Jump down to plant lists: • BorderMarginalSubmergent Floating

A pond, small or large, looks prettiest when plants border it, and wildlife prefers the protection they offer. A pond needs plants within it, too, of three kinds: marginal, submergent and floating. Add native pond plants to your garden shopping list, as they offer both beauty and resilience.

Border plants

These plants border your pond, from right beside it to farther out. Plant them where you’ll like them best, but don’t forget that their wildlife purpose is to provide cover—don’t space them too far apart or too far away from your pond.  

Marginal plants

Marginal (emergent) plants have their roots in shallow water, and their shoots are growing above the water. Plant them along the margin, where they’ll offer hiding and mating places, surfaces for eggs and critters to cling to, and visual appeal, as well. They’re also suitable for a bog garden.

Submergent plants

Submergent plants, also called oxygenators, live underwater. They’re important to aquatic species—fish, plants, tadpoles, and everything else — because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen just as terrestrial plants do. They help keep water clear and fresh.

Floating plants

Floating plants don’t anchor into the pond’s soil; they’re happy just to float around. They do what oxygenators do, but they aren’t as effective. Their most important role is to provide shade, which reduces the amount of sunlight striking the surface, thereby inhibiting algae growth.

Notes on plant selection

Selecting plants for your pond involves consideration of several factors, including the size of the pond, the depth of the water, the amount of sunlight, whether the plants will spend the winter in your basement, and more.

Below are lists of native plants suitable for a pond, sorted by type. The border plants listed are moisture-loving, so keep them well watered.

Aquatic plants need to be monitored. Some native water plants you may have heard of are listed by the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health for their aggressiveness, and are thus omitted from these lists. Take care not to use them: They’d require diligent oversight in your pond, and if they escape to a nearby waterway are a threat to the environment.  

A good way to keep marginal plants from overtaking your pond is to plant them in 1- to 5-gallon pots (3.8  to 10 l) in soil topped with gravel, then place the pot in the water.

For lots of information about building a pond that’s large, small, or even in a barrel, here’s an excellent site.

BORDER PLANTS - native

P = perennial;  G = grass;  S = shrub;  T = tree

Common nameTypeLatin name
Witherod ViburnumSViburnum cassinoides
WinterberrySIlex verticillata
Virginia BluebellsPMertensia virginica
TurtleheadPChelone spp.
Sweet PepperbushSClethra alnifolia
Swamp SunflowerPHelianthus augustifolius
Swamp MilkweedPAsclepias incarnata
SedgeGCarex spp.
Red MapleTAcer rubrum
Red-osier DogwoodSCornus sericea
New York IronweedPVernonia noveboracensis
New EnglandPAster novae-angliae
Joe-Pye WeedSEupatorium fistulosum
Cutleaf ConeflowerPRudbeckia laciniata
Cardinal FlowerPLobelia cardinalis
ButtonbushSCephelanthus occidentalis
BonesetPEupatorium perfoliatum
Blue Flag IrisPIris versicolor
BeebalmPMonarda didyma
ArrowwoodSViburnum dentatum
Allegheny Monkey FlowerPMimulus ringens

MARGINAL PLANTS - native

Common nameLatin name
Water PennywortHydrocotyle spp.
Variegated Sweet FlagAcorus calamus
Sweet FlagAcorus calamus
Swamp LilyCrinum americanum
SedgeCarex spp.
Scouringrush HorsetailEquisetum hyemale
Purple Pickerel WeedPontederia cordata
Lizard's TailSaururus cernuus
Golden ClubOrontium aquaticum
Dwarf Horsetail RushEquisetum scirpoides
Bog BeanMenyanthes trifoliata
Blue Flag IrisIris versicolor
BladderwortUtricularia spp.
ArrowheadViburnum dentatum
Arrow ArumPeltandra virginica

SUBMERGENT PLANTS - native

Common nameLatin name
Water MilfoilMyriophyllum spp.
Coon's TailCeratophyllum demersum
Carolina FanwortCabomba caroliniana
American Waterweed, Canadian WaterweedElodea canadensis
Blue WaterhyssopBacopa caroliniana

FLOATING PLANTS - native

Common nameLatin name
Water SpriteCeratopteris thalictroides
Water FernCeratopteris richardii
Floating HeartNymphoides aquatica
DuckweedLemna spp.
Azolla (Fairy Moss)Azolla caroliniana

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