Let’s Talk Aquatic Plants

Picture of hand holding large, pink-tipped Lotus in a backyard pond installed by Colorado Pond Pros.

Do you want partially submerged plants or floating plants? Spiky plants, flowering plants, bushy plants, or sleek and elegant plants? Do you want plants that will cascade down the waterfall? We do, too—we love them! All of these types of aquatic plants are available to beautify your backyard pond or waterfall.

Our Top 10 List

These are not in the order of what we like best because we love them all! Really, picking just 10? Ridiculous!

Remember on the Colorado Front Range we are in Zone 5. If you are in a valley or in the mountains you may be in Zone 4.
Picture of Marsh Marigold in a backyard pond landscaped by Colorado Pond Pros.

#1 Marsh Marigold 

This is the plant that will bloom first in your pond when everything else is barely even green. We recommend putting three in various areas around the pond edges to enjoy the spring blooms. When they are done blooming, they will be a nice green and other flowers around the pond can take the spotlight.

Height

This comes in several varieties so read the tag when you are purchasing it. They could be small 6-inch plants or 1 to 2-feet tall.

Blooms

Early spring

Color

Yellow blooms

How to Plant

Take out of the pot it comes in, and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. The water level should be at the same level or barely below the soil level.

Hardiness

Zones 3 to 7

Other Info

  • It could be referred to as a Caltha cowslip. The scientific name is Caltha palustris. 
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there, and it will come back in the spring.

Picture of Chordata Chameleon in a backyard pond landscaped by Colorado Pond Pros.

#2 Chameleon (or chordata chameleon)

Height

6 to 12-inches

Blooms

We like this plant for the leaf colors, and it can bloom with tiny white flowers in the summer.

Color

This plant has variegated leaves. They come in pink/red and green or white and green.

How to Plant

Take it out of the pot it comes in, and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. This plant’s root ball should only be 1 to 1 ½-inches into the water. I find it does best on the sides of a stream because the water level never fluctuates. If put on the side of the pond the water level may go down a bit and it won’t get enough water.

Hardiness

Zones 5 to 8

Other Info

  • We love this one in a stream or at the edges under a bridge because it will fill in on its own and looks really good! 
  • It will put out runners to spread, but we’ve never had it be invasive. 
  • These variegated leaves give texture and dimension to the plant life.
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there and it will come back in the spring.
A red Chameleon plant in a backyard pond landscaped by the Colorado Pond Pros.

This is another photo of a chameleon plant that has more red.


Picture of a creeping jenny plant in a backyard pond landscaped by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#3 Creeping Jenny

Height

1 to 2-inches and 12 to 18-inches spread per plant.

Blooms

Small yellow flowers

Color

Green with yellow flowers

How to Plant

Take it out of the pot it comes in and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. This plant’s root ball should only be 1 to 1 ½-inches into the water.

Hardiness

Zones 4 to 10

Other Info

  • Creeping Jenny is excellent for softening rocky edges. They can be planted outside the pond close to the edge and then just inside the pond to really create a soft edge.
  • It is sold as an aquatic plant and a terrestrial plant. They look a little different, but they are the same plant! It is being planted in water versus soil that makes them look different. 
  • These come back every year and should be planted everywhere. They will drape over rocks, too.
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there and it will come back in the spring.

Picture of a Cardinal Flower in a backyard pond landscaped by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#4 Cardinal Flower (Red Lobelia)

This slender plant brings spikes of crimson to brighten up the whole landscape. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies too!

Height

Can grow as tall as 36-inches. Can spread 12-inches per plant.

Blooms

Summer

Color

Tall green with red flowers

How to Plant

Take it out of the pot it comes in, and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. This plant’s root ball should be placed so the top inch is out of the water, but it usually does okay if deeper. Even 1 to 2-inches below the waterline seems to be fine.

Hardiness

Zones 5 to 11

Other Info

  • These look fantastic in a wetland, along the side of the pond, or even in a good place in the stream. 
  • Make sure not to plant them where they may block the view of your backyard pond. 
  • These are great for supporting dragonflies, frogs, and other local wildlife.
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there and it will come back in the spring.

