What Plants to Plant Around Pond Edges? (Best Plants for Pond Edges)
As with most naturally occurring bodies of freshwater, your pond’s edges are prime real estate for a wide assortment of aquatic and terrestrial plants.
These spots are characterized by conditions favored by many moisture-loving species, some of which produce vibrant flora and foliage. A careful selection of the right plants can transform your pond into the most attractive focal point of your garden.
Why Choose Plants for Your Pond Edges? (Benefits)
Aside from the aesthetic contribution plants may bring to your pond, they play several important functions when given the proper conditions for growth.
Well-rooted plants along the pond’s edge can prevent erosion. By gripping the moist soil with their fibrous roots, they prevent particles from polluting your pond water. These plants can also attract a variety of wildlife, as they provide specialized habitats and food.
Pond edges are basically miniature ecosystems, with the potential to nurture and balance animal-plant interactions underwater and above ground. Plants along the edge can also provide refuge in the form of cool shade.
When selecting plants for your pond’s edges, pay attention to their soil and moisture preferences. Consider their tolerance for having wet feet, their depth preference, and their need for sun exposure. If you would like to ensure that your pond’s edges stay colorful all year round, you will also need to select a few species that can withstand fall and winter conditions. Listed below are some aquatic and terrestrial plants that are sure to favor your pond edge’s environment, while beautifying it as well.
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List of the Best Plants for Your Pond Edges
1) Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
A flowering perennial plant, Caltha palustris is commonly known as marsh marigold, water buttercup, cowslip, and water boots. It produces petal-less yellow flowers, formed by 5-9 sepals, that bloom in mid-spring to early summer. Its succulent leaves arise from a thick branching stem, are a rich green color, and are often described to be shaped like kidneys or hearts. When pollinated, the blooms of this plant produce seed pods that split open once they are ripe.
This showy plant is perfect for the edges of your pond as it can thrive in shallow water or in wet, boggy soil! It grows best under partial shade or full sun, though ample afternoon shade may be required at the peak of summer. Growing up to 18 inches (45 cm) tall and just as wide, this herbaceous plant attracts butterflies and insects, but must be handled carefully as it contains toxins that can cause skin irritation.
Hardy to zones 3-7, this plant is generally low-maintenance and pest-free. Regularly check for powdery mildew and rust, however, as its leaves are susceptible to a few diseases. To propagate marsh marigold, sow its ripened seeds. You may also divide the root clumps prior to its flowering period or towards the end of summer, when the plant has grown dormant.
2) Golden creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)
A plant that can elegantly cascade or ‘creep’ into your pond, Lysimachia nummularia (cultivar ‘Aurea’) is popularly referred to as golden creeping jenny, golden money plant, and golden twopenny grass. It is a low-growing perennial that can be planted into rock crevices around your pond or used as ground cover for edges. With attractive heart-shaped leaves that can range in color from yellow-gold to soft lime-green, golden creeping jenny forms a splendid array of cup-shaped yellow blooms in early mid-summer.
Take full advantage of this plant’s best qualities by planting it in areas where its stems can droop, as though a waterfall, towards the edge of your pond. Creeping jenny favors partial shade or full sun exposure, but will appreciate more shade under intense summer heat. It has a preference for humus-rich, well-drained soil that is kept consistently moist. It is important to note that this plant may be invasive, though the spread of the ‘Aurea’ cultivar is easier to control. Hardy to USDA zones 3 – 9, maintain your creeping jenny by regularly trimming it back and removing any dead or decaying portions. Though it can spread quickly on its own, you can fill in other areas around your pond by propagating via seeds or division.
3) Japanese water iris (Iris ensata)
Iris ensata is commonly known as Japanese water iris, sword-leaved iris, or even Japanese flag. It has been cultivated as an ornamental flowering plant for hundreds of years, and it’s no mystery why. Its large breathtaking flowers, which are orchid-like and have ruffled skirts, are an absolute delight to look at. Its blooms are marked by a variety of colors, and depending on the cultivar at hand, can be a light lavender to a deep purple-blue, with noticeable striations along the petals’ veins.
