What Are the Best Plants for My Pond?

Are you struggling with what to plant in your pond, pondless waterfall, or fountain? The right plants can take an ordinary water feature and make it simply extraordinary. They can take a basic water feature and turn it into an oasis!

And the best part? The benefits of adding plants go beyond simple aesthetics. The right plants can keep your water crystal clear by absorbing excess nutrients in the water.

Additionally, adding the right plants will help attract native wildlife to your outdoor space, including pollinators and beneficial insects. Plants with nectar-producing flowers can provide a food source for hosts of butterflies, bees and other important insects. Birds will also appreciate native plants with berries and foliage that they can make use of!

We’ve broken down this plant list into three main categories: plants you can put in the pond, plants for the edge of the pond, and plants that make a good backdrop for your overall landscape. All of these plants do well in our Zone 7, and many of them will do well outside of this particular zone as well (Zone 4-9). The list here is not exhaustive, as there are many, many more options available. These are just our favorites – the plants we’ve been successful with and those that I personally gravitate towards.

In the pond

All of these plants will add color and texture to your feature. Most aquatic plants fill in quickly, doubling, tripling or even quadrupling in size over the course of just one season. It is important to note that these plants can overtake a pond if not kept in check. One way to help curb aquatic or marginal plant growth is to use geo-textile fabric planting pockets. These can help avoid major pruning from season to season.

Depending on the type of plant you choose – you’ll want to plant directly in the water or close enough for the roots to work their way over. If you have a bog or open filter, I love to plant Elephant Ears (Colocasia) and/or Mexican Petunia (Ruellia) directly into the bog/filter. 


  • Japanese Sweet Flag
  • Elephant Ear or Taro (Calocasia)
  • Horsetail or Puzzlegrass (Equisetum)
  • Water Hyacinth
  • Pickerelweed (Pontederia Cordata)
  • Parsley
  • Mexican Petunia (Ruellia)
  • Canna Lily (Arrowroot)
  • Iris (Yellow Flag, Siberian, Blue Flag, & more)
  • Cold Hardy Water Lily
  • Creeping Jenny 


  • Impatiens
  • Coleus
  • Sweet Potato Vine
  • Hibiscus (some types are perennial in zone 7 – don’t use in features with fish)

Around the pond

These plants are perfect for adding texture, color, and interest to the 1-10′ perimeter of your pond. Many of these will also attract wildlife and nature straight to the water. We will often use plants from this list to “hide” a water feature. I love the look of flowing water peeking out from behind flowers and thick foliage. If you space these plants just right, you can avoid shearing or pruning throughout the season.

All of these are my favorites, but I especially love a few blueberry bushes, mixed with St. John’s Wort, and a Fatsia. Then add Coneflowers, Nepeta, and Pink Muhly Grass into the area and you are set! 


  • Blueberry (many varieties available – dependent on size needed)
  • Little Lime Hydrangea
  • Fatsia (Japanese Aralia)
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Drift Rose
  • Cotoneaster
  • Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper



  • Pink or White Mulhouse Grass (Muhlenbergia)
  • Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass 
  • Ajuga (Bronze or Burgundy Glow)
  • Sedum
  • Coneflower – Cheyenne Spirit, Big Sky, or Powwow Wild Berry (Echinacea)
  • Butterfly Weed or Milkweed (Asclepius Tuberosa)
  • Catmint (Nepeta)
  • Russian Sage (Perovskia)
  • Ostrich Fern (shade)
  • Painted Lady Fern (shade)
  • Saucy Seduction Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium – Common Yarrow)
  • Hosta (Blue Angel or Frances Williams – shade)

Backdrop of the pond

These plants are perfect to provide the backdrop to a water feature, or sometimes simply to block the view of a neighboring home or structure. We’ve also used these plants to close off an area to create a more intimate space. My favorite out of these plants are Winterberry Holly, Limelight Hydrangea, and Redbud Tree. The occasional Fig is really fun too, especially if you enjoy their fruit. 


  • Winterberry Holly (Sparkleberry)
  • Wax Myrtle
  • Sweetbay Magnolia
  • Limelight Hydrangea
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea
  • Snowball Viburnum
  • Celeste Fig (Ficas Carica)



  • Japanese Maple (Coral Bark, Bloodgood, or Emporer)
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry
  • Emerald Arborvitae
  • Yoshino Cryptomeria

I know my personal biases show through pretty strongly in this plant list! Hopefully it can serve as a helpful guide for you as you pick out plants to accent your koi pond, waterfall, or other type of water feature.

If you’ve already chosen the plants around your pond and they didn’t work out, don’t give up. Try something new and different, and make sure to have fun and enjoy the gardening journey. And hey – maybe rescue some random plants off the clearance rack at Lowe’s and see how they do.

We’d love to hear from you. What have you tried and enjoyed in your pond or water feature?