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Don’t be a stick-in-the-mud about pond plants

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Pond hobbyists, and even a fair number of professional pond builders, regularly turn to the same handful of bog/marginal pond plants: taro, papyrus, arrowhead, cat tail, umbrella plant, and pickerel. There’s nothing wrong with these old “tried and true” plants; they’re beautiful, they’re reliable, they’re easy to find. But due to overuse, they’re also boring. As a change of pace, how about “thinking outside the bog?”

Most any landscape plant that includes the phrase keep soil evenly moist or water frequently on the ID tag will typically do quite well in a pond. While some landscape plants will survive anywhere in a pond, others prefer the flowing water of a waterfall, stream, or moving (up-flow or flow-through) bog, where the plant’s roots are regularly bathed with nutrient-rich, highly oxygenated water. Regardless of their propensity to like “wet feet,” landscape plants need to be removed from their pots before placement in a pond, so there is no danger of the area around the roots going anaerobic (without oxygen).

One example that works surprisingly well is, of all things, that wilts-in-the-sun annual, impatiens. Not only do impatiens survive being planted  directly in a waterfall, they thrive. The impatiens growing in the waterfall in this photo had to be trimmed regularly to control spread. These impatiens even re-seeded and returned each spring (the smaller impatiens are “free range”). Also growing in this waterfall are a button fern (in the lower center), an asparagus fern (behind the mermaid), and a rather large, obviously happy, schefflera growing in the biofalls. The traditionally indoor-only schefflera had to be covered in winter but still managed to quadruple in size in its watery home.

In this photo, landscape plants have been included in an indoor fern wall that was incorporated into a sunroom. In addition to maidenhair fern, a tradition in vertical, drippy water features, this particular wall includes purple heart, asparagus fern, and creeping Jenny.

Here are several other suggestions: chenille plant, meadowsweet (astilbe), pussy willow, liriope, winged monkey flower, obedient plant, blue woodruff, sweet potato (blackleaf and regular), and even pansies. In addition, and not surprisingly, most ferns will live with their roots planted directly in the water. The idea of using ferns in a pond may sound obvious, but many types of fern are only available at nurseries, not at pond stores or from online pond suppliers. Ferns that do well, even though they are considered landscape plants, include the cute-as-a-button button fern, the colorful peacock fern, both the fluffy-looking and the spiky-looking asparagus ferns, the arch-stemmed artillery fern (although it’s not actually a fern), and the crinkly leafed crispa cristata fern.
Four easy steps

The process for incorporating landscape plants into your pond is simple:
1. Select plants to try
2. Remove the plants from from their pots
3. Doing as little damage as possible, pull off or rinse off (dunking multiple times works well) as much dirt as you can
4. Place the plant’s roots directly in the water, using rocks to support and stabilize the plant.

That’s it! The worst that happens is the plant dies. While I don’t promote planticide, the chances of having your selected plants live is pretty high. So don’t hesitate to get creative. And above all else, have some fun!

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