Pond plants not only look good and provide habitat for insects and wildlife. They also help oxygenate the water and absorb nutrients from the water to help keep it healthy.
Plants are essential for a healthy pond and a good balance between plant species helps manage water quality, nutrients, shade and oxygen levels.
A pond wouldn’t be much good without them!
Which is why we recommend every pond owner give a lot of thought to what water plants they use. Especially in smaller ponds.
The benefits of plants within a pond
Plant choice is just as important as fish choice. That may be a controversial viewpoint, but it’s true.
Your choice of pond plants can have a huge impact on the look and health of your pond.
Pond plants can:
Oxygenate water: The process of photosynthesis produces essential oxygen, which, when released into the water, can keep your fish healthy.
Filter nutrients and pond water: Plants will absorb excess nutrients from pond water that helps reduce algae, keep the pond water clear and help maintain water quality fish need.
Help achieve pond balance: Ponds are a fine natural balance that will maintain itself over time. The properties of plants help maintain water pH, oxygen levels, provide shade and a lot more.
Provide a natural habitat: Ponds are about much more than just the fish. They provide essential habitat for insects, birds and other life too.
Provide aesthetic appeal: Last, but definitely not least, pond plants provide a much richer vista than a pond alone. They can add colour, depth and texture and be the one thing that makes your pond stand out.
Here are 10 suggestions for water plants for small ponds. Each delivers the colour, ease of use and helpful properties we look for.
1. Water Lilies (Nuphar and Nymphaea spp.)
You have to be careful with water lilies in small ponds as they can block light, but they look beautiful and provide excellent habitat.
They are also easy to care for and to plant. Set them in a pot and drop to the bottom of the pond, the water lily will take care of the rest.
2. Dwarf Water Lily (Nymphaea leibergii)
If your small pond is a little too small for standard water lilies, consider the dwarf water lily.
It has a very similar flower and beneficial properties but on a smaller scale. Ideal in between 1-18” of water, the lily is smaller, so won’t take up as much space or block as much light.
3. Dwarf Papyrus (Cyperus isocladus)
Dwarf papyrus are simple green plants that grow tall to add depth to your planting. They are easy to grow and largely take care of themselves so offer a lot of benefit to a pond.
Planting dwarf papyrus alongside other plants offers the chance to add multiple dimensions to a display. They can take partial shade or full sun so are flexible too.
4. Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
Water hyacinth is a very popular plant and for good reason. It’s a delicate flower that grows small and provides small leaves and a lovely purple and white flower.
They are easy to grow and self-propagate, which means you’ll need to manage them. Otherwise, they are very easy to grow.
5. Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
Sweet flag is a grass that grows on the edge of a pond. It grows in clumps, so can be easily controlled and works well at creating a natural border.
The grass also comes as a dwarf variety, which could work for even the smallest pond.
6. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Lovers of colour should try the cardinal flower. It’s a rich red plant that attracts insects like a magnet. It’s an excellent attractant for bees and hummingbirds and can grow in even the smallest pond.
They plan on the edge an inch or two below the waterline. They can grow up to 4 feet in height but can easily be controlled to fit within a scheme.
7. Parrots Feather (Myriophyllum Brasiliense)
Parrots feather is a nice name for a nice plant. It looks a little like a green toilet brush, with a rounded look and bristly appearance.
The combination of green leaves and red stem gives this plant a unique look that could combine well with other plants in small ponds. It can cope with full sun to part shade so is flexible too.
8. Sweetflag (Acorus gramineus variegatus)
Sweetflag is a flexible grass that works well for small ponds. It has a nice green and white blade that offers light relief for more colourful arrangements.
The grass can cope with a wide range of growing conditions and water depths so could work well in just about any pond configuration you could think of.
9. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
Hornwort can float freely in a pond but we recommend planting them in smaller ponds to keep control. They have a delicate brush-like appearance that adds colour and character.
Hornwort is also an excellent oxygenator, so if you’re looking to increase levels in your pond, this is an excellent choice.
10. Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica)
Our final suggestion for a small pond plant is the yerba mansa. It’s a small, white-flowered plant that maintains a modest size.
The white flower contrasts nicely with many of the others in this list and can provide that calming middle ground within a pond. It flowers all summer long too, which is a bonus!