Best Plants for a Garden Pond

Whether you are starting from scratch or restoring your pond after braving the winter weather, you have envisioned what your perfect garden pond looks like.  Evoking a feeling of peace, relaxation, and beauty can be hard to achieve but using aquatic plants can help transform a typical pond into a radiant water garden that can act as the cornerstone of your garden’s landscape. 

What are pond plants? [2] 

Pond plants, also known as aquatic plants or water plants, live in a watery environment. There are some common characteristics that plants that grow in water have, such as: 

  • Lightweight internal packing cells (aerenchyma) are common 
  • Floating leaves and finely dissected leaves are also common 
  • Aquatic plants have no or thin cuticles, permanently opened stomata, and less rigid structure 
  • Air sacs in aquatic plants allow them to float 
  • Leaves on the water surface are typically flat 

Why use pond plants?  

Pond plants have many benefits besides adding beauty to your garden pond. These plants act as natural biological filters that absorb metals, phosphates, nitrates, and ammonium in the water. Pond plants also increase oxygen production through photosynthesis and shading the water to keep it cool, which limits algae growth, frees up nutrients for fish, and provides shelter for fish and other pond life. Pond plants are not only a beautiful decoration, but naturally beneficial to water gardens. 

Which plants are good for garden ponds? 

Each pond plant has a specific purpose and its own needs to flourish in your garden pond. Whether you’re looking to decorate your pond with non-invasive flora or improve the water’s natural balance, always research which plants will be most suitable for their size and recommended pond zone.  

Pond plant zones refer to the various areas within a pond where different types of aquatic plants grow best based on their specific requirements for water depth, sunlight exposure, and soil conditions. Keep in mind that plants can thrive in more than one zone, having adapted to a range of conditions. Each of the five (5) zones plays a vital role in maintaining the pond's ecosystem.  

Zone 1: Bog Plants (Planting Depth: 16-18 inches) 

Bog plants are commonly employed to enhance the pond border. Situated at the pond's perimeter, bog plants are extremely effective at removing nutrients from pond water. The benefits of bog filtration are clear water and minimal maintenance. It creates an ecosystem that maximizes the breakdown of organic matter and nutrient absorption, stunts the growth of algae in the pond, and keeps the water looking clean and clear. 

A few of the most common bog plants include arrowhead, canna lilies, and cattails.  

Zone 2: Marginal Plants (Water Depth: 0-6 inches) 

Marginal pond plants, or shallow marsh plants, are lush vegetation placed in planting pots that thrive in the shallow water and appear above the water. Marginal plants serve as an extension of the garden pond's landscape, enriching the border with their presence while playing a crucial role in improving water quality. These plants actively extract excess nutrients from the pond environment, preventing their accumulation and promoting a healthier balance. It's important to note that incorporating marginal plants requires a shallow shelf in your pond. While this area provides an ideal habitat for these plants, it can also attract predators such as raccoons, which may pose a threat to your Koi or other fish dwelling in deeper waters nearby. 

A few of the most common marginal plants include creeping jenny, horsetail, and water irises.  

Zone 3: Deep Marginal Plants (Water Depth: 6-16 inches) 

Deep marginal plants stand out for their ability to thrive in deeper sections of shallow pond water. This unique trait allows them to extend their reach into a slightly deeper area within the pond ecosystem. Despite their deeper placement, deep marginal plants share similarities with their shallower Zone 2 (marginal plants) counterparts such as flowering above the water's surface. Their ability to thrive in varying water depths enhances the complexity and richness of the pond habitat, providing more niches for various aquatic life and further enriching the beauty and functionality of the environment. 

A few of the most common deep marginal plants include horsetails, bulrush, and cattails. 

Zone 4: Deep Water & Oxygenating Plants (Water Depth: 16+ inches) 

True to their name, deep water pond plants are best suited for the deepest areas of a garden pond. Deep water plants can appear like a floating plant at first glance, but they’re rooted in the bottom of the pond, allowing the flora to grow to the water's surface. Leaves and flowers bloom and spread on the surface, which provides fish and other inhabitants with shade and cover from predators. 

A few of the most common deep-water plants include water lilies, water hawthorne, and lotus plants. 

Oxygenating pond plants, commonly called submerged plants, are the MVP (most valuable plants) in a pond because they do the most work. Also true to their name, oxygenating pond plants remove excess nutrients and replace them with oxygen. PRO TIP: Add oxygenating plants to your pond in summer when dissolved oxygen levels are naturally lower. In addition to adding a few oxygenating plants, add aeration products like waterfalls, aerators, nozzle kits or even decorative spitters to boost the production of oxygen in your pond water. 

A few of the most common oxygenating plants include arrowhead, pondweed or waterweed, anacharis, and hornwort.  

Zone 5: Floating Plants (Water Depth: N/A) 

With no underwater stems leading to a plant basket, floating pond plants are perfect for providing small creatures a place to rest outside the water and fish shade within the water. Their hanging roots act as a natural filter, removing nitrogen and phosphates from the water, and ultimately improving the water quality and clarity.  

A few of the most common floating pond plants include water hyacinth, water lettuce, and duckweed. 

Aquatic plants, regardless of their pond planting zone, offer a simple and natural solution to boosting pond water quality and enhancing beauty. So, the only question left is... Which pond plants will you be adding to your garden pond this season? 



  1. Pond Plants: A Beginner's Guide • Envii 
  2. Aquatic Plants- Definition, Characteristics, Types And Benefits - FlowerAdvisor 
  3. Pond Plant Depth Zones - Hydrosphere Water Gardens ( 
  4. Bog plants: 15 moisture-loving plants for damp areas | Gardeningetc 
  5. 12 Bog & Marginal Pond Plants (Top Filter Plants) - Pond Informer 
  6. Top 39 Best Bog Plants for Ponds In 2022 | Hardy, Shade & Flowering (
  7. 25+ Popular Types of Pond Plants (That Help in Every Way) ( 
  8. 10 Best Oxygenating Pond Plants for a Healthy & Clean Pond (