TSLG’s Top 10 Aquatic Plants for the Beginner Water Gardener

The sight and sound of water can always draw the interest of people. Water adds an appealing element to a garden. Water gardens can include fountains, waterfalls, small ponds and elaborate combinations of rockwork and lighting. Basically, a water garden is just a pool of water that is home to plants and possibly fish and other water creatures. Natural ponds or large spaces are no longer needed for a water garden. A water garden can be a concrete dish, barrel, plastic tub or anything else that holds water.

Add natural beauty to your water features!  Gardening with aquatic plants is similar to traditional gardening in that you have to be aware of proper soil conditions, container types, proper planting techniques, fertility needs, and after planting care. What makes water gardening unique is that the plants you grow are growing in a water filled environment.

Here are The Southern Landscape Group's Top 10 Aquatic Plants for the beginner Water Gardener:


Water Lettuce

Pistia stratiotes

Full Sun to part shade

3 inches tall and 6 inches wide

Water Lettuce, is a floating, frost-tender aquatic perennial that is commonly used as an ornamental plant in water gardens. They resemble small open heads of lettuce. New plants are formed at the ends of stolons radiating outward from the mother plant.

Water Hyacinth

Eichhornia crassipes

Full Sun

10 inches tall and wide

Water Hyacinth is a floating, aquatic perennial with a pretty light blue spike flower.  This water plant is a very aggressive grower and often forms a mat over the pond. Its fibrous root system is a delight for nibbling fish, and doubles as a canopy fish use to hide.

Water Lily

Nymphaea odorata

Full Sun

18” to 24” tall and wide

Water lilies spread across the water‘s surface, filling it with color and vibrancy all the while keeping your pond and fish safe and healthy.  These free-floating perennials can remain in the pond year-round. This showy lily will die off in the winter time and produce new leaves and flowers in the spring.

Water Iris

Iris ensata ‘Variegata’

Full to Part Sun

2’ tall and wide

Perfect for any pond border.  You can plant Water Iris right at the edge of any pond or stream, or even plunge a potted Water Iris so that it’s rim is just below the surface. Variegated foliage works well for brightening a woodland setting.


Elephant Ears

Colocasia x hyrbids

Part to Full Shade

2 - 6 ft. tall and wide

Elephants Ears add visual excitement wherever they are used.  Large, striking leaves contrast spectacularly with surrounding textures and colors.  Colocasia spreads freely in rich-wet soils and is an easy way to add a tropical flair to any garden.


Canna indica

Full Sun

5’ tall and 4’ wide

A dramatic, spike-like specimen that adds bold color to any landscape.  Canna’s brilliant flowers come in colors of yellow, orange, red, and pink.  Can be used in both containers and pond settings.

Pink Bells

Ruellia brittoniana

Full to Part Sun

1’ tall and 3’ wide

Pink Bells bears many pink, tubular, petunia-like flowers. Each flower lasts for just one day. It is a fast grower that can self-seed aggressively. Use in a border, container, or at waterside. Can be grown as an annual in cooler areas.

Red Water Dock

Rumex sanguineus ‘Sanguineus’

Full Sun

1’ to 1.5’ tall and wide

Green leaves are prominently veined with a contrasting red and purple color. In early summer, tiny star-shaped flowers appear in panicles. Flowers emerge green, but mature to reddish brown. Flowers are followed by reddish-brown fruit.

Egyptian Papyrus

Cyperus papyrus

Full to Part Sun

5’ to 8’ tall and 2’ to 4’ wide

A grass-like clump of triangular green stems that rise up from thick, woody rhizomes. Each stem is topped by an umbellate inflorescence of narrow arching thread-like rays.  Greenish-brown flower clusters appear at the ends of the rays. Flowers give way to brown, nut-like fruits.


Nelumbo nucifera

Full to Part Sun

3’ to 4’ tall and wide

Large, cupped, fragrant, pink or white flowers appear in summer on stiff stems above the foliage. Each flower blooms for about three days, opening in the morning and closing at night each day. Flowers are followed by pods which resemble the shape of a watering can rose. The pods can be dried and are highly prized for dried flower arrangements.