Choosing The Right Pond Plants

Attracting Wildlife to Your Pond

If you want to have a pond that is great for wildlife, you'll need pond plants that create the best stable habitat. You'll also find that the less tidy your pond - the better! Over time, dead foliage and mud will naturally build up. This is essential for many forms of wildlife from nesting birds to the beetles which they feed on.

Reeds and rushes are great for dragon fly larvae that crawl up the leaves and stems to transform, and other mini-beasts that overwinter in the seed heads.
If you're really lucky you might also attract birds such as Reed Warblers who will nest in the dead and dry reed leaves and stems.

Flowering plants such as lilies and marsh marigolds are perfect for attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects to your pond. You will also find that many insects, especially bees, will come down to your pond to drink the water which is essential for honey production.

Floating plants like lilies, watercress and creeping jenny have some foliage on the surface of the pond and root stems down into the muddy bottom. These plants are essential for insects such as bees and butterflies to land on whilst drinking, and also for larger creatures such as frogs and toads to rest on whilst breeding. Frog spawn is also usually laid amongst floating plants to keep it the right temperature and position for the developing tadpoles. Newts also make use of these 'plant ladders' to navigate the various areas of your pond to feed and breed.

Oxygenating plants are any pond plants that grow partially or entirely underwater, such as Crispa and Hornwort. Oxygen is produced by the leaves as part of the plant's photosynthesis and oxygenates the water. This oxygen is essential for any animal living underwater such as fish or tadpoles, and will also help to prevent your pond water from becoming stagnant or polluted. Underwater plants need sunlight to reach the leaves to photosynthesise, so it's important to have these plants in an exposed position (i.e. not shaded under lily leaves).

Marginal pond plants grow at the edge of a pond either out of the water or in the shallows. They are perfect for helping creatures to get into and out of the pond and also providing shelter and somewhere to hide.

Pond Size and Regions

It's ironic but the smaller the pond, generally the harder it is to make a success of and the more maintenance it will need. This is because the water is shallower and more prone to drying out/fluctuating temperature changes which wildlife can find hard to tolerate, and plants don't have as much space to grow in. However, with small ponds as long as you don't overcrowd them with plants, and you make sure every year they do not become clogged up with roots, you can create a fabulous and beautiful environment for fish and wildlife that is well worth your time.

The diagram below shows the different areas of a pond that suit different aquatic plants. It is included on every pond plant page to help you make a decision on which plants are best for you.

Area 1 is for marginal plants or moisture lovers that would not grow in water but like soggy, muddy conditions such as Irises and Bog bean.

Area 2 is for marginal plants that would grow in shallow water such as rushes and water mint.

Area 3 is for marginal and pondside plants such as water hyacinth and plants that can be planted in water around 40cm deep such as bulrushes.

Area 4 is for deep water plants and fully submerged oxygenating plants such as water lilies and crispas that require a planting basket.

Area 5 is for floating plants that don't require planting baskets and have their roots dangling in the water such as Crispa.
It's generally recommended that a 3rd of your pond should be covered by floating plants to reduce algae growth.

Planting Baskets and Soil

It is bes to plant your pond plants in the baskets they came in until they are established for the first year, and then repot them the following spring. When repotting use pond compost to plant into topped with washed gravel, water well (out of the pond), and leave to drain for a while, then pop them in the pond.
Some ponds plants such as Bulrush are rapid growers and you will need to cut them back or divide them up and re-pot them each year. Early winter is the best time to do this as most of the pond life will have gone into hibernation, and the plants will have died back and entered their dormant stage.
Always remember to leave pond debris on the side of the pond for a few days before composting it.
It gives the wildlife a chance to crawl back into the water.

Ponds with Fish

Fish need shelter and shade to feel safe in their environment, however it's also important to have exposed areas of the pond so they can come to the surface. Some fish also eat some pond plants, so you will need to find out what plants your fish eat (if any) to provide the best habitat possible. Most pond plants will either arrive in a planting basket or will need planting into baskets later in the year - it's vital to only use recommended pond compost to reduce the risk of polluting the water.

Invasive Species

The following plants have been identified as invasive species - this means these plants can cause environmental damage by competing with our natural British wildlife. It's important you watch out for these plants appearing in your pond, and if they do appear to remove them and compost or burn them to prevent contamination into other ponds, rivers and water systems.
Please also note that under no circumstances should garden plants be disposed of in the wild. Even native plants placed in the wrong location can cause environmental damage because the wildlife does not have time to adapt to the changing habitat. It is essential to dispose of them correctly, either compost or burn, or take them to your local refuse centre.

1. Floating/water pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) - not to be confused with the slower growing Hydrocotyle nova Zealand (Miniature pennywort) or the variegated Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides variegata (Crystal confetti).

2. Parrot's feather/Brazilian water-milfoil (Myriophyllum aquaticum, Myriophyllum brasiliense, Myriophyllum proserpinacoides).

3. New Zealand pigmyweed/Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii).

4. Water Primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora, Ludwigia uruguayensis, Ludwigia peploides).

5. Water fern/fairy fern (Azolla filiculoides).

You can find out more on these plants and other invasive on-native species of pond life here

Thanks to Ms Bagnall from Lancashire for sharing these photos of her new pond installation - the photo on the left shows the newly installed pond (created with a Dragonfly Plus 1000 Preformed Pond), the photo top right shows it just two weeks later and bottom right 7 weeks later! As you can see the pond has goldfish in it and the water has cleared considerably after just 2 weeks. The pond plants will take a little while longer to establish which will also help to clear the water.