Updated/Fact-Chacked on August 30, 2021 by John
Anyone can have a pond in their garden, they don’t have to be large; a washing up bowl planted in the ground with water and some oxygenating plants would attract a lot of wildlife. For something slightly bigger, consider a container pond like my recent whisky barrel pond project – you can then start adding some good aquatic plants.
From the subtle to the vibrant, flowering pond plants add colour and life above the surface of the water. Whether it be for adding colour of your pond or to help nature with biodiversity – here are the 10 best flowering pond plants.
- 1 Water-Crowfoot – Ranunculus aquatilis
- 2 Blue Flag – Iris versicolor
- 3 Loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria
- 4 Water Lily – Nymphaea ‘Hermine’
- 5 Pickerel Weed – Pontederia cordata
- 6 Watercress – Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum
- 7 Marsh Marigold – Caltha palustris
- 8 Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
- 9 Yerba Mansa – Anemopsis californica
- 10 Brooklime – Veronica beccabunga
Water-Crowfoot – Ranunculus aquatilis
Water-crowfoot is common in many parts of Europe, North Africa and North America. This is a resilient plant that copes well with moving water, though excessive turbulence will hinder its flowering.
The foliage tends to grow at and beneath the surface of the water and acts as buoyancy for its flowers. The leaves mat together to form shade for fish and are good for hiding the true depth and material of a shallow pond.
The bright white and yellow flowers protrude a few centimetres above the water. Water-crowfoots encourage pollinating insects to visit your pond and the flowers in your garden. The Water-Crowfoot is also a good oxygenator, making it a superb choice for fishponds.
• Low maintenance.
• Encourages pollinating insects.
Blue Flag – Iris versicolor
The blue flag stands out from many other pond plants, with its intense blue-purple flowers. The Blue Flag blossoms from May to June above its rigid stalks and narrow leaves and can grow up to one metre tall.
Another name for the Blue flag is the Poison Flag, and for a good reason. Though this plant is popular with pollinating insects, it is poisonous to humans. So, you may want to reconsider the blue flag if you have small children or pets. Both the stems and the buds can cause skin irritation by touching them.
The Blue Flag needs little in the way of maintenance, but it will grow better in brackish water and with direct feeding. An ideal flower for small ponds, which attracts many bird species and provides an intense contrast against most pond plants.
• Striking violet flowers.
• Poisonous leaves and stalks.
Loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria
Some people refer to this pond flower as the Purple Lythrum and, on occasion, the Purple Loosestrife. The stem will grow to a height of two metres or less. The Loosestrife adds a vertical dimension to ponds that have mostly surface plants.
This plant improves the biodiversity of the types of insects that will visit your pond. The nature of the plant demands that insects cross-pollinate it with another species of loosestrife. A single Loosestrife plant can release over 2-million seeds.
The Lythrum Salicaria is a resilient plant, safe for children and animals. Some countries consider this plant an invasive species and go to great lengths to prevent it from killing indigenous plants. Sterile Lythrum Salicaria may be a preferable choice for those wanting to prevent propagation.
• Tall stems.
• Self-seeding and can be difficult to tame.
Water Lily – Nymphaea ‘Hermine’
The Water Lily is perhaps one of the most popular flowering pond plants. Flowering occurs between May and September. When flowering occurs, petals of vibrant white open up, inviting pollinating insects to pay a visit. At night, the flowers close up, protected by thick green leaves until the morning.
The lily pads provide good shade for fish and the roots of other plants that you may have growing in your pond. The pads also offer a landing pad for dragonflies and other insects that help to inject some nature into your project.
Depending on the species, a lily pad can reach one metre in diameter- this is an ideal plant for larger ponds. The lily is non-toxic and suitable for environments where pets and children are present. It is hard to go wrong with this tough and weather-resistant plant.
• Landing pads for frogs and dragonflies.
Pickerel Weed – Pontederia cordata
This plant grows in shallow static waters and can grow up to a metre tall. Sometimes referred to as the Pickerel Rush, the name comes from the small fish, the pickerel, which tend to live in the same ponds. The flowering period occurs between June and September, depending on the location.
The long stem reaches up towards a single leaf on top of which sits a single spear of small purple, blue and white flowers. Each spike of flowers is around 15 centimetres long. The Pickerelweed is at home in both shadow and sunlight. It will take a decade to reach its full height of 1.5 metres.