Picture of Purple lobelia plant in a backyard pond installed by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#5 Purple lobelia

Spikes of bright purple? YES! We’re in. This plant is very similar to the Cardinal Flower. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Height

Can grow as tall as 36 to 48-inches. Can spread 12-inches per plant.

Blooms

Summer

Color

Tall green with purple flowers

How to Plant

Take it out of the pot it comes in, and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. This plant’s root ball should be placed so the top inch is out of the water, but it usually does okay if deeper. Even 1 to 2-inches below the waterline seems to be fine.

Hardiness

Zones 5 to 10

Other Info

  • These look fantastic in a wetland, along the side of the pond, or even in a good place in the stream. 
  • Make sure not to plant them where they may block the view of the pond. 
  • These are great for supporting dragonflies, frogs, and other local wildlife. 
  • Plant them in bunches together to give a giant bush of loveliness! 
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there and it will come back in the spring.

Picture of Forget-me-nots planted in a backyard pond, installed by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#6 Forget-me-nots

These sweet flowers are a favorite for smaller ponds. They can get lost by a larger one if it’s not close to the viewing area. This is a great plant for a partly shady pond.

Height

6 to 12-inches tall, 12 to 24-inches spread

Blooms

Late spring until frost

Color

Light blue/lavender flowers with yellow middles

How to Plant

Take it out of the pot it comes in, and put its root ball between rocks. Put other small rocks around the root ball to secure it. This plant’s root ball should be placed so the top inch is out of the water.

Hardiness

Zones 4 to 8

Other Info

  • Forget-me-nots soften the look basically anywhere. 
  • They will do okay if the water level goes down a little bit, as long as they can reach the water. 
  • You do not need to bring it in for the winter. Just leave it there and it will come back in the spring.

Picture of Bulrush in a backyard pond installed by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#7 Bulrush

This plant is an excellent plant for a wetland. We would not put it in a stream or somewhere that it could go nuts.

Height

3 to 4-feet

Blooms

No flowers

Color

Green

How to Plant

Keep it in a pot when you plant it. You should probably put it in a larger pot than the one it comes in. If you are putting it in a wetland, you can plant it without the pot and it will spread. It is an excellent filter! How do we know this? Because Mother Nature uses it all the time!

Hardiness

Zones 4

Other Info

  • Do not plant this unless it is in a wetland. If planting in a pond, only do it if you are willing to monitor it!
  • Once these things are growing well they will keep coming up every year. They can be cut back in the late fall. 
  • Sometimes people can’t tell the difference between cattails and bulrush when the cattails aren’t in bloom. The way to tell is the little brown thing at the very top of these stems. They develop in the summer. Additionally, cattails have flat leaves, whereas bulrush has round stems.

Picture of Black Magic Taro in a backyard pond, landscaped by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#8 Black Magic Taro (Elephant ear) 

Looking for an annual that is completely worth it? This is it! This annual plant will not come back next year, but it will bring stunning beauty to your backyard pond this year.

Height

2 to 3-feet tall. The leaves themselves can get up to 3-feet long! They will cover a 2 to 3-foot area once they get going.

Blooms

No flowers

Color

Purple/black (they have varieties of Taro that are green or variegated green too!)

How to Plant

Plant this in a large pot, even a 5-gallon pot with holes in it or a mesh pot. It can be 1 to 6-inches into the water. It likes partial shade but will usually do okay in the sun, too. Be sure to read the directions that come with your specific Taro.

Hardiness

Zones 8 – 11

Other Info

  • We love this plant! We love all taros! They can really be stunning in a pond. 
  • We recommend putting them on the edges of a pond or even in a wetland. 
  • Make sure if the pump is turned off for more than a little while that they are moved to a place that keeps them wet!

Picture of Sweet Flag in a backyard pond, installed by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#9 Sweet Flag

This grassy-looking plant.

