Aquatic plants create a welcoming and lively ambiance around backyard ponds. They provide color and vibrancy that add life and aesthetics to our garden setups. But, how many water plants can we have in a backyard pond?
There are no set rules regarding how many aquatic plants you can plant in your pond. However, it is important not to keep your pond crowded with plants since fish live there too. You can have aquatic plants in your pond, it’s important to have enough to absorb the available nitrate in your pond.
In this article, we will tackle the number of aquatic plants you can have in your backyard pond. We will also provide the key points before choosing a water plant.
How Many Aquatic Plants Do You Need for Your Pond?
There is no rule defining how many aquatic plants you can plant in your pond. However, it is important not to have your pond crowded by plants since fish live in there too. Here are guidelines you should follow when planting aquatic plants in your pond:
- Have at least one marginal aquatic plant for every 5’ of pond edge.
- Have at least one bog plant for every 5’ of pond edge in addition to marginal plants.
- Aim to have marginal plants around one-third to two-thirds of the pond edge for it is best for keeping fish that don’t like bare ponds or completely covered ponds.
- Have at least one water lily for every 50 square feet of pond water a depth of 2’ or less.
- Have at least one submerged oxygenator for every 100 square feet of pond.
- Have at least one floating plant, such as hyacinths, for every 10 square feet of pond water.
- If you want to achieve a natural pond with a pleasing pond, aim to have one-third to two-thirds of the water surface covered with oxygenating and floating plants, such as water lilies.
- On the edge of the pond, mix taller and shorter marginal plants. Avoid putting space plants evenly around the edge for this will look unnatural. For larger plants, consider buying many of the same plants and place them in a large pot.
- The more oxygenating and floating plants you have in your pond, the fewer algae you will get. These kinds of plants are the best ones to provide cover to fish.
Before choosing and ordering aquatic plants, it is best to gather and prepare the materials you will be needing to plant them in your pond. Ideally, use soil that is designed for ponds or water gardens to avoid using bagged potting mix or lightweight soil that will soon float and cloud the pond water.
You can always have as many aquatic plants as you desire, but it is also important to follow the suggested guidelines to avoid overcrowding and prevent algae build-up. You can have more aquatic plants in your pond as long as you have the minimum amount to absorb the available nitrate in your pond. Also read our article about planting Elephant Ears in a Pond.
Points Before Choosing Water Plants for a Pond
Water or aquatic plants are a perfect addition to a backyard pond. They provide color and make a pond look lively. However, you cannot order aquatic plants just because you want them in your pond. There are a few points you need to consider before choosing a water plant for your pond.
For successful pond keeping, you must plan and research what plant you want and whether it suits your pond. Here are five key points in choosing an aquatic plant for your pond:
- Keep Your Pond Covered with Plants
To reduce the excess nutrients, control algae build-up, provide cover for your fishes, and cover the surface of your pond with 40% to 60% of aquatic plants. If you have a 50-square-foot pond, it is recommended to put six to twelve floating plants, two bog plants, five submerged plants, and one water lily.
- Climate Appropriateness
Climate differs in every country and state. It influences the types of plants that can be grown in your local climate. The USDA produces a hardiness zone map that helps determine which plants are likely to survive in your climate.
Most water plants are perennials, so it is important to choose a plant based on your hardiness zones. This will be the key to determine if the plants can tolerate the year-round weather conditions in your area.
- Sun Exposure
Aquatic plants are categorized by what type of light they would like to receive. Do they thrive in full sun, partial sun, partial shade, or full shade? Some water plants are sensitive and prefer to lay out in the sun.
Chameleon plants blend into shade light. If your pond receives full sun, it is likely to be susceptible to algae build-up. You can add more plants that will keep the pond shaded to resolve this issue.
- Deep or Shallow End?
When installing aquatic plants, make sure you have researched them well beforehand. Some aquatic plant species prefer deep water while others prefer shallow waters. Lilies and lotus are examples of aquatic plants that love deep water once they have been established.
