Native plants for a pond

Jump down to plant lists: • BorderMarginalSubmergent Floating

A pond, small or large, looks best when beautiful plants border it. Space your plants where they look prettiest, from right at the pond’s edge to farther away, but not too far apart—don’t forget that their wildlife purpose is to provide cover. Although border plants don’t sit in the water, they’re moisture-loving, so keep them well-watered.

Your pond also needs some plants growing in the water for eye appeal, as well as food, mating, and cover for aquatic wildlife. There are three categories of water plants: marginal, submergent, and floating.

Marginal plants for a pond

Marginal (emergent) plants grow their roots in shallow water, and their shoots go above the water. Plant them along the pond margin, where they’ll offer hiding and mating places and surfaces for eggs and critters to cling to. A good way to keep these plants from overtaking your pond is to plant them in 1- to 5-gallon pots (3.8–10L) in soil topped with gravel. Marginals are also suitable for a bog garden.

Submergent plants for a pond

Submergent plants, also called oxygenators, live entirely underwater. They’re important to aquatic species—fish, tadpoles, and everything else—because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen like terrestrial plants. As a result, they help keep the water clear and fresh.

Floating plants for a pond

Floating plants don’t anchor into the pond’s soil; they’re happy 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 pond’s size, water depth, 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.

Monitor your plants

Aquatic plants need to be monitored. Some plants, in particular. The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health has a list of highly invasive pond plants. You should avoid using them—they’d require diligent oversight, and if they escape to a nearby waterway would be a threat to the environment.

Here’s an excellent site about building a pond of any size, even in a barrel. 

Border plants

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

Marginal plants

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

Submergent plants

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

Floating plants

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

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