List of Edible Pond Plants (Top 7 Species)

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What Pond Plants Are Edible? (Top 7 Edible Pond Plants)

top edible pond plants
Your pond can not only house fish, but sustainable edible plants like duck potato, water lilies, watercress, and many others.

In this day and age of habitat loss, concerns with sustainable food production for an ever-growing human population, and waterways worldwide experiencing significant pollution, it only makes sense that we might want to strive to make what we do have as functional and multi-purpose as possible.

With more and more of our food being produced by large corporation-owned farms (entirely different from locally owned and operated farms) and then price-gouged at grocery stores, why not make a positive difference for both the environment and your wallet by growing some of your own food?

By incorporating edible pond plants into your pond, you create multiple (sustainable) functions: aesthetics, habitat for your fish and other creatures if desired, increased water filtration and oxygenation, and you get to produce some of your own fresh food. You’ll know exactly what goes into it, can decide whether or not to use chemicals and which ones, and your food will be more fresh and nutrient-rich than those purchased at most supermarkets.

As an added bonus, you can irrigate the water and create a self-sustaining, closed system that fosters the health of your pond and its edible plants as well as any flowers or crops you may have on land!

Here, we’ll delve into a variety of pond plants that are not only edible, but that look great and provide other benefits to your pond, too! If you have a bog garden or a particularly acidic pond, please check out our article dedicated to edible bog plants here.

7 Pond Plants That Are Edible

1) Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

how to grow watercress for food
Watercress is an incredibly easy, nutritious, and tasty pond plant to grow! Photo by Isfugl / CC BY-NC 2.0

Native to Europe, India, western Asia, northern Africa

Watercress is well-known for its fibrous roots that are excellent at filtering water, reducing erosion, and providing rich nutrients to a variety of wildlife that choose to eat them. These include fish, deer, snails, many species of waterfowl, shrimp, even livestock, and humans. They can be eaten either raw or cooked, and contain more vitamin C than oranges, as well as iron and calcium.

A hardy plant, watercress grows well in zones 3 through 11 and is fully able to survive winters as well as hot climates so long as it has access to either standing water or constantly damp soil. Watercress can grow quickly, so you may want to consider planting it in pots or aquatic planting baskets to help control its spread, and make it easier to dig up for harvest. This is particularly important if you live in North America or Australia, where this plant is considered invasive.

To plant, you can place seeds in up to 5 centimeters of moist soil or already growing plants in several centimeters of water with their roots covered by rich soil or substrate. Reportedly, watercress grown directly in water tends to be more flavorful and nutrient-rich than when grown in soil, likely because watercress can more quickly and easily filter nutrients from water than it can from soil! Full sun to partial shade conditions work well for watercress.

2) Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus/Acorus calamus americanus)

variegated sweet flag growing near a pond
All parts of sweet flag are edible, the leaves possessing a sweet lemony flavor while the roots are reminiscent of ginger. Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to UK, other portions of Europe; C. americanus native to northern US

Both the leaves and the rhizomatous roots of sweet flag are edible, with the leaves possessing a distinct lemony flavor and the roots tasting similar to ginger. As an added bonus, the crushed roots can reportedly function as a natural insecticide, with a pleasant scent that has been distilled into perfumes. It should be noted that some Acorus calamus species have been found to have high levels of carcinogenic Beta-asarone, but the American variety contains very little of this and is considered much safer for consumption.

Sweet flag does well in hardiness zones 5 through 11, so long as ample moisture is present. Winters will cause it to die down to its roots, where the plant will store carbohydrates and other nutrients that will allow it to resprout the following spring. It can grow up to two and a half feet tall and almost as wide in a clumping manner, but it grows fairly slowly and doesn’t have a significant reputation for becoming invasive.

The attractive, arching bright green leaves provide cover for wildlife such as small birds and even fish if planted marginally, while the roots helps to filter water. To plant seeds, simply press them down slightly (without burying them) into damp soil, and keep the soil damp. Already established plants can be planted in either damp soil or up to several inches of shallow water with their roots in rich soil or substrate. Either full sun or partial shade are suitable, but in hotter climates a location with afternoon shade is ideal. There is also a variegated type, Acorus calamus variegatus, which has light and dark green striped leaves.

3) Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus)

flowering rush with pink flowers in a pond
Flowering rush not only looks great, but is very nutrient-dense, too! Photo by Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to Europe, portions of Asia

With its gorgeous flowers resembling cherry blossoms, flowering rush has been a favorite amongst gardeners and pond hobbyists for many years. Within its native range, flowering rush is an important plant for pollinators as well as dragonflies and damselflies, who rely on it to support their larvae. Outside of this range, however, and flowering rush is known to become very invasive, choking out waterways and thus impacting people and wildlife alike. As with the rest of the plants on this list, flowering rush is adept at filtering water and reducing erosion.

Flowering rush has thick tubers that contain over 50% starches! This makes them very nutrient dense, but unfortunately they’re not known to taste fantastic. Rather, many people boil them and then mix them into other dishes to help spruce up their bland flavor. They can also be dried and then ground up for use as a form of flour, or thickener for soups and stews.

Hardy to zones 3 through 10, flowering rush is not difficult to grow – in fact, you may want to plant this one in pots or aquatic baskets to help keep it from spreading too quickly. Otherwise, we recommend annual trimmings to control growth. If planting from seed, simply press the seeds into damp soil and make sure they stay moist. For already established plants or if planting from a cut rhizome, you can place them either in damp soil, or partially or fully submerged in water. Full sun is best for these plants, but placing them in partial shade may help to slow growth.

4) White & Yellow Water Lilies (Nymphaea alba & Nuphar lutea)

growing water lilies to eat
White and yellow water lilies provide a beautiful and functional addition to your edible pond garden.

