25 Great Water Garden Plants

A water garden is a display showing aquatic plants. Whether you want marginal plants, floating plants, or bog plants, the correct greenery can turn your simple water garden into an oasis. Use your favorite textures, colors, and scents to create your own piece of heaven.

Ponds and water features add a wonderful layer of interest to your garden. Water garden plants serve to provide cover for fish, birds, insects, and land mammals. They also filter the water which prevents the build-up of algae and helps to oxygenate the water.

25 Water Garden Plants – Quick Links

  1. Water Lotus
  2. Sweet Flag
  3. Cattail
  4. Pitcher plant
  5. Canna lily
  6. Water lily
  7. Tiger lily
  8. Pickerelweed
  9. Marsh marigold
  10. Cardinal flower
  11. Japanese Iris
  12. Swamp lily
  13. Corkscrew rush
  14. Broadleaf arrowhead
  15. Northern blue flag
  16. Horsetail Reed
  17. Rodger flowers
  18. Papyrus
  19. Water Hyacinth
  20. Water poppy
  21. White snowflake
  22. Chameleon plant
  23. Creeping Jenny
  24. Water Canna
  25. Japanese Primrose

Plant Groups

There are five groups of water garden plants. Some plants will do better in a bigger pond. Mix & match these groups to a create a stunning pond ecosystem

  • Deep water plants – Pot them up and sink the pots.
  • Submerged plants – These are entirely submerged.
  • Floating plants – They require no soil as the roots obtain nutrients from the water.
  • Marginal Plants – Roots could be in the water, but it is not a necessity
  • Bog Plants – They thrive in wet conditions.

Benefits of Water plants

  • Water filtration – Plants remove nitrates from the water and produce clean oxygen.
  • Improves Oxygenation – Submerged plants give your fish a perfect hiding spot. They also produce a lot of oxygen keeping your fish and water healthy.
  • Algae Control – These plants use nutrients normally used by algae. The correct plant will prevent excess algae growth.

Types of Water Plants

1. Water Lotus


The lotus flower is striking in symmetry and colors. The lotus flower rises well above the water. These plants grow at the bottom of your pond in submerged pots without drainage holes.

They prefer full sunlight but handle some shade. It produces colorful blossoms in the summer. The flower closes during the night and is open during the warmest part of the day.  One blossom last about 5 days.

  • Scientific name – Nelumb Lutea
  • Size – 18-60 inches tall and up to six feet wide
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

2. Sweet flag


Sweet flag adds a bit of texture and fragrance to your water garden. It is ideal to place it close to a pathway where you can smell the sweet aromas.

The more sun they receive, the more water they will need This plant needs very moist soil or standing water. This is a marginal plant and requires very little maintenance.

  • Scientific Name – Acorus gramineus
  • Size – 10 inches tall and 4-6 inches wide
  • Sun – Partial shade to full sun

3. Cattail


These plants’ roots are submerged underwater and grow up to nine feet above the water. They form an important part of the water garden ecosystem as they filter decomposed matter from other plants. Roots help remove pollutants from the water.

Birds and other wildlife hide and feed amongst the rushes. Cattails spread with ease so keep an eye on them.

  • Scientific Name – Cattail Typha Latifolia
  • Size – 7-9 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

4. Pitcher Plant


This is an example of a bog plant. These can be grown in moist soil surrounding the pond. You can also grow them in a pot and place the pot in the water It offers interesting foliage and beautiful flowers. Pitcher plants are very low maintenance.

They are carnivorous. The tubes of the plants act as traps for insects and small animals.

  • Scientific name – Nepenthes
  • Size – 5 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun to light shade

5. Canna Lily


Canna lilies come in a variety of bright colors and are a great addition to any pond. Their tall blooms and ornamental leaves are stunning. They enjoy moist conditions with full sun.

They prefer slightly acidic soil and do well with indoor ponds.

  • Scientific name – Zantedeschia aethiopica
  • Size – 24-36 inches tall
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

6. Water Lily


This is an example of a deep-water plant.  The lily pads create a beautiful platform to display the stunning flowers and if you are lucky, a frog or two.

There are two types of water lilies, namely hard and tropical water lilies. Water lilies must be planted in containers at the bottom of your pond.

  • Scientific name – Nymphaea
  • Size – 18 inches to 8 feet
  • Sun – Full sun

7. Tiger lily


These plants are native to Asia and are loved for their brightly colored flowers and unusual spots. They crave moist, fertile soil with good drainage.

  • Scientific name – Lilium lancifolium
  • Size – 3-5 feet tall and 7-8 inch spread
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

8. Pickerelweed


Pickerelweed is native to the American continent. The beautiful purple spouts are a delight for any pond. It is often used to stabilize retention ponds and natural bodies of water.

It develops well in shallow waters with plenty of sun. It is wise to plant in containers as it spreads fast.

  • Scientific name – Pontederia cordata
  • Size – 3 feet
  • Sun – Full sun

9. Marsh marigold


Marsh marigold is a perennial herb in the buttercup family.  It is a marginal plant that features glossy green leaves that are topped with bright yellow flowers.

Marsh marigold is poisonous and can cause skin irritation. They thrive in boggy areas where the soil is moist, and the drainage is good.

