What Are The Best Plants for Water Gardens?

Water Garden

Knowing how to build a water garden is just one of the first steps of putting together your own water garden area. Another step is knowing which plants would be best suited for your water garden.

What Are The Best Plants for Water Gardens?  The best type of plants you want to have for water gardens are hydrophytes. Hydrophytes are plants which live and grow in water. They can be found in both saltwater and freshwater and develop in the water or near the water’s edge.

Depending on your objective in building a water garden can influence what type of aquatic plants you will want to have. In this article, we will look at aquatic plants that will look good for ornamental purposes and plants that would be useful in creating a thriving aquatic ecosystem.

The Types of Aquatic Plants

In your water garden feature, you might have limited space to have all the aquatic plants you want. Knowing the types of aquatic plants that are out there can help you understand their roles and how or what you can use them for. There are 3 types of aquatic plants and they are submergent, emergent, and floating plants.


These are plants that grow entirely underwater. Their roots are anchored on the waterbed and expand their stem and leaves within the water. Due to this nature, these plants might not be ideal for decorating your water garden feature. However, if its an ecosystem you’re after, then these are the kinds you want to add to your list.

Some submergent plants:

  • American Pondweed
  • Coontail
  • Eelgrass

Submergent plants are quite important for keeping your water healthy. They’re essential for ponds as they can help your aquatic animals stay alive. Their main roles are to produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide in the water, as well as any excess nutrients. An additional role they offer is food to fishes by eating its leaves. Unless you plan on having a see-through pond or water fountain, these plants are best for an aquatic ecosystem.


Now, these are the type of plants you want to have to decorate your water garden. Also known as marginal plants, their roots are anchored on the waterbed, just like submergent plants. However, they have their head or tip exposed above the water, which can be as high as 3 inches in the air. Some emergent plants grow flowers, so they can be placed both in the water or by the water’s edge.

Some emergent plants:

  • Arrowhead
  • Cattail
  • Marsh marigold

These plants can also be useful for a healthy ecosystem. If planted around the pond, they can act as shields from strong winds or even large pets. However, if it’s for the sake of display or a beautiful design, then these plants are best for building an attractive water garden.


There are 2 kinds of floating plants, which are floating-leaved and free-floating. Floating-leaved have their roots attached to the bed and have their leaves floating on the surface of the water. The free-floating kind also have their leaves floating on the surface, but instead, have their roots float freely in the water. These receive their nourishment by absorbing the nutrients from the water.

Some floating plants:

  • Duckweed
  • Water lettuce
  • Fairy moss

Floating plants are a great choice for both decoration and designing an ecosystem. Their main use is reducing algae growth by removing excess nutrients in the water. They are also are very useful in providing shade for your underwater creatures. Some floating-leaved plants can add to the beauty of your water garden feature as some can produce flowers and move with the wind on the surface.

Best Clear Water Plants

water lily

Obviously, all water gardens have water. For a water garden to be attractive or healthy, the water should be clear. Any dark appearance or lack of clarity is usually not a good sign and means the water is either dirty or unhealthy. This unhealthiness could endanger your aquatic creatures and the dirt could ward off onlookers. So, whether you want a water garden for decoration or for your fish friends to live in, it’s bad either way.

Asides from understanding the types of aquatic plants, here are some common and popular plants that can make sure your water stays clear. Some people might already have their favorite collection, but it sometimes pays to have other varieties to add to the list.

Water Lilies 

Water lilies are very popular water garden plants that are mostly chosen for their beautiful and multi-colored flowers. During summer, they grow rapidly and can cover about 60-70% of the water’s surface. This is great for keeping the pond cool and give shade to your fishes. This shade also reduces the growth of algae, as algae don’t grow well without sunlight.

Water lilies are not really filtering plants, but they do last through winter, so they’re a good choice to have in your water garden for beauty and long-lasting health.

Water Thyme

The water thyme is a submergent plant, which means it is a filter plant. These are ideal for keeping your water clear and can also last through the winter. They’re planted very easily and can provide spawning areas for fish and protection for baby fish.

Water thymes and other submergent plants are very effective clear water plants because they feed both through their roots and their foliage, thus sucking up nutrients that algae would otherwise have. To fully utilize this filter plant, you want it to cover every 3 square feet of the surface area of the pond.

Water Irish

This emergent type plant works best when placed on the water’s edge so as to give them the capacity to span and spread their roots. You can have them spread out or in a bunch. The flowers they sprout also adds to the reason why they are commonly used.

This plant and its kind are very efficient at removing waste, thus making your water clear. They also remove the excess nitrate and phosphate, which are the food that algae feed off. Because the water irish is a very fast growing plant, it can work just as quickly in removing these algae food sources as other emergent plants.

Despite these wonderful and self-efficient plants, you still want to install a water filter system, especially for large water garden features. Having proper filtration can save you a lot of time waiting for your water to become clear and can also help you start your water garden feature looking clean and new.

Related Questions

Water plants are certainly used to add depth and beauty to water gardens, but the best plants are those that also feed on the same nutrients as algae. The main cause of an unclean or unhealthy water garden is algae and these aquatic plants are going to have a beneficial effect on both the water quality and clarity.

Of course, regardless of how well plants do their job, there are other factors that can contribute to creating a water garden fit for decoration, a thriving aquatic community, or producing clear water. Such factors are:

  • “What type of materials should I use?” – The materials you use can help maintain the clarity and health of your water garden. For example, not all rocks are suited for ponds. Sedimentary rocks are a type of rock that tends to be softer than other types and can be greatly affected by weather, thus only being used in certain locations to build ponds.
  • “What aquatic plants are available where I live” – This is a question you should definitely consider when deciding what plant you want to get. A good example is when looking for the submergent plant you want to filter your water may only be found in tropical areas, so you would have to make do with another type of submergent plant available in your area.
  •  “What type of water garden feature do I want to have” – As mentioned from the beginning, you might have limited space in your pond or water fountain to have all the plants you have in mind. Making a list of the best aquatic plants for your specific water garden feature will help you make the most realistic and effective decisions.

Knowledge plays a crucial role in pretty much anything in life. The more you know, the more you can do and make wiser decisions. Having the knowledge of what the best plants for water gardens are will really make your efforts in creating the water garden you desire be worthwhile.

You also want to enjoy the whole process. When your plants and fish are living in an ideal environment, they will feel happy and will make the most of their role. As you have fun yourself, whether it is choosing the best aquatic plants or deciding what water garden feature to make, your learning will naturally happen.

The key to all of this and having a successful outcome comes down to research. As you strive to understand what it takes to build and put together your very own water garden, then you’ll no doubt have the confidence to be a true water gardener.

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