There’s no escaping how attractive a well planted water feature can look, but if space is restricted, picking the best small 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 small 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 & Oxygen producing pond plants
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) VIEW RANGE OF OXYGENATORS
Marginal Plants for your pond
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. VIEW RANGE OF MARGINALS
Floating Plants for ponds
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!The native Stratiotes aloides (Water Soldier) is also worth considering – especially since Water Soldier is seldom seen in the wild nowadays, so you’ll be doing your bit for conservation too. VIEW RANGE OF FLOATING PLANTS
Pond 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. VIEW RANGE OF WATER LILIES
Tricks and Tips for pond plants
The main trick with small 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.
Types of small pond plants:
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Aurora: This plant is a good choice for small to medium-sized ponds in the UK. It has small, bright yellow flowers that bloom during the summer months, and it can tolerate partial shade.
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Candidissima: This small white waterlily is a good choice for UK ponds. It produces fragrant, white flowers that bloom from June to September and prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Indiana: This apricot to pink dwarf waterlily is a good choice for small ponds in the UK. It has mottled leaves and produces fragrant, cup-shaped flowers from June to September. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Paul Hariot: This plant is a good choice for small to medium-sized ponds in the UK. It has changeable colored flowers that start off pale yellow and gradually turn deep pink over a few days. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Perry’s Baby Red: This rounded red dwarf waterlily is a good choice for small to medium-sized ponds in the UK. It has dark green or maroon leaves and produces red flowers from June to September. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Dwarf waterlily – Nymphaea Xiafei: This small red flower dwarf waterlily is a good choice for small ponds in the UK. It has red-edged green leaves and produces small, fragrant red flowers from June to September. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Miniature waterlily – Nymphaea pygmaea helvola: This miniature pale yellow waterlily is a good choice for small ponds in the UK. It has small, fragrant flowers that bloom from June to September and green leaves with dark markings. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Miniature waterlily – Nymphaea pygmaea rubra: This miniature pink waterlily is a good choice for small ponds in the UK. It has pink flowers and dark green leaves and blooms from June to September. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
- Miniature waterlily – Nymphaea Snow Princess: This white waterlily with red leaves is a good choice for small ponds in the UK. It produces small, fragrant white flowers and has red leaves. It prefers to grow in full sun to partial shade.
What is the best plant for a small pond?
There are many types of plants that are suitable for small ponds. the tender dwarf papyrus (Cyperus isocladus), pickerel plant (Pontederia cordata), and water lettuce. These plants will help to create a beautiful and natural-looking pond environment while also providing shelter and shade for aquatic animals.
What plants can I put around a small pond?
There are many plants that you can put around a small pond, including dwarf papyrus, sweetflag, pickerel plant, and water lettuce. Other good options include cardinal flower, lobelia, water hyacinth, and water lilies. These plants will help to create a beautiful and natural-looking pond environment while also providing shelter and shade for aquatic animals.
Do you need plants in a small pond?
Plants aren’t necessary for a small pond to survive, but they can provide a range of benefits, including shelter, shade, and water filtration. Additionally, plants can help to create a more natural-looking environment, which can be aesthetically pleasing. In general, it’s a good idea to include at least a few plants in your small pond.
What is the best oxygenating plant for a small pond?
There are several good oxygenating plants for small ponds, including water-crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis), hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), and pondweed. Other good options include mare’s-tail (Hippuris vulgaris) and water violet (Hottonia palustris). These plants will help to keep your pond oxygenated and healthy.
What can I plant in a small water feature?
There are many plants that you can plant in a small water feature, including Nymphaea ‘Pygmaea Helvola’, which is a miniature water lily that will grow from the base of the container. Other good options include Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’, primula florindae, veronica beccabunga, and myriophyllum spicatum. These plants will help to create a beautiful and natural-looking water feature.
What is a small plant that floats on water?
Duckweed (Lemna minor) is a small, green, round or oval aquatic plant that floats on the surface of the water. It has a root that hangs below and is often used in aquariums and small ponds to help oxygenate the water. Duckweed is a fast-growing plant that can quickly cover the surface of the water, so it’s important to keep it under control.
Examples of dwarf or small water lilies
Depth of Shelf
Type of Waterlily
NYMPHAEA AURORA Dwarf Waterlily
Apricot to Pink
NYMPHAEA PAUL HARIOT
Pale Lemon/Deep Pink
NYMPHAEA PERRYS BABY RED
Red Edged Green Leaf
NYMPHAEA PYGMAEA HELVOLA
Green with Dark Marks
NYMPHAEA PYGMAEA RUBRA
NYMPHAEA SNOW PRINCESS