Known as “hana shobu” in Japan, this water iris is a culturally significant plant. Because of its narrow, sword-shaped leaves, it symbolizes the warrior spirit and is believed to have protective qualities against evil spirits. Superstitious beliefs notwithstanding, it is a superior option as a pond-edging plant because it prefers rich, slightly acidic soil that is moisture-retentive. This plant can even thrive in standing water, though it can be sensitive to cold water temperatures during the winter. As these plants are considered ‘heavy feeders’, it may be necessary to use a well-balanced fertilizer in the spring, prior to its bloom period in early to midsummer.
Growing up to 4 feet high, the Japanese water iris is relatively easy to care for and is hardy to USDA zones 4 – 9. Because of its optimal qualities, many of its cultivars are recipients of the RHS Award of Garden Merit. Easily propagate this plant in spring or autumn by dividing its rhizomes and planting approximately 2 inches deep into soil. Ensure that your plant receives adequate moisture, and enjoy watching its blooms reflect onto your pond for years to come.
4) Butterbur (Petasites japonicus)
Far East Asia is home to some of the most unique ornamental plants, and Petasites japonicus is a first-rate example. Commonly known as butterbur, fuki, or Japanese sweet coltsfoot, this quirky cabbage-like plant forms dense clumps of wide basal leaves, from which small, white/pink flowers arise. The roots of this plant form a net that can bind loose sloping soil together, making it a great candidate for pond edges with problematic loose sediment. One of its variants, P. japonicus ‘giganteus’, has leaves that grow as wide as 48 inches (1.2 meters) across, creating a cool shady area where small animals can rest from the summer heat. Its noticeably large leaves only develop after the first flowering period. This makes it a good option for ornamental ponds as the foliage can attract more attention when smaller flowering plants are not in bloom.
With a preference for wet or moist soil, butterbur is a rapidly spreading plant and can quickly overgrow the edges of your pond. It may be invasive in some areas, so it is only advisable to grow this plant if you are able to regularly control its spread. That being said, this plant is hardy to USDA zones 4 – 9 and can grow in sandy, loamy, or clay soil. As long as moisture is consistently present, the plant will spread underground via rhizomatous growth. It is fairly easy to care for, though its large leaves are actually quite fragile and may require protection from intense sun exposure, harsh winds, and hail. It is interesting to note that some parts of this plant, particularly its leaf stalks and flowers, are a nutritious delicacy in Japan and are even used in tempura and miso soup.
5) Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)
Internationally known as the plant ancient Egyptians used to make paper, and the ancient word from which it arises, papyrus is a versatile plant that can bring character to the edges of your pond. Also known as umbrella plant and bulrush, Cyperus papyrus is a marsh grass that has rigid, triangular stems which grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall. Atop the stems are showy umbels, or flowerheads, that are visually appealing because they look like fireworks. The arching threads that stem from these flowerheads give rise to clusters of tiny blooms in the summer. Eventually, these clusters produce small brown fruits.
With a preference for warm climates, papyrus can thrive under full or partial sun. It can be treated as an aquatic plant as it is suitable for growth in up to 6 inches of standing water. It can also be cultivated in garden soil as long as moisture is consistently provided. Known for being a tough plant that is easily rejuvenated even when it looks dry and dead, papyrus can be grown in a variety of soil types and conditions. It is hardy to USDA zones 9 – 12, and can be treated as a perennial plant in places with mild winters. If your pond is located outside of these zones, you may have to treat your papyrus as an annual, or transfer the plant indoors before outdoor temperatures dip.
6) Mosaic plant (Ludwigia sedioides)
Ludwigia sedioides is an aquatic plant that will grow best along the shallow margins or borders of your pond. In the wild, it can be found in stagnant waters and along the edges of still riverine environments. It is widely referred to as mosaic plant, false loosestrife, or mosaic flower due to its appearance on the water’s surface. This attractive floating plant, now popularly used in the aquascaping industry, is characterized by flat leaves that form a rosette, giving it a textured concentric spread. Its reddish leaves afford shade and protection to small fish.
With a preference for water pH levels that range from 5.5 – 7.5, this plant thrives in slightly acidic conditions and can grow under full or partial shade. Given the right water temperature conditions, 21 – 26.6˚C (70 – 80˚F), mosaic plants will produce 2-inch (5 cm) wide yellow flowers that will attract pollinators and bees to your pond during the summer months. This plant can be directly grown in water with a depth of at least 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm) as its roots will gradually grow downwards toward the soil. It can also be grown in a pot prior to placing it into your pond.
