Plants for your pond surround: Sunny & wet
While any plant will probably be fine next to a pond, some will do and look better than others. Whether you have major splashing from a fountain or a still water hole, here are some ideas for plants to put around your pond or water feature.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 18, 2008.)
Plants for a Splashing or Wet environment
The surrounding area around ponds can sometimes be damp because of splashing fountains or waterfalls or simply because the environment is wetter than average.
If this is true in your case, you have to be careful not to plant things that will drown in these conditions. There are plenty of beautiful plants that will survive in moist, full sun growing conditions.
Canna (Canna x generalis)
Canna is a standard for ponds, both next to them and in them. Canna loves full sun as well as lots of water. Canna will quickly reward you with brightly colored blooms in the correct conditions. Canna come in a variety of bloom colors and foliage variations. 'Tropicanna' and 'Angel Pink' are two stunning varieties to try.
Japanese Rush 'Ogon' (Acorus gramineus)
Japanese Rush is a beautiful grass addition to your pond surround. It can handle both very dry conditions as well as very wet conditions, including in the water itself. 'Ogon' is a particularly striking cultivar with its variegated gold and green strappy leaves. Japanese Rush is also extremely easy to divide by cutting or pulling apart the clump. It roots easily in water and quickly regains its lush look.
Black Gamecock Iris A hardy Lousiana iris, Black Gamecock is an excellent choice for in and around the pond. It flourishes in full to partial sun with moist, well draining soil. It is a reliable bloomer and multiplies readily. Its black-blue flower provides an interesting contrast to orange Canna or Nasturtium flowers.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) With a brilliant red flower, this hardy perennial is a favorite of hummingbirds and water gardeners alike. It is native to the US and is more upright than its cousin, the annual blue Lobelia, and the flowers are equally vivid.
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Obedient Plant is available with white, pink and lavender bloom colors and is an excellent choice for fast-growing flowers around the pond. Take care though, this one is not known as "Obedient" for its manners; It can actually be very invasive. Obedient in the name refers to the fact that you can move a singular bloom and it will stay where you put it.
Taro 'Black Magic' (Colocasia esculenta)
All Taros, or Elephant Ears, make excellent plantings both in and beside the pond. Their large leaves lend a tropical feel and are virtually effortless to grow when given wet and sunny conditions. 'Black Magic' is an excellent variety to try because of its dark leaves and stems. Elephant Ears are easy to overwinter indoors in cooler climates.
Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)
Chameleon Plant is best known for its striking multi-colored foliage. It is commonly sold as a bog plant but does well as a planting in soil around your pond. Be careful with this one, as it can get out of hand quickly.
Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)This hardy perennial is suited well for the moist conditions around a pond, but is underappreciated among water gardeners. Ragged Robin gets its name from the shredded looking lavender-pink early-summer blooms.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) Swamp Milkweed is a native to the US, specifically states such as Texas and Virginia. Just as its more common milkweed cousin, Swamp Milkweed attracts and supports butterflies and their larvae. It thrives in moist conditions, and in addition to being a larval host is hardy to Zone 3.
Umbrella Plant (Cyperus involucratus)Umbrella Plant is great for ponds both as a marginal and as a surrounding planting. There are many different varieties of Umbrella Plant such as several different dwarf cultivars. Umbrella Plant lends an interesting texture when mixed with plants such as a dark leafed Canna.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Nasturtiums come in a variety of bloom colors from white, yellow, to dark reddish-orange. They do best when direct sowed in the ground in the location you want them grow. They are both mound-forming and trailing. 'Alaska' (pictured at left) is a beautiful variegated cultivar of Nasturtium.
Plants like Brugmansia can be beautiful next to a pond, but tend to drop a lot of leaves so take caution before planting these too close to your water feature.
Groundcovers are an excellent choice to conceal and naturalize the look of rocks around your pond. Most of them can handle full sun and wet conditions; some can even survive once they spread into the pond itself.
Creeping Jenny 'Aurea'
A classic and interesting plant for the pond surround, Creeping Jenny is a great choice for its color, vigor, and adaptability. It is a very hardy perennial and spreads quickly through rocks and even into the pond. Once a trailer of Creeping Jenny grows roots in the pond, it can be broken off the mother plant and grown exclusively in water.
Ajuga reptans - Bugleweed
Bugleweed is a quick spreading ground cover that will fill in crevices and spaces in rocks. A hardy perennial, bugleweed can be invasive. It blooms lovely blue spires in Spring.
Lemon Thyme is a taller ground cover, growing to about 5 inches. It has petite variegated leaves with a pleasant scent when touched or broken.
Scotch Moss forms a low-growing, dense mat of chartreuse foliage that fills in perfectly in between rocks and other plants. Spreads easily but is not invasive and is a hardy perennial.
Liriope is a beautiful mound-forming grassy ground cover generally used as a border plant or to fill in gaps. It can look beautiful planted close to and in between rocks around the pond. It comes in different sizes as well as a variegated form.
A word of caution:
For those of you in temperate and warmer climates, plants that like lots of water, when given lots of water, can be VERY invasive. Using many of the plants on this list without keeping them in check can make for a disastrous problem. Please be aware of what can be invasive in your area and act accordingly. Sometimes keeping invasive plants in containers can help, sometimes it won't. Staying informed is your best defense against invasive plants.
Photo credits for all the beautiful pictures: Cardinal Flower- KellUmbrella Plant-okus Creeping Jenny-Buffy690Swamp Milkweed-MossRoseSwamp Milkweed-stormylaObedient Plant-joesinayCanna-Happenstance 'Black Magic' Taro-mysticLemon Thyme-mysticCardinal Flower-merriegoChameleon Plant- RylaffLiriope-palmbobRagged Robin-mygardensBlack Gamecock Iris-Wuvie All other photos copyright Susanne Talbert