  • Scientific name – Caltha palustis
  • Size – 8-24 inches tall
  • Sun – Full sun to light shade

10. Cardinal Flower


Named for the vivid red color, it produces bright red blossoms when other perennials are declining in the summer heat. It is native to America.

They require fertile moist soil and can tolerate poor drainage.

  • Scientific name – Lobelia cardinalis
  • Size – 2-4 feet tall
  • Sun – Morning sun with afternoon shade

11. Japanese Iris


Native to Japan, these irises are among the most elegant Irises. They feature huge orchid-like flowers which bloom from early to mid-summer.

It is best to plant them in acid-rich soil in pots and remove them from the water during fall and winter.  This will prevent them from rotting.

  • Scientific name – Isis laevigata
  • Size – 4 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun to part shade

12. Swamp lily


Also called a string lily, these plants are native to wet areas, making them perfect for your water garden. They feature green strap-shaped leaves with white flowers. The flowers have a delightful fragrance

  • Scientific name – Crinum pedunculatum
  • Size – 2-3 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun

13. Corkscrew rush


This is another example of a bog plant.  Its corkscrew-like plant form provides for visual delight. They look great near the water’s edge.

  • Scientific name – Juncus effusus f. spualis
  • Up to 18 inches tall and wide
  • Sun – Full to partial sun

14. Broadleaf Arrowhead


Also known as Duck-potato, this is a perennial rising above the water level to a height of 4 feet. The leaves are in an arrowhead shape and the flowers have showy white pedals. They thrive in consistently wet soil.

  • Scientific name – Sagittaria latifolia
  • Size – 4 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun

15. Northern blue flag


This is a member of the lily family and is often seen growing in wetlands. These plants are easy to grow and would look stunning next to a water feature.

Each stalk bears three to five violet blue flowers. This makes them an eye-catching addition to any water pond.

  • Scientific name – Iris versicolor
  • Size – 2-3 feet in height and spread
  • Sun – Full sun to part shade

16. Horsetail Reed


This is a bog plant that multiplies itself.  Horsetail stems are perfectly straight.  It is wise to grow these in pots due to their aggressive nature.

  • Scientific name – Equisetum hyemale
  • Size – 3-4 feet tall with an indefinite spread
  • Sun – Partial

17. Rodgers flowers


This is a boy plant that offers foliage as well as beautiful flowers. This is a good size perennial which makes an attractive background.

  • Scientific Name – Rodgersia spp
  • Size – 3-8 feet
  • Sun – Full sun to part shade

18. Papyrus


This plant was used by ancient Egyptians to make woven goods and paper. It has tall stalks with umbrella likes spokes as foliage on the top. It is a self-seeding annual and half-hardy perennial.

This is an example of a bog plant that will grow well with plenty of water.

  • Scientific name – Cyperus papyrus
  • Size – Up to 10 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

19. Water Hyacinth


This plant is excellent at filtering water, but it grows very quickly so you will need to cut back now and then. It produces lovely flowers which are normally white or purple.

  • Scientific name – Eichhornia crassipes
  • Size – 25 inches wide
  • Sun – Sun or shade

20. Water poppy


These plants are a perennial native to central and south America. The plant boasts of flat leaves with bright yellow flowers.  They will flower throughout summer and does best in submerged water.

  • Scientific name – Hydrocleys Nymphoides
  • Size – Flowers up to 3 inches, spread is 2 feet
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

21. White snowflake


White snowflakes produce a large quantity of star-shaped small, white bright flowers. It spreads quickly and provides cover for small fish. This plant can easily get overgrown and should be cut back regularly.

  • Scientific name – Nymphoides spp
  • Size – Spread up to 24 inches
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

22. Chameleon plant


The Chameleon plant is a grown cover that thrives in wet soil. This marginal plant with small white flowers which attracts lots of bees and butterflies.

Plant them in pots as these plants can spread very fast. This plant uses a lot of nutrients thus starving algae.

  • Scientific name – Houttuynia cordata
  • Size – Up to 1.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide
  • Sun – Gull sun to part shade

23. Creeping Jenny


Creeping Jenny is a perennial with small, bright yellow flowers. They are creepers that make an excellent ground cover that could grow between your logs and rocks.

It is very low maintenance but ensure it does not spread too much.

  • Scientific name – Lysimachia nummularia
  • Size – 8 inches tall to 2 feet wide
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

24. Water Canna


These are hybrid cultivars that can grow in shallow water.  They are native to South America. Water Canna has a dark purple dot at the end of the base and features clusters of purple flowers.

  • Scientific name – Thalia dealbata
  • Size – 4 feet tall
  • Sun – Full sun to partial shade

25. Japanese Primrose


Japanese primrose is an herbaceous perennial with bright pink flowers and wrinkled, wavy cabbage green leaves. These plants are ideal for wet shaded spots in the garden. They attract butterflies.

  • Scientific name – Primula japonica
  • Size – 2 feet tall by 1 foot wide
  • Sun – Full to partial sun.

Water Garden Plants – Conclusion

It can seem like a daunting task when you start to grow water plants. Start with a small project with selected plans. Once you have your plants sorted out, you may introduce some fish.

Water plants add texture, color, and health to your water feature. They also provide shelter, food, and oxygen to fish. It is a worthwhile addition to any yard.

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