Ponds and TreesThere are few things which look quite so magical as the reflection of trees in water – their sweeping foliage bowing down to touch the water. While the image might be an appealing one and although trees and ponds can co-exist, their relationship does need a little bit of careful policing at times, if it is not to all end in tears.

Pond Tree Benefits

Trees certainly have their benefits – and high on the list is the shade they offer. A pond – especially a small and relatively shallow one – exposed to full sun throughout the day will heat up alarmingly, which is no good for anything living in it, be it fish, frog or plant-life. In addition, the abundant light may also help promote the growth of algae, bringing the twin scourges of blanket weed and green water. With the shelter of a tree, however, