Home > Decorating Your Pond > Plants for a Small Garden Pond

Plants for a Small Garden Pond

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 30 May 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Pond Plants Planting Pond Baskets

There’s no escaping how attractive a well planted water feature can look, but if space is restricted, picking the best pond plants for a small garden can be a bit of a challenge.

Many of the typical aquatic plants on sale in garden centres and specialist outlets are just too vigorous and will soon out-grow a small pond. Even if you are prepared for the near constant maintenance and pruning needed just to keep things under control, with only enough space for one or two full-size pond plants, you’re never likely to be able to get a really showy water feature.

However, there are some types of pond plants that are perfectly suited to living in the smallest of garden ponds, so even a little half-barrel can enjoy some imaginative planting.

Oxygenators

Although oxygenating plants are vital to the pond’s health, some of the commonly available types are just too successful for the small water feature – the rampantly-growing Elodea canadensis (Canadian Pondweed) being a perfect example of what to avoid! Better bets where space is tight include, Fontinalis antipyretica (Willow Moss) and Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s Feather).

Marginal Plants

Growing to only around 15cm (6in) tall and needing only about the same depth of water, Eleocharis acicularis (Spike Rush ) and Juncus effusus spiralis (Corkscrew Rush) can be used to add interest to even a very small pond. For ease of maintenance, planting is best done in pond baskets.

Floating Plants

When it comes to floating plants, you can safely ignore the advice about not going for overly-vigorous specimens! Azolla caroliniana (Fairy Moss) is extremely invasive left to its own devices, but in the confines of a small pond it can be controlled fairly easily and adds tremendous character. Eichornia crassipes (Water Hyacinth) is another rampant pond plant – and a real scourge of tropical waterways – but a safe choice for the water garden, since it does not survive the British winter without protection, so it is unlikely to choke nearby rivers if any escapes! Pistia stratoides (Water Lettuce) and the native Stratiotes aloides (Water Soldier) are also worth considering – especially since Water Soldier is seldom seen in the wild nowadays, so you’ll be doing your bit for conservation too.

Water Lilies

If you pick your variety properly, it’s even possible for small ponds to be home to a water lily. Nymphaea candida (Dwarf White Water Lily), for example, needs a planting depth of only 10-30cm (4-12in) to offer beautiful compact 10cm (4in) flowers in the summer, and spread to little more than 60cm (2ft). Even smaller, there are varieties of Nymphaea pygmaea (Pygmy Water Lilies) such as Nymphaea pygmaea helvola which produce leaves only around 25mm (1in) across and will grow in about 15cm (6in) of water.

The South African Aponogeton distachys (Water Hawthorn) is an interesting companion plant where space allows, its oval leaves and small white flowers setting off the shape and form of any of the small water lilies very effectively. Both water lilies and Water Hawthorn should be planted in pond baskets or similar containers.

Tricks and Tips

The main trick with pond plants for small water gardens is to make sure that you pick the right plants in the first place – and resist the urge to over-do the planting.

One useful tip for getting the greatest variety of plants in a small space is to work with height – producing loose ranks of pond plants, getting taller as you go towards the back. Link this with deliberately selecting plants for different colours and leaf shape and you can soon have the beginnings of a striking display no matter how small the container.

Marginal plants such as Scirpus zebrinus (Zebra Rush), Typha minima (Dwarf Bulrush or Dwarf Reed Mace) and Cyperus papyrus (Paper Reed) are good candidates to achieve this in the shallows of slightly larger ponds, for example. Growing to around 30, 60 and 90cm (1,2 and 3ft) respectively, they don’t spread much, making it possible to add height to your planting without using up too much of the surface area – and each has its own distinct look to add interest to the planting.

When it comes to selecting the pond plants themselves, look for clues in the name – 'dwarf', 'miniature' or 'pygmy' are obvious give-aways – and don’t be put off by the Latin; nana, minima and pygmaea mean just the same thing!

Just as there’s room for water in every garden, there’s a place for pond plants in every pond; the trick is picking the right ones and using them imaginatively. It may take a bit of head-scratching – but it’s definitely worth it in the end.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Sir, I have a small garden pond and it is suffering from algae due to the recent weather. Can you recommend a pond plant that will solve this problem. I am adverse to using chemicals. Thank you R. Miles
selim - 30-May-20 @ 10:19 AM
I am building a pond/water feature for a couple of goldfish. It’s a round bowl shape 120cm diameter and 60cm at the middle (smooth sides, no steps) with a pump fountain in the middle but I have no idea what plants I need! Could you advise please?
LondonSteve - 28-Mar-20 @ 10:36 AM
Mogot - Your Question:
I would like to know best anti algie to put in my pond thank you