Hardy to USDA zones 9 – 11, keep in mind that this perennial plant is most suited to tropical conditions. If located outside of these zones, you may have to treat this plant as an annual, as it may be challenging to overwinter even in controlled indoor conditions. If located in a temperate area, you may consider growing this species in indoor ponds.
7) Scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus coccineus)
Hibiscus coccineus is a flowering perennial that is more commonly known as scarlet rose mallow or swamp hibiscus. Famed for its vivid crimson flowers that extend up to 5 inches (12 cm) across, this showy plant blooms from mid-summer to early autumn. From the center of each flower, adorned by 5 fine petals, arises a long tube with creamy yellow stamens that extend from the tip. Less vivid, but also rich in character, the rose mallow’s leaves are a deep shade of green and are palmately divided, with the characteristic serrated margins of most hibiscus plants.
Hardy to USDA zones 6 – 13, the scarlet rose mallow is a great addition to the edges of your pond, not only because of its striking flowers but because of its preference for growing in boggy soils and wet areas. In the wild, it is often found arising in groups along marshes and swamps. Somewhat salt tolerant, this plant grows in an upward orientation up to 6 feet (180 cm) tall, under full sun or in partial shade. It is important to note that, though relatively disease- and pest-free, this plant may attract Japanese beetles and can be susceptible to rust, blights, and leaf spots. Grow this plant along the edge of your pond that receives the most sun, and be rewarded by dramatic blooms that reflect onto your pond’s surface every year!
8) Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)
Equisetum hyemale is an easily manageable plant that is perfect for sprucing up your pond’s edges. Commonly referred to as horsetail, this robust accent plant produces tall, bamboo-like stems that are hollow and slender. The joints of each stem are characterized by gray-black sheaths that provide a nice contrast with the rest of the stem, which is a vivid shade of green.
Growing 2 – 4 feet (60 – 120 cm) tall, horsetail spreads by creeping rhizomes and can form great colonies. It grows best in moist or wet soil and can even thrive in up to 4 inches (10 cm) of standing water. With a preference for full sun or partial shade, this versatile plant generally requires minimum care. If you intend to place it within your pond, however, it is advisable to plant horsetail in pots to contain its spread.
9) Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum)
A plant that would make a stunning backdrop for the far edge of your pond, the Joe-Pye weed is more than just a moisture-loving plant with a funny name! Named after a Native American herbalist that produced teas from wild plants, this large bog plant can grow up to 7 feet tall (213 cm) and can cast a more than fair amount of shade onto your pond. This service alone helps prevent the proliferation of algae that would otherwise crowd the surface of your pond. Its height is not its best feature, however, as this plant is famed to produce vanilla-scented flowers that attract butterflies and bees. The pink-purple flowers bloom from mid-summer to early autumn, and develop into seeds that persist through cold months and serve as food for birds.
Hardy to zones 3 – 9, the Joe-Pye weed thrives in fertile, moist soil and does not tolerate dry soil. It grows best under full sun or partial shade and can tolerate wet, compact soil conditions along the pond’s border. It is easily propagated via seed or from softwood cuttings taken from the plant towards the end of spring. If you find that this plant is too big for your garden, you can opt for its smaller counterpart with equally attractive flowers, Eupatorium dubium, dubbed ‘Little Joe’.
10) Hard rush (Juncus inflexus)
Juncus inflexus is popularly known as hard rush, blue rush, or blue arrows. Though quite simple compared to the flowering plants listed above, this wetland plant can give your pond the look and feel of a calm aquatic paradise! Reflected by clear water, its numerous fronds can blur the edges of your pond. This tufted perennial is a true rush that can grow up to 3 feet (92 cm) tall and up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Emerging in the spring, the fine leaves of hard rush are typically lime-green in color and mature to an attractive shade of blue-green.
Hard rush can grow in standing water, up to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm). Its needs are easily met as it is not partial to a particular soil type or pH condition. Low maintenance and generally pest- and disease-free, this perennial plant can grow rapidly and provide erosion control services to your pond for many years. If cultivated in water, it may even serve as a playground for juvenile fish!