Plants are essential in any pond, for more than just the aesthetics. Other than livening up your water feature with unique shapes, colors, and beautiful aquatic blooms, plants also play an integral role in keeping your pond a natural healthy ecosystem. Selecting the right pond plants will help you balance your water garden and maintain a healthier pond environment. You may be wondering, why are aquatic plants so beneficial to my pond? And, how do I know which plants would be best for my pond? We’ve listed the following tips that we hope will help you understand how you can reap the benefits of adding plants to your pond.
Benefits of Adding Plants to Your Pond
Plants are key to keeping a healthy pond ecosystem in many different ways. It is important to understand what plants bring to your pond so that you can add the right amount and obtain the most benefits. Different plants can do the following:
- Limit Algae Growth
By providing lots of shade, floating pond plants block excess sunlight limiting photosynthesis of algae in the water and keeping the water temperature cooler. (Algae love warmer temperatures which is why we see some algae blooms become toxic in the Summer.) Pond plants block sunlight from the depths of the water, minimizing unsightly algae growth that can clog filters and turn water murky. Plants also absorb plenty of the nutrients in the water, which will also keep algae from thriving. Whether your pond is 100 gallons or 100,000 gallons the addition of pond plants will decrease the amount of maintenance to keep your pond water clean and is a great alternative to expensive products that kill algae by chemical or mechanical means.
- Shelter Fish
If fish, frogs and other aquatic wildlife have a home in your pond, the right plants can provide safe shelter to protect them from potential predators. Submersed pond plants also act as a critical area for fry (babies) to hide. However, when koi are present it is a good idea to create protective boundaries around them to prevent them from getting eaten. Many fish and other wildlife will also nibble on plants as a natural food source. For example, turtles love Water Poppy and Frog Bit as a food source.
- Oxygenate the Water
Pond plants help raise the oxygen level of your water, making it healthier for fish and reducing the need for artificial aeration. When fish lack proper oxygen, they are more susceptible to diseases and poor health. Algae also thrives in low-oxygen water.
- Filter the Water
Because plants absorb nutrients from the water, they are part of a natural filtration system that can keep your pond looking pristine. Pond plants play an important role in the Nitrogen Cycle, by absorbing Nitrates for their own bio-functions. While overcrowded or sickly plants can die off and create murky water and excess debris, properly balanced plants are excellent natural filters.
- Naturalize the Setting
Plants help soften the barriers between your pond and the rest of your yard, creating a more organic, natural look to the landscape rather than rigid, artificial borders. Plants also work well to mask pond equipment, drains, piping or other artificial structures such as fences or posts.
- Improve Beauty
Plants can be a lovely feature of any pond. Unique foliage shapes and colors, aquatic blooms and interesting growth habits all add visual interest to your pond, creating a stunning waterscape you can enjoy for years.
How to choose which plants are best for your pond
Not all plants will work well in just any water feature, and there are certain factors you must consider when choosing which plants to add to your pond. Poorly chosen plants may die quickly or could take over your pond, crowding out other plants and clogging the pond and your equipment. Some plants may not adapt to your climate. Here are some things to consider when choosing plants for your pond:
- Light Levels: How much light do pond plants need for healthy growth? Is your pond shaded by other plants, trees or structures?
- Size: How large will your plants grow compared to the total size of the pond? Will they outgrow a small pond or get lost in a larger pond?
- Hardiness: Will your plants survive cooler waters in the pond during fall and winter? Can they tolerate sudden temperature changes?
- Variety: Are you choosing plants that will look good together? Do you have plants of different heights, shapes and colors for more interest?
- Fish Food: Are you choosing plants fish will eat quickly, just nibble on or leave alone? Will the interest of aquatic wildlife destroy your carefully chosen plants?
Plants to Consider
There are three different types of pond plants:
- Submerged Plants: These plants are almost entirely below the water’s surface and are excellent filters in ponds of all sizes. To stay fully submerged, they require deeper water. Popular submerged plants include: hornwort, vallisneria, water moss, curled pondweed and red ludwigia.
- Floating Plants: These plants have foliage and blooms above the water’s surface, while their roots follow below. They thrive in moderate water depths or deeper water. Popular floating plants include water hyacinth, water lettuce, frogbit, parrot’s feather and sensitive plant.
- Bog Plants: Very popular for natural filtration, bog plants live in shallower water along the edges of ponds, and their foliage extends above the water’s surface. Good options for bog plants include irises, cattails, pennywort, and water hawthorne.
Finding the best plants for your pond will help ensure a healthy ecosystem, and an attractive environment for you to enjoy. Once you have chosen the plants you prefer, follow instructions for adding them to your pond carefully and monitor them closely until they become established.