Our Response:
If you ask at your local garden/aquatics centre they will be able to advise you on the type of water and conditions near to where you live - and the best algae to use.
PondExpert - 22-Jun-17 @ 12:51 PM
I would like to know best anti algie to put in my pond thank you
Mogot - 20-Jun-17 @ 4:21 PM
BT - Your Question:
I recived some rock lightsfrom you about 10 days ago, just come back off holidayand set these light up round my pond( not inside pond ) and notest one of the rock light were chipped, also the bulb was loose on it and would not work so hence I bought another bulb and also that does not work , I think these light may havebeen returned to you by some one else and may be been sent by mistake to mei don't mind so much about the chip only am concerned one of the three rock light is not working and I have discarded the packaging now ,i will either have to return the lights and you will have to reemburse me with cost of postage,or you could send me another rock light! other than that they give out a lovely light on my statue,around pond, my tel nbr is 07944069569 post code L120AW. kindest regards Mrs sheryl barnes

Our Response:
We do not sell any products, so you must have the wrong contact details.
PondExpert - 20-Aug-15 @ 12:19 PM
i recived some rock lightsfrom you about 10 days ago, just come back off holiday and set these light up round my pond( not inside pond ) and notest one of the rock light were chipped, also the bulb was loose on it and would not work so hence i bought another bulb and also that does not work , i think these light may have been returned to you by some one else and may be been sent by mistake to me i don't mind so much about the chip only am concerned one of the three rock light is not working and i have discarded the packaging now ,i will either have to return the lights andyou will have to reemburse me with cost of postage,or you could send me another rock light! other than that they give out a lovely light on my statue, around pond, my tel nbr is 07944069569 post code L120AW. kindest regards Mrs sheryl barnes
BT - 19-Aug-15 @ 4:55 PM
Look on ebay under ponds and plants for oxygenating plants. Most sellers sell world wide. My solar pump came from hong kong.
naomi - 19-Jul-14 @ 5:20 PM
I have found I can get most plants I need for my pond onebay. They arrived in a plastic sealed bag wet and healthy within a poly packet. I got a solar pump the size I needed there to. I draw the line at fish in post tho and my local pet shop sells them. I only have a small garden and patio and chose a ready assembled wooden pond and put underfelt underneath to help protect the liner. Its a very solid pond ,hexagon shaped, 30 gallon one and is ideal for size of my patio and garden.Just type in ready assembled wooden raised pond aand ebay comes up with a selection of styles and sizes. I love my pond and use solar pump ,oxygenating plants and also a couple of loach, sucker fish to help keep pond clean as they are bottom pond feeders.
naomi - 19-Jul-14 @ 5:16 PM
I live in Windhoek, Namibia and would like to know where can I purchase pygmaea nymphaea in Namibia.I only have a small fish pond of 20 cm depth and would like to add a water lilie.
Ursel - 20-Oct-13 @ 5:48 AM
I live in NW province South Africa, where can I purchase oxygenating plants for my fish pond?
Barry - 30-Oct-12 @ 11:20 AM
I live in NW, where can I purchase oxygenating plants for my fish pond?
Barry - 30-Oct-12 @ 11:14 AM
Hi, I,m thinking of adding nymphoide peltata(water fringe) to my pond. Can I still plant this now(sept-oct) or is it too late in the season. Regards, Dave.
dave - 19-Sep-12 @ 11:58 AM
On this page you are recommending Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s Feather) as a good option as an oxygenator for a small pond. Meanwhile in your Invasive Plants to Avoid page there is the self-same Myriophyllum aquaticum listed as a species which you advise not to grow at all. How exactly do you expect your readers to trust or follow your advice if it's so blatantly contradictory?
Not Impressed - 18-Aug-12 @ 9:40 PM
Found this small article extremely useful Thankyou
happy cicero - 21-Jun-11 @ 4:38 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Sads
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    What's the name of brand of food your feeding the Fish with? 7 off my orange goldfish are now dead!
    22 September 2020
  • AnnieDee
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    I've got the same problem. Suddenly noticed that all the small species of snail have disappeared, there were literally hundreds. The…
    22 September 2020
  • Dogsbody
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    My pond snails have not laid any eggs this year ,there are lots of snails but I do find quite a lot of small grey empty shells has…
    21 September 2020
  • Nashjuk
    Re: Pumping Your Pond
    I have a large pond with a small pond above it with a cascade in the middle, what pump would I need to take water from the larger pond upto the…
    17 September 2020
  • Bella
    Re: Solar Powered Water Features
    Which pump and fountain is best for a pond 90 x 150 x45cm?
    16 September 2020
  • Chuck
    Re: Pond Water Quality
    need help with my pond green film all over pond
    15 September 2020
  • Lars
    Re: Controlling Algae
    I purchased 4 packets of your 'Green water Beaters' each with 6 sachets. I dosed according to your instructions but nothing happened the water…
    11 September 2020
  • Sher
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    I added pond salt to my fish pond approximately a month ago. I calculated the pond gallons, had another…
    10 September 2020
  • MRS L A FRASER
    Re: Pond Snails in Your Pond
    Hoping someone can help, I would like to introduce some snails to my pond, but confused about which to buy, as l keep goldfish and l am…
    5 September 2020
  • matt
    Re: What Could be the Reason for all the Fish Dying?
    I had 4 koi die within about 2 weeks of each other, thought it was down to spawning for the 2 females…
    30 August 2020