N. alba: Northern Africa, throughout Asia, Europe. N. lutea: worldwide except Australia

Another pond favorite, the classic white and yellow water lilies! Both take several years to mature fully enough to be eaten; after three or four years, the rootstocks will contain nearly 50% starch but can be bitter if not soaked in water after harvesting. Young leaves, leaf stalks, and flowers are also reportedly safe to eat, and the seeds can be dried and ground into a powder to be used in a fashion similar to flowering rush seeds, discussed above. The flowers can also be steeped in cold or hot water to make a lightly flavored tea. It should be noted that white water lily has some toxic alkaloids, so all parts should be cooked before eating.

Water lilies are very good at filtering pollutants and excess nutrients out of ponds, while also stabilizing soil and providing habitat for fish and beneficial insects like dragonfly larvae. The flowers are quite attractive to a plethora of pollinators, and the lily pads can help regulate water temperatures and control algae growth by shading the water.

Both of these water lily species are hardy to as low as zone 3 and require little care, though you may need to trim them every now and then if they’re starting to spread farther into your pond than you’d prefer. To plant, you can place a weight on rhizome cuttings and let them drop to the bottom of the pond, or plant them in pots with substrate that are placed on the bottom of the pond. The latter can help to control growth by not allowing the roots to spread as easily.

5) Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

pickerelweed flower with swallowtail butterfly
Pickerelweed provides benefits for you, your fish, and pollinators alike. Photo by vastateparksstaff, CC BY 2.0

Native to the Americas

One of our personal favorites, pickerelweed is a member of the water hyacinth family, possessing hundreds of vibrant purple-blue flowers on each singular stem. Many fish enjoy hanging out in this plant’s cool, shady leaves, while butterflies and bees (particularly bumblebees) often visit its rich flowers, dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in its stems (without harming the plant), and a variety of moths rely on its leaves and thick stalks for food.

Similarly, people can eat young, tender shoots and leafstalks either raw or cooked like greens, and the seeds can be eaten as-is or dried and ground up into flour. The seeds are fat-rich and nut-like, and can also be baked or roasted with salt for some extra flavor, or made into a homemade granola! Native Americans revered this plant for its high nutrient content and versatile food uses. Mature leaves, while technically edible, are not described as tasting particularly palatable.

Pickerelweed thrives in hardiness zones 3-10, preferring access to full sunlight and up to 5 inches of standing water with rich soil or substrate. Seeds can simply be scattered along the pond margin (not directly in the water), while roots or young plants can be planted either in saturated soil or several inches of water, as mentioned previously. Outside of its native range, it should be planted in pots to prevent spread.

6) Arrowhead/Duck Potato (Sagittaria sagittifolia/latifolia)

arrowhead duck potato growing in a pond
Also known as duck potato, arrowhead is tasty and provides many versatile food uses.

S. sagittifolia native to Europe; S. latifolia native to Central and North America

Perhaps one of the better known species on this list, arrowhead is also known as duck potato for good reason! Both species listed have incredibly rich and starchy tubers that can be boiled, roasted, or baked and closely resemble a potato in taste and texture. Some may taste more like a sweet chestnut than a potato. The leaves and flower stalks can also be eaten when cooked (to minimize bitterness). In fact, indigenous peoples in the native regions for both of these species relied heavily on duck potato as an easy and naturally occurring food source, eventually learning how to propagate it.

Waterfowl, muskrats, some fish, deer, and insects feed on the roots, seeds, and leaves of arrowhead, which can be a boon in locations where the plant is considered invasive. Additionally, some studies have found various species of arrowhead to be able to filter heavy metals and other pollutants out of water.

Arrowheads can tolerate still waters or moving waters up to 45 centimeters (about 18 inches) deep as well as damp soil, but do not do well in shaded conditions so full sun is best. European arrowhead does well in hardiness zones 6 and above, making it somewhat more cold-hardy, while American arrowhead prefers zones 8 and above and is typically found in warmer climates lacking harsh winters. Seeds can be gently pressed into damp soil, while established plants or root cuttings can be placed either in damp soil or in standing water.

7) Aquatic Mint (Mentha aquatica)

aquatic mint with purple flowers growing in a pond
Aquatic mint leaves can be used in desserts, as garnish, in tea, or eaten raw for a refreshing, minty zip. Photo by Andreas Rockstein / CC BY-SA 2.0

Native to Europe, northern Africa, western Asia; partly naturalized in the Americas and Australia

One of the lighter and more refreshing plants on this list, aquatic mint, as might be expected, has a strong minty scent and flavor. The leaves can be eaten either cooked or raw, and are most commonly used to garnish salads and desserts, steeped into herbal tea, or simply placed raw in iced water for a refreshing summer drink. One study found that high concentrations of peppermint oil can be toxic to animals and people, but you’d have to consume an awful, awful lot of it! Eating a few leaves as a garnish or steeped in tea contains negligible amounts of peppermint oil, and is considered safe.

Multiple studies conducted on water mint have found it to be a very valuable plant for filtering out pollutants from water, particularly nickel. Its roots also make it excellent at stabilizing soil while its flowers are readily sought out by native pollinators, making this plant one of the most readily used in wetland restoration projects. As an added bonus, having water mint around can help to repel mosquitos, mice, black flies, and midges as they greatly dislike the strong oils and scent that it exudes.

Aquatic mint can survive in hardiness zones 3 through 10, but will become an annual an locations where frost and freezing occurs. To plant, place in two to four inches of either damp soil or water with substrate in a location where water mint will have access to partial or full sunlight. This plant spreads readily via rhizomes, so do keep in mind that regular trimming will be necessary. You may also strongly consider planting in pots or aquatic planting baskets to help control spread, as this plant when grown outside of its native ranges will grow quickly and disrupt native ecosystems.

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