What plants should I put in my pond?

Newly created ponds are a fantastic habitat that is rare to find these days. In fact some species, such as mayflies, are usually only found in recent ponds. So unless you need the pond to look fully established straight away, why not wait a bit to see what naturally colonises? Freshwater species are amazingly fast at finding new ponds, so it shouldn't take long. This also means you avoid accidentally introducing damaging invasive pond plants to your garden.

If you decide you would like to add a few plants, then aim for a variety of different types from submerged and floating, to emergent and marginal. You'll want to create loads of structure and diversity in the pond for wildlife to hide and live in. The lists below are a good place to start.

Don't add topsoil into your pond as this will add nutrients and pollute the water. Children's play sand or washed gravel are good inert substrates to plant in. Try to plant around 2 to 3 plants per square metre as they will spread rapidly.


Usually submerged plants. Some native species can be fussy, especially if pond water quality is poor, but these are some of the most tolerant:
  • Curled pondweed (Potamogeton crispus)
  • Rigid hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
  • Water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)
  • Common water starwort (Callitriche stagnalis)
  • Spiked water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) - Do not accidentally use M. aquaricum, known as Parrot's feather, which is non-native and extremely invasive.

Floating plants

Plants whose leaves float on the surface, providing shade to the water below and reducing the growth of algae. Some plants may be rooted but others float freely. The leaves also act as platforms for viewing, courting or mating for a variety of insects.
  • Amphibious bistort (Polyginum amphibium)
  • Frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae)
  • Broad-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans) - Can take over in very small ponds.

Emergent plants

Plants with erect stems and leaves which emerge above the water's surface. These are important for dragonfly nymphs to crawl up before they become adult flying insects. Some of these can quickly take over a garden pond, so may need to be cut back.
  • Branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum)
  • Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)
  • Greater spearwort (Ranunculus lingua)
  • Greater pond sedge (Carex riparia)
  • Small sweet grass (Glyceria fluitans)

Marginal plants

Plants that need to grow at the shallow edges of the pond, extending out into the water. Some need to be permanently in a few centimetres of water, whilst others can tolerate periodic drying out.
  • Water forget-me-not (Myositis scorpioides)
  • Water mint (Mentha aquatica)
  • Water speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica)
  • Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
  • Lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula)

Marsh or bog plants

Wetland plants that grow near the water's edge. These can be beautiful and bring architectural interest to the pond. Different plants have different tolerances to drying out.
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
  • Pendulous sedge (Carex pendula)
  • Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris)
  • Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis)

Plants to avoid in your pond

Posted in: Ponds on 18 June 2015

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