The Best Plants for Your Water Garden

Add natural beauty to your water garden with the top-performing varieties.

Everything In This Slideshow

  • Lotus

    One of the most elegant bloomers in the water garden, lotus produces large, exotic peony-like flowers throughout the summer. The blooms appear in a number of colors and are a perfect accent to the gorgeous blue-green leaves.

    Name: Nelumbo selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, submerged in water

    Size: To 6 feet tall, depending on type

    Zones: Tropical: 10-11, Hardy: 4-9

  • Louisiana Iris

    Louisiana irises are native to areas of North America. Many hybrids have been developed, but one of the most elegant is the native, red-flowered species I. fulva.

    Name: Iris fulva

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: 3 feet tall

    Zones: 5-9

  • Pitcher Plant

    This underused plant is carnivorous, meaning it eats insects. Enjoy the tube-shaped leaves as well as the fascinating springtime red, purple, yellow, or green flowers.

    Name: Sarracenia hybrids

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: To 18 inches tall

    Zones: 2-11, depending on type

  • Canna

    Cannas are favorite, old-fashioned plants that you may not have considered for the water garden. They add a refreshing, tropical feel to your landscape.

    Name: Canna selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, submerged or pondside

    Size: To 6 feet tall, depending on type

    Zones: 8-11

  • Swamp Lily

    Swamp lilies are native to North America and bear lily-like pink or white blooms from spring to fall. Some types are deliciously fragrant and all are great for cutting.

    Name: Crinum americanum

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: To 4 feet tall

    Zones: 9-11

  • Sweet Flag

    Grow these plants for their striking foliage. Variegated types offer bright cream and green stripes that stand out among other plants.

    Name: Acorus calamus 'Variegata'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 4-11

  • Rain Lily

    Like a crocus for water gardens, rain lilies produce delicate flowers during the summer months in shades of pink, purple, yellow, and white.

    Name: Zephyranthes selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: To 1 foot tall

    Zones: 9-11, depending on type

  • Cattail

    A fast spreader, cattail produces familiar spikes of fuzzy brown blooms and beautiful grassy leaves.

    Name: Typha latifolia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, submerged or pondside

    Size: To 6 feet tall

    Zones: 2-11

  • Japanese Primrose

    The perfect little plant for the water garden's edge, Japanese primroses are delightful perennials that thrive in acidic soils. It self-sows, resulting in a delightful colony of mixed colors in just a few seasons.

    Name: Primula japonica

    Growing Conditions: Part to full shade, pondside

    Size: To 18 inches tall

    Zones: 4-8

  • 10 of 17

    Perennial Hibiscus

    You can't beat the big, bold flowers of hibiscus for a dramatic show. Native to wet areas across North America, this perennial is as tough and easy-to-grow as it is gorgeous.

    Name: Hibiscus moscheutos

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: To 8 feet tall

    Zones: 5-10

  • 11 of 17

    Cardinal Flower

    Cardinal flower is an excellent late-summer-blooming perennial for the edge of the water garden. The bright red flowers may attract hummingbirds.

    Name: Lobelia cardinalis

    Growing Conditions: Part to full shade, pondside

    Size: 3 feet tall

    Zones: 3-9

  • 12 of 17

    Japanese Iris

    Japanese iris is another favorite water-garden iris that bears large, often dinner-plate size flowers in a charming gallery of brushstroke color combinations.

    Name: Iris japonica

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

    Size: 3 feet tall

    Zones: 3-8

  • 13 of 17

    Taro

    Create a tropical look with taro (also sometimes called elephant's ears). For extra drama, select one of the beautiful purple-leaf varieties.

    Name: Colocasia selections

    Growing Conditions: Part to full shade, pondside

    Size: To 5 feet tall

    Zones: 9-11

  • 14 of 17

    Papyrus

    While ancient Egyptians used this plant to make paper, it's also a great water-garden plant. The tall stems create a decidedly tropical look.

    Name: Cyperus papyrus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside or submerged

    Size: To 6 feet tall

    Zones: 9-11

  • 15 of 17

    Water Lily

    A water garden isn't complete without an array of beautiful water lilies. There are tropical and hardy types, as well as varieties that bloom during the day and at night.

    Name: Nymphaea selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun, submerged in water

    Size: To 6 feet wide, depending on type

    Zones: Tropical: 10-11, Hardy: 4-9

  • 16 of 17

    Video: Types of Water Garden Plants

    Watch this video to learn about the different categories of water garden plants.

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