The Best Water Garden Plants

Water Lily

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

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Lotus

Momo Botan lotus

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

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Louisiana Iris

Louisiana Iris fulva

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

Name: Iris fulva

Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

Size: 3 feet tall

Zones: 5-9

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Pitcher Plant

Yellow pitcher plant Sarracenia flava

This underused waterside 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

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Canna

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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

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Swamp Lily

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Swamp lilies are native to North America and bear pink or white blooms from spring to fall. Grown waterside, 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

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Sweet Flag

sweet flag, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', Golden grassy-leafed sweet flag

Grow these plants for their striking foliage. Variegated types offer bright cream and green stripes that stand out among other plants. Place them beside your water feature.

Name: Acorus calamus 'Variegata'

Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

Size: To 5 feet tall

Zones: 4-11

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Rain Lily

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

Name: Zephyranthes selections

Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

Size: To 1 foot tall

Zones: 9-11, depending on type

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Cattail

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A fast spreader, cattails produce 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

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Japanese Primrose

Japanese Primrose Primula japonica

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

Name: Primula japonica

Growing Conditions: Part to full shade, pondside

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

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Perennial Hibiscus

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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, and loves being beside the water.

Name: Hibiscus moscheutos

Growing Conditions: Full sun, pondside

Size: To 8 feet tall

Zones: 5-10

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Cardinal Flower

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The cardinal flower is an excellent late-summer bloomer, a 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

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Japanese Iris

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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

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Taro

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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

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Papyrus

Cyperus 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

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Water Lily

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

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Video: Types of Water Garden Plants

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

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