The leaves and seeds within the fruit of the plant are edible, cooked or raw. Wildlife may seek out these plants for food, though not all pond owners will appreciate this. The flowers also attract pollinating insects and dragonflies.
• Tall and subtle.
• A narrow plant, good for small ponds.
Watercress – Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum
Being watercress, it is edible. But, since it grows on or near stagnant water, there is a danger of contamination from bacteria in the pond water. This plant grows in shallow waters – from puddles to ponds 10 centimetres deep and grows better when not in direct sunlight.
This fast-growing plant copes well in harsh conditions but recedes in the winter months. From May to August, you can expect an attractive and delicate small white flower to bloom from the dark leaves on each stem.
Watercress improves the biodiversity of your garden. The white flowers attract pollinating insects such as butterflies and bees. Watercress is excellent for oxygenating the water – helping to keep any fish you may have alive.
• Small white flowers.
Marsh Marigold – Caltha palustris
Also known as the Kingcup, this plant is a sibling in the buttercup family. Flowering during the spring and summer produces thick rosettes of small yellow flowers. In the wild, you tend to see these plants growing on marshlands and wet woodlands.
The Kingcup is more successful in natural environments. Marsh Marigolds thrive in waters that are clean, oxygenated, and with low concentrations of phosphates. This plant forms an effective floating island that both mating frogs and insects can enjoy.
As with many marsh plants, you need to be careful if you have small children or pets. Active toxins in the plants will cause a range of complications to people and animals. If eaten, symptoms include convulsions, gastric issues, and fainting.
• Small yellow flowers.
• Encourages frogs.
Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis
The Cardinal Flower is ideal if you are looking for something tall and that brings a diverse species of animals into your garden. This plant will grow up to 2 metres tall, and from the top, a cluster of red flowers hang.
As a member of the Bell Flower family, the Cardinal Flower has similar leaves and stems. The names come from their appearance resembling that of a Cardinal’s robe. Flowering begins as early as May and will continue until October.
Due to the beauty of these plants, they have been over picked in recent times, so planting some in your pond will help to protect their species. The Cardinal Flower prefers moist ground rich in nutrients.
• Tall with many months of flowering.
• Poisonous when eaten in large quantities, but also used in aphrodisiacs.
Yerba Mansa – Anemopsis californica
The unusual cream and red flowers of the Yerba Mansa make it an interesting addition to any pond. Tens of small flowers form a small cone at the top of each stem, surrounded by bright white leaves that could be mistaken for petals.
Flowering can occur twice, once in early spring and again towards the end of the winter. Preferred habitats include moist to wet grounds and stream beds. The Yerba Mansa can strangle out other nearby plants, so you want to use a pot and give it some space.
This is a fragrant plant that offers a pleasant smell of honey and has antimicrobial properties. The plant is still a treatment for a variety of conditions, including swollen gums and throats, gout, and kidney stones. Some herbalists will use it to relieve swollen muscles and inflammations.
• Used as an anti-inflammatory medicine.
• A beautiful cone of white flowers.
Brooklime – Veronica beccabunga
The subtle blue flowers of the Brooklime are perfect additions to an incognito pond, where you want a raw appearance to your garden. Its natural habitats include ditches and along the banks of brooks. The Brooklime is on the RHS perfect for pollinators’ list.
It has long been a treatment for scurvy, though this is now a disproven remedy. The plant consists of long reddish-brown stems, with vibrant green leaves at the end of each. The blossoming of its four-petal flowers during the summer will bring in a variety of pollinating insects.
Since this is an evergreen plant, the leaves hold their colour through the winter months and are capable of surviving the bitter cold. Newts will lay eggs under the leaves, and tadpoles will also use the foliage as protection as they develop.
• Attracts pollinators and pond creatures.
Flowering Pond Plants FAQ
Do flowering pond plants need full sun?
Yes, unfortunately most of the beautiful looking pond plants you see need a full sunny position
Do any pond plants flower in the shade?
If your pond or container pond is in partial shade, but you still want aquatic plants that bloom, consider these options: water hyacinth, water forget-me-not with small blue flowers, and the marsh marigold above
John Green is a 46-year-old graphic designer living in Durham. John is RHS level 3 certified and owns an allotment in Durham.