Bog plants like Blue Flag Iris prefer shallow waters or just like having their roots wet. Once you receive your water plants, make sure to follow the directions on how they should be planted. Also, keep in mind to research before purchasing any aquatic plants you’d like to have in your pond.
- Water Flow Rate
The water flow rate is often an overlooked factor. Some water plants love moving waters while others prefer still water. Dwarf Cattails are examples of plants that grow in stream-like ponds, unlike lilies, which flourish in moving water even if they are under a waterfall-like pond.
Most aquatic plants thrive in full sun to partial shade. Only a few water plants would grow in the deeper shade, so it is important to take note of the location of your backyard pond. Light abundance also attracts bees, dragonflies, and damselflies.
Kinds of Pond Plants
Just like garden plants, aquatic plants fall into different categories, usually divided as follows: marginal, oxygenating, floating, and deep-water plants. Here, we will further discuss the different kinds of aquatic plants and how they would affect pond keeping.
- Marginal Plants
Derived from their name, marginal plants are grown around the edges or margins of a pond, where the water is shallow. Marginal plants usually have their soil, crown, or growing point, and sometimes their lower foliage. They are usually placed on shallow shelves or pots within the pond.
Marginal plants can tolerate wet soil or water over their crowns throughout the year. If the plant can tolerate waterlogged soil but cannot stand water over its crown, it is considered a marsh plant.
Marginal plants have recommended planting depths, which refers to the depth of water over the crown or growing point of the plants. The recommended depth is 0 to 4 inches, and the plant should grow anywhere from wet soil up to 4 inches of water over its crown.
Water Irises and marsh marigolds are great examples of marginal plants. Marginal plants are often chosen by pond owners for their natural and attractive look. They also provide cover and habitat for wildlife that loves to reside in ponds.
- Floating Plants
Floating plants, as their name suggests, are plants that free float in the water. These kinds of plants don’t have true roots. Some of them are also oxygenators or have fine foliage under the water, such as hornwort, while others are like water lilies and have all their foliage at the water surface.
Floating plants are very easy to put into the pond because these plants don’t need potting. They are also very easy to remove if the plants need thinning out. Floating plants also provide shade for the pond. They directly take up nutrients from the water and will compete with algae and blanketweed, so it is important to check them regularly.
- Deep-water Aquatic Plants
Deep-water plants are best grown in the deep or bottom part of a pond, as opposed to oxygenator plants, for which most of the foliage is on or above the surface water. Deep-water plants won’t thrive and grow outside of the pond.
For example, in a damp-flowerbed or bog garden, the water must be over the soil to grow. Waterlilies, flowering rush, and floating flour-leaf clover would fall in this category. These plants are also known for providing shade for the pond, which can help with green water and cover for fish and other wildlife.
Floating plants are the best ones for damselfly larvae and dragonflies since they start under the water and then emerge up into the surface.
- Oxygenating Plants
Oxygenating plants are plants that have their foliage under the water. They either thrive in the deeper or bottom part of the pond or float suspended in the water. Then, they will grow at any depth where there can receive light. Oxygenating plants are also called “pondweed” for they usually have fine and delicate foliage.
Cattails and hornwort are great examples of such plants. These plants are often fast-growing and feed using their leaves and roots, meaning they are good at absorbing excess nutrients from the water. This helps starving algae and blanketweed and keeps the pond water from turning into a green swamp.
Oxygenating plants also provide shelter for aquatic invertebrates and spawning sites for amphibians and fish. Since these plants give off oxygen, their submerged vegetation will increase the oxygen level in the pond during the day since oxygen decreases at night. Oxygenating plants can also give a natural and attractive look to your pond with their underwater foliage.
The location of your pond is the key for your aquatic plant to prosper and flower in it. It is also to keep in mind that most aquatic plants prefer full sun to partial shade for better growth. With this article, you now know how to choose a water plant. It is also important to choose a water plant that you would like to work with.