List of Plants to Hide & Cover Pond Liners 2023 [Updated]

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Pond Plants to Cover & Hide Pond Liner Bottom & Edges 2023 [Updated]

Pond liner around a koi pond
Pond liner is the most common material used for lining and securing ponds, but it can often look unnatural in a garden. Koi Acres, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pond liner is the most commonplace material for lining and securing ponds, particularly in areas where the sediment is mediocre. Unfortunately, it is often made of a synthetic material that can look quite unnatural in a garden. If you can’t stand the artificial look that liner may bring to your pond, there are a number of great ways to mask it.

Rocks, stones, and pebbles are frequently used to hide liner along a pond’s edges, but an even more natural way to camouflage the material is achieved by using plants! These can be situated along the margins of a pond and allowed to grow inward, especially when using species that thrive in both submerged and exposed conditions. Bog plants with a trailing or creeping habit are best suited for this purpose.

To mask pond liner along the bottom of your pond, you can use a combination of aquatic plants. Species that have floating foliage can distract from the appearance of liner and provide necessary shade for your pond communities at the same time! If you’re inclined to have plants rooted to the bottom of your pond, you can also incorporate gravel-bound species that develop submerged fronds. Potted plants that are rooted in aquatic soil may also be moved further into your pond to disguise the bottom.

Why Use Plants to Cover Pond Liner? (Plant Benefits)

A small pond with plants and rocks around the liner
Using plants to hide pond liner can help it last longer, as it is more shaded from sunlight and other harsh elements. Image by smltd from Pixabay

Aside from the wealth of benefits plants bring to a pond, they can help your liner last longer! By shading the material from sunlight and other harsh elements, the unexposed liner can stay durable for longer. They can also prevent the liner from developing fractures that would expand and render it ineffective over time. Convinced that plants are the way to go? Here are a few species that would effectively hide your pond liner.

List of the Best Plants to Cover & Hide Pond Liner

1) Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

A spreading mat of bugleweed
Bugleweed is known for enticing a host of pollinators, but be sure to control its spread if not restricted to a pot or container. G. Edward Johnson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Europe

When strategically placed, Ajuga reptans is a herbaceous perennial that can quickly produce runners to provide coverage. Commonly known as bugleweed, carpet bugle, and carpetweed, it is a rapidly spreading member of the mint family. This flowering plant comes in many attractive cultivars, which are prized for their mats of showy blue flowers that bloom in mid to late spring. Growing to an average of 4 – 8 inches tall, this highly adaptable plant can easily be cultivated out of pots around your pond or in spaces between rocks and stones along the pond’s edge.

If you’re interested in attracting wildlife to your pond, bugleweed will do the trick. Its attractive foliage and vivid flowers are known for enticing a host of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and moths. It is also known for being extremely well-adapted to outdoor temperate conditions, as it is not frost tender. Bugleweed thrives best in moist, well-draining soil and under both full sun or partial shade. It is hardy to USDA zones 3 – 10 and is remarkably low-maintenance once established.

Tolerant of most soils, this creeping plant has the tendency to become widespread and is in fact considered an invasive species in some areas of the US. When not restricted to a pot or container, this plant may smother nearby weeds and may be difficult to remove. If you intend to grow this attractive species around your pond, make sure that you can limit or restrict its spread.

2) Baby gunnera (Gunnera magellanica)

Bright red berries of the baby gunnera plant
In the summer, baby gunnera produces bright red berries which are not known for being toxic. Rocio.Ferreyra99, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to South America

Gunnera magellanica is commonly known as baby gunnera, Frutilla del Diablo (devil’s strawberry), dwarf rhubarb, or pig vine. This low-growing perennial has several charming features that make it an appealing candidate as pond liner coverage. It has a creeping habit and horizontally spreads via rhizomes underground. Unlike its giant cousin (Gunnera manicata), it produces small round leaves that are emerald green in color, kidney-shaped, and delicately toothed just along the margins.

In the summer, this nitrogen-supplying plant produces panicle-shaped green flowers that develop into bright red-orange berries. The fruits are not known for being toxic, and should not be a cause for alarm if found floating around your pond. This species will appreciate a pond-edge setup, as it has a preference for permanently wet, humus-rich soil. To bring out the attractive glossy sheen of its leaves, make sure to plant it along pond edges that receive partial shade and shelter from the elements.

Hardy to USDA zones 6 – 9, baby gunnera can withstand temperatures that drop down to -10˚C, though its foliage is frost tender and may die back during harsh winters. If you’re concerned about ground coverage plants that spread far too quickly, this species is definitely one to consider. It grows to just 6 inches tall and slowly spreads to around 12 inches over the course of 5 – 10 years.

3) Water iris (Iris laevigata)

Water iris in bloom with purple flowers
The water iris is an eye-catching plant which is relatively easy to grow and maintain. Cragrat at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to temperate regions of Asia

The most water-loving of irises, Iris laevigata is undoubtedly a superior addition to an ornamental pond. To mask all traces of your pond liner, cultivate this species along pond edges and allow it to progress inward into the submerged margins of your pond. The subject of many romantic poems and diary entries, this swoon-worthy plant produces eye-catching blue flowers that are impossible to miss. Cast against a backdrop of its lime-green foliage, they are so vibrant that they’re even known to attract hummingbirds.

Water iris is relatively easy to grow and will not require much in terms of maintenance. Given either partial shade or full sun, this species will steadily spread over acidic, humus-rich soil. It can grow to a height of 30 inches, and may have to be cut back after the spring-summer flowering periods. Its love affair with water means that it can be situated further into your pond, up to a depth of 8 inches! 

If you’re interested in iris blooms of another color, there are a wealth of alternatives that have similar soil and water preferences. Hardy to USDA zones 5 – 9, true water irises will grow even through the winter with water over their crowns. Though they are great focal plants for large ponds, you may wish to limit the growth of your water irises if you have a small pond area. This can easily be done via pond plant baskets that restrict the spread of roots.

4) Japanese rush (Acorus gramineus)

Japanese rush plant in soil
Japanese rush can withstand even the harshest of climates and will disguise your pond liner all year round. F. D. Richards / CC BY-SA 2.0

Native to Japan and Korea

A plant that can withstand even the harshest of climates, Acorus gramineus is an indisputably formidable rush. It will seamlessly disguise your pond liner through both cold winters and warm summers. Pond edge placement is no issue either, as this semi-aquatic species can tolerate being partly submerged or fully exposed. To tame this aggressive grower, place it in pots along your pond’s margins. You may even opt to locate it close to the pond’s center as long as the pot is tall enough to expose the tips of the plant.

Japanese rush is characterized by tough, leathery leaves that grow to a length of 25 cm (10 inches). Depending on the cultivar at hand, the compact foliage can be green all throughout or have white, cream, or yellow-colored striations. This species is propagated by dividing clumps of leaves, though they must be attached to intact rhizomes. When exposed to climate conditions of USDA zones 5 – 10, this plant is easy to maintain and will simply require consistently wet soil.

In Japan, this hardy rush is also known as grass-leaf sweet flag. Its leaves were once gathered to commemorate the Sweet Flag festival and were used as decorations for the roofs of traditional houses. The leaves were said to have protective qualities against evil spirits! They were even used to create special herbal balls with medicinal properties.     

5) Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water lettuce on the surface of the water
Water lettuce is a hardy species that can withstand conditions on the water’s surface. Katrin Schneider,, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to tropical and sub-tropical regions

Water lettuce has always been one of those go-to plants for ponds, and it’s no mystery why. This hardy species, with an almost cosmopolitan global distribution, is equipped with adaptations to withstand conditions on the water’s surface. With perfectly balanced structures that permit lifelong buoyancy, this floating plant can be situated along your pond’s margins to mask the liner covering the slopes or steep sides. Place individuals where trailing shoots of other plants meet the pond’s surface. This way, seamless coverage is ensured.

Limited by cold temperatures below 15˚C, water lettuce favors tropical water conditions and will grow rapidly in USDA zones 8 – 10. Unfortunately, it can be invasive in these warmer regions and is linked to economic consequences in public waterways. Its leathery cabbage-like leaves are associated with both benefits (prevention of algal blooms, shelter, and food for koi) and consequences (oxygen depletion). Thus, this plant must be grown in a controlled manner. Keep in mind that in some parts of the US, it is now illegal.

If you are eager to grow this plant and can put in the time and effort to control its spread, it will surely be worth your while. Small populations can provide the perfect environment for newly hatched fry and juvenile fish. Simply evaluate this plant’s pond coverage during routine pond maintenance and regularly remove a few individuals. You may also opt to place them in separate containers around your pond to create mini water lettuce gardens.  

6) Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

Hornwort submerged underwater
Hornwort is a great free-floating plant for masking your pond liner, including at the bottom of your pond. Radio Tonreg from Vienna, Austria, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to all continents (except Antarctica)

Capable of growing all around your pond, Ceratophyllum demersum is a free-floating herbaceous plant that is commonly known as hornwort or coontail. In the wild, this species thrives in fully submerged conditions in calm lakes and ponds. It provides a safe haven for amphibians and fish, while boosting oxygen levels and preventing algal growth. All of these benefits make it the perfect plant for fully masking pond liner – yes, even at the very bottom of your pond.

The bottoms of ponds in the wild tend to have communities of oxygenating plants. A carpet of hornworts covering the bottom of an ornamental pond can mimic this natural phenomenon. Moreover, it can help promote a balanced ecology by soaking up excess nitrates. The only downside is it tends to spread very rapidly (via fragmentation) and can overgrow a body of water if left unchecked. Its spread can be controlled by both natural and manual means, however.

Dealing with a carpet of hornwort can sometimes be as time-consuming as regularly mowing lawn or turf. Though the shoots can be trimmed regularly to maintain the desired length, repeatedly disrupting an entire pond community for this purpose might not seem worth it. Instead, you may want to consider diversifying your pond with more floating plants (blocked light will slow the growth of hornwort) and natural grazers! Several carp species and freshwater turtles are known for feasting on hornwort. Take advantage of their herbivorous nature and let them help you control the growth of your aquatic plants.

7) Eelgrass (Vallisneria americana)

Eelgrass underwater
Eelgrass forms tall underwater meadows, contributing significantly to your pond’s diffused oxygen levels. Fredlyfish4, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to North and South America

The freshwater counterpart of seagrass? Vallisneria americana, widely referred to as eelgrass, is known for its ecological value in wild pond and lake communities. It is a rooted herbaceous plant that thrives best when fully submerged. Its long ribbon-like leaves gracefully flow in a current and grow up to 3 – 4 feet long. For this reason, eelgrass is also commonly known as tape-grass or wild celery.

When grown in abundance, eelgrass forms tall underwater meadows. While effectively masking liner along the bottom, these meadows can contribute significantly to your pond’s diffused oxygen levels. Their fronds also act as natural filters, stripping your pond water of excess nutrients and pond waste. If those benefits were not enough to convince you, eelgrass meadows also provide a safe environment for juvenile fish to grow!

If incorporating mature eelgrass to your pond bottom, make sure to weigh them down with an aquatic substrate, or with rocks and stones. As they require ample light for growth, they are best situated at a depth of 1 – 4 feet. Keep in mind that this plant will spread via runners along the pond bottom if left unrestricted, so grow them out of pots if you wish to control their spread. Hardy to USDA zones 4 – 10, this plant can tolerate a wide variety of conditions, but will grow best in alkaline water and warmer temperatures.

8) Trumpet pitchers (Sarracenia spp.)

A group of trumpet pitcher plants
Trumpet pitchers’ exotic look will certainly distract from the appearance of a pond liner. Noah Elhardt, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to North America

For an exotic look that will truly set your pond apart, consider planting trumpet pitchers along its margins or as a focal point for your pond’s far edge. If there were ever a group of plants that would unfailingly distract from the appearance of a pond liner, this is certainly it. Endlessly fascinating for both pond and plant enthusiasts alike, Sarracenia is a genus of colorful carnivorous plants. These ravenous species are both bizarre and beautiful at the same time. They may look intimidating to pond newbies, but fret not because they are surprisingly easy to grow and care for!

Trumpet pitchers are unforgettable in appearance as their leaves have evolved into funnel-shaped or pitcher-like structures. The flaps or lips above these pitchers naturally secrete extrafloral nectaries that attract a host of unsuspecting insects. Those that fall for the lure become trapped in the pitchers, where they are digested by specialized enzymes! If you’d like to observe this spectacle of nature by cultivating trumpet pitchers, there are a few things to keep in mind.  

Though pitcher plants like being in water, they will not appreciate conditions that keep them too wet. It may be best to grow them out of pots that can easily be elevated. As a rule of thumb, keep the soil permanently damp, rather than fully wet. Acidic soil, with a mix of peat moss and perlite, will be much appreciated as well. To guarantee that your trumpet pitchers dapple your pond’s edges for years to come, ensure that they receive full sun and adequate moisture.

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