Height

24 to 36-inches

Blooms

No flowers

Color

Green and white variegated

How to Plant

Can be planted in full sun to shade. Plant about 6-inches deep. Can be placed between rocks as it will fill in nicely. Also can be planted in a wetland or at the edges of a pond or stream.

Hardiness

Zones 4–11

Other Info 

  • Really great for supporting local wildlife.

Picture of a Lotus in the backyard pond landscaped by the Colorado Pond Pros.

#10 Lotus

Alright, there is a lot to know about Lotus, but we will try to keep it simple. There are many varieties of lotus.

Height

They come in all sorts of heights, but typically 1 to 3-feet.

Blooms

Summer to frost

Color

Stunning flowers of every color are available. 

How to Plant

Lotus prefer water that isn’t moving. If you have a protected area in the pond that doesn’t move much and isn’t crowded by other plants, this could be a great space for a Lotus. Read the directions for the specific lotus you get as the pot may need to be quite large depending on the variety. It needs to be a deep pot, not shallow, or they will jump out. Don’t plant directly in the pond or they could take over. Make sure the tubers are at least 18-inches deep.

Hardiness

When you purchase Lotus, look for Zone 4 or 5 so they come back the next year.

Other Info

  • These guys need at least 6–8 hours of sun a day, so don’t put them in the shade. 
  • If you purchase it bare-root, try letting the tuber float in the water for 1 ½–2 weeks in a warm place before planting it. The warmth helps get them started.
  • The flowers want all the attention so they grow up above the leaves to stand out and show everyone how beautiful they are. 
  • The flowers will be open during the day but will close mid-afternoon. 
  • Each flower lasts for 3–5 days. Once it dies back the seed pod will remain. This seed pod should eventually drop into the water and start a new lotus.
  • The first leaves of a Lotus look similar to a water lily. The later leaves will stand above the waterline (unlike a water lily). 
  • Lotus leaves have a natural water-repellant quality to them, even more than lilypads. Drop water onto it and you will see what we mean.
  • In the fall, cut back the foliage and lower the pot to 24 or 36-inches for the winter, if possible. Bring it up in the late spring.
  • There is a lot to know about growing Lotus, but once they bloom, it will have all been worth it! 

Where Can You Get These And Other Plants?

Aquatic plants can be purchased during the second week of May or right at Mother’s Day. If you wait until mid-June or later all the good ones may be gone.

We carry some (not all of these) in May. To keep costs down, we suggest putting them in during a service call. When you get them from us, they will cost a little more because we are planting them for you, too. We bring gravel to help and we know where to put them. If you would rather do it yourself, that’s fine, too…keep reading!

  1. True Pump & Equipment, Inc. in Denver. Did you know they carry koi too? They do! 
  2. Alpine Koi & Reef in Fort Collins has great plants! They have many lilies and Lotus, too. Their lilies often come in large pots so you don’t have to repot them. Looking for fish? They have lots of those as well. 
  3. The Flower Bin Garden Center & Nursery Are you in Longmont or close by? The Flower Bin will have aquatic plants. These will need to be taken out of the pot and either put directly in a pond or repotted. Their lilies are fine, but they need to be repotted. 
  4. Echter’s Nursery & Garden Center in Arvada is a great source if you live in that area. 
  5. Would you believe that the Denver Botanic Gardens has a Fall Plant & Bulb sale every year? They do! Click the link for details.

Pro Tips:

Check out Floating Water Hyacinth and Floating Water Lettuce. Also some of my favorites for different reasons. (button below!)

We LOVE water lilies. If you love lilies or have questions about them, I put a button below for you!

How Can The Pond Pros Help?

If you’re still on the fence about what pond plants to get or whether you need them at all, give our blog, Does a Pond HAVE to Have Plants, a read, and learn more about why pond plants are so important to your backyard pond’s ecosystem.

Need more help with pond landscaping and installation? Then contact Colorado Pond Pros—the backyard pond experts! Or if you just love learning, peruse our pond blog to learn how to get your pond ready for fall or tips on how to protect your pond from friendly ducks