10 Wild Pond Plants (US Natives)

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Wild pond plants
Native plants play a key role in your pond’s ecosystem by offering refuge to wildlife and stabilizing shorelines. Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you think of wild pond plants, you might picture a tranquil scene straight out of a nature documentary. Native plants skirting the edges of a serene pond, or fully submerged in the quiet waters, play a significant role in the ecosystem. They offer refuge and sustenance to wildlife, stabilize shorelines, and add natural charm to the landscape.

Having a pond in your backyard or community park is more than just a picturesque addition; it’s a hub of life and a boon for biodiversity. Choosing to populate it with indigenous plant species from the US enriches the environment and promotes the health of local bird, insect, and amphibian populations. Wild pond plants native to your region can turn your watery haven into a thriving, self-sustaining ecosystem.

1) Arrow arum (Peltandra virginica)

Arrow arum in water
Arrow arum is a versatile plant that can be planted in sunny or shady areas. Michael Rivera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Arrow arum, or Peltandra virginica, thrives in US Hardiness Zones 5 through 10. You’ll find this native perennial accenting freshwater environments like bogs and ponds. It can handle chilly winters as low as -20°F in Zone 5 and enjoys warmer climates up to 40°F in Zone 10.

Its tropical appearance features large arrowhead-shaped leaves on stems reaching up to 24 inches. In late spring, the plant produces greenish-white flowers. By summer, expect to see shiny green seeds that many waterfowl love to snack on. Arrow arum is versatile, fares well in both sun and shade, and can grow in moist soil or up to 6 inches deep in water.

2) Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Pickerelweed in bloom
Pickerelweed is known for being easy to plant; all you need to do is submerge its roots in shallow water and let nature take care of the rest! gailhampshire / CC BY 2.0

You’ll find pickerelweed thriving in freshwater habitats. This hardy plant typically grows along the edges of ponds and lakes, where its roots can easily spread. Its foliage provides a lush green backdrop to vibrant purple flowers. These blooms are not only a treat for your eyes; they’re also a hit with pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Planting pickerelweed is a breeze. Just submerge the roots in shallow water and let nature do the rest. Keep in mind, they like the sun but can handle some shade, blossoming from May to October. If spreading is a concern, planting in containers is a solid choice.

3) Sweet flag (Acorus calamus)

Sweet flag
Sweet flag is a hardy perennial and can often be seen along pond shores and in wetlands. Estormiz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve likely spotted sweet flag alongside pond shores or in wetlands, its sword-shaped foliage standing out among aquatic plants. As you inspect closer, you’ll notice the distinctive spadix, a spike where the plant’s modest blooms cluster. Not just a pretty plant, sweet flag has historical roots with Native Americans, who value it for various purposes.

If you’re considering adding sweet flag to your water garden, know that it’s a hardy perennial. For best growth, plant sweet flag divisions in moist soil, and you’ll watch it thrive—providing year-round greenery to your tranquil water retreat.

4) Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani)

Softstem bulrush
Softstem bulrush brings vertical interest to your pond and attracts a host of wildlife species! Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You might find soft-stem bulrush, known scientifically as Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, thriving along the shores of ponds and lakes. It’s a tall, elegant grass that can shoot up to 10 feet in height. Its round green stems, also called culms, can grow quite thick.

This plant often forms dense clusters in standing water, sometimes as deep as three feet. Not only does it add vertical interest to your water garden, but it also serves as a favorite spot for various wetland wildlife. Keep an eye out for its spongy stems, they’re a giveaway that you’ve spotted this native wetland gem.

5) Blue flag iris (Iris versicolor)

Blue flag iris
Blue flag iris is an eye-catching plant that requires minimal upkeep and supports local ecosystems. Nichole Ouellette, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue flag iris is a striking perennial known for its showy flowers and adaptability to wet conditions, making it a standout in your pond-side plant collection. Its blooms vary in shades from pale to deep blue-violet, sure to catch the eye from spring to summer. You’ll find it thrives in full to partial sun and reaches heights between one and three feet.

Each flower presents a splash of color with its large, ornate petals, while the foliage maintains a steady green backdrop throughout the season. Plant them at the water’s edge, where their sword-like leaves can create a lush, natural feel. Remember, you’re not only adding beauty but also supporting local ecosystems with this native species.

6) Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

Marsh marigold on water's edge
Marsh marigold requires moist soil to grow properly and can be grown in either full sun or partial shade. Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You might have encountered the charming marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), brightening up the edges of ponds and streams with its vibrant yellow flowers. This plant loves the soggy, wet areas where water gathers—a marsh’s natural jewel. As part of the buttercup family, marsh marigold is not a true marigold, despite its common name suggesting otherwise.

Easy to grow, marsh marigold thrives in full sun or partial shade, just keep the soil moist. Remember, though, while this plant is a beautiful addition to your pond, its parts are toxic if ingested, so handle it with care. Whether you’re by a natural marsh or have a man-made water garden, this perennial native can add a splash of early spring color to your aquatic planting scheme.

7) Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal flower
Cardinal flower isn’t just a pretty plant, it also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies! Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to add a splash of color to your pond, the cardinal flower, or Lobelia cardinalis, might be your perfect match. This native wildflower flaunts dazzling scarlet blossoms that are hard to miss against the green backdrop of a pond’s edge. They usually grow in moist environments like stream banks, marshes, and low woodlands.

Once planted, your cardinal flower will need full to partial sunlight. It’s a fairly fast grower, so you’ll see results quickly. Plus, these plants attract hummingbirds and butterflies, making your pond a lively hub for local wildlife. Keep in mind the planting season – typically you’ll start with potted nursery starts in spring or seeds in the fall.

8) Broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

Broadleaf arrowhead
Broadleaf arrowhead has a preference for full sunlight, so it’s recommended to plant it in the spring or fall. Udo Schmidt from Deutschland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Broadleaf arrowhead, or Sagittaria latifolia, is a perennial aquatic plant you might spot growing profusely along pond edges or in marshy areas. This plant thrives in shallow water or wet soil and can reach heights from two to five feet. You’ll recognize it by its distinctive arrow-shaped leaves and clusters of three-petaled white flowers that bloom atop long stalks.

If you have a pond or water garden, broadleaf arrowhead could be a perfect native addition. Tthis plant is also valuable for its edible tubers, historically used as a starchy food source by various Native American tribes. With a preference for full sunlight, you can plant your broadleaf arrowhead in spring or fall. Make sure the water is no deeper than six inches over the soil to give it a good start.

9) Common cattail (Typha latifolia)

Common cattail
Common cattails are great for stabilizing shorelines, but they can spread aggressively if not kept under control. Le.Loup.Gris, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll find that the common cattail is incredibly adaptable and thrives in various wetland environments across North America. This sturdy plant, known scientifically as Typha latifolia, is a favorite for pond edges and marshy areas. It’s not picky about where it settles in, from North Carolina’s freshwaters to the slightly salty marshes.

Your pond can benefit from these plants. They’re not just pretty; they stabilize your pond’s shoreline too. But watch out for their aggressive growth—it’s smart to keep them contained so they don’t take over. With a little care, these wetland wonders create a natural, easy-to-maintain border for your pond ecosystem.

10) Northern bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis)

Northern bluejoint grass
Northern bluejoint grass is known for its ability to help stabilize shores and restore wetlands. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0

When you’re exploring wetlands or strolling along streams, you might notice the tall, reedy strands of northern bluejoint grass swaying in the breeze. Its scientific name is Calamagrostis canadensis, and it’s quite the performer when it comes to shore stabilization and wetland restoration. With creeping rhizomes, it helps to hold soil in place, which is why you’ll often see it included in hydroseeding projects for areas like drainage ditches.

Your pond’s ecosystem can benefit greatly from including northern bluejoint grass. It’s adapted to USDA Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, thriving in standing water up to 6 inches deep. This grass forms clumps and can reach up to 5 feet tall, lending a distinct, natural look to your pond’s edge. It’s a native choice that supports local habitats without the risk of becoming invasive, unlike some non-native species.

Chris G
About the author

Chris G

Pond consultant and long-time hobbyist who enjoys writing in his spare time and sharing knowledge with other passionate pond owners. Experienced with pond installation, fish stocking, water quality testing, algae control and the troubleshooting of day-to-day pond related problems.

Read more about Pond Informer.

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