Water Plants

Sometimes called aquatic plants, there is a water plant for virtually every type of water feature, from the smallest tabletop fountains to expansive ponds. To help you consider all your options, use the Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia to search by this plant type, then refine your list further by entering your zip code, sun exposure, and other features you're interested in.
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount


Native to North America and parts of Europe and Asia, cattails feel right at home in wetlands and boggy soil. They add a bold vertical presence to <a href="https://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/water-gardens/dream-… gardens and ponds, thanks to their height (4 to 6 feet); upright, swordlike leaves; and familiar cylindrical fruiting spike displayed by female plants after summer flowering and pollination. The fruiting spikes, which persist through winter, are a favorite landing spot for red-winged blackbirds and dragonflies. Cattails also provide a valuable habitat for wetland birds and other wildlife. Along with their contributions to landscaping projects, cattails are collected for use in both fresh and dried arrangements and eaten as produce. The rhizomes of narrowleaf cattail Typha angustifolia can be peeled and cooked like potatoes, for example. Young spring shoots, which have a nutty flavor, can be used like asparagus. Stay safe, though—always wash cattails before adding them to the menu, and never consume them if they come from areas with contaminated water.
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Pickerel Weed

Quiet ponds and wetlands are excellent growing places for low-maintenance and easy-to-grow pickerel weed. Its blue-green, heart-shape leaves have a waxy feel and provide a backdrop for the plant’s purple-blue flower spikes. The 6-inch-long flowers bloom from the bottom up and decorate the plant nonstop from summer through fall. A valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies, pickerel weed beckons winged visitors to the garden. Fish often take shelter in pickerel weed and dragonflies and damselflies often lay their eggs on the plant stems near the water.
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Arrowhead, which earned its name because of its arrow-shape leaves, is a no-fuss water garden plant that adds a lush, tropical feel to ponds, pools, and water features. Several species are available, many of which are native to areas of North America. They all bear attractive three-petal flowers throughout summer and are largely carefree once established. Check carefully when you buy: Some species are considered invasive and have naturalized in streams, ponds, and other waterways. Several types of arrowhead plant form starchy tubers (similar to small potatoes) that can be harvested and eaten by humans. Birds and other creatures also eat these tubers, making the plant a valuable choice for attracting wildlife.
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Amazon lily

Truly a plant to wow your friends and neighbors, Amazon lily is nothing short of magnificent. In a large pond, this plant's leaves can reach 6 feet across and are covered in spiny prickles. The flowers, which appear in summer, start as thorn-covered green buds that open to large white masterpieces that fade pink. The blooms have the fragrance of ripe pineapple.
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Water Snowflake

Delicate flowers and glossy leaves make this easy-to-grow water garden plant a favorite. The yellow form is also called floating heart, thanks to the heart-shape leaves that float like water lily leaves on the pond surface. Add water snowflake to in-ground water gardens or container gardens. Unlike some water garden plants, water snowflake is generally well-behaved and doesn’t overtake nearby plants.
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Water Lily

Water lilies, the iconic flowers of water gardens, contribute to <a href="https://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/landscape-basics/how… pond health. By covering the water surface, they shade the water and keep it cooler, which helps control algae that thrives in heat. Water lilies also shelter fish from birds of prey filter out excess nutrients to further inhibit algae growth. Growing from stout rhizomes from the pond bottom, water lilies’ signature leaves develop on long stems and float at the surface. When temperatures warm up in summer, water lilies’ showy flowers open in the morning and close at night.  
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More Water Plants

Parrot's Feather

Parrot's feather is a versatile plant for ponds and water gardens. Grow it underwater to oxygenate water, provide fish a place to hide, and reduce on algae. Or let parrot’s feather float on the water to provide shade. It can also be grown in wet soil at the water's edge. It earned its moniker from its dense plumes of fine-texture foliage. Parrot’s Feather has both submerged and emergent foliage. The emergent stems will root near the shoreline via rhizomes. Check local restrictions before planting parrot’s feather because it is considered an invasive species in some areas. It can reproduce rapidly in natural areas, clogging waterways and crowding out native species.  
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Water plants don’t get any easier than horsetail, which tolerates a wide range of soils and even grows in standing water. And although it prefers full shade, it can grow in full sun to part shade, too, as long as conditions are right. It’s not surprising to find out horsetail is so tough: This plant has survived—and thrived—since prehistoric times. The good news is it adds unique structure and texture to water gardens with its segmented hollow stems that are ringed in black and resemble thin bamboo. The bad news is that horsetail is incredibly invasive, and it’s tough to eradicate. Horsetail’s good points include its ability to add interest to the landscape, even in winter. It’s particularly well suited to water gardens, bog gardens, tub or trough gardens, the edges of streams and ponds, and covering a boggy area where nothing else works. Grow lofty horsetail alongside surface-hugging water lily and water hyacinth. Or plant it in pots and enjoy its attributes in a confined growing location where it is less likely to displace nearby vegetation. Horsetail will provide a strong vertical accent in any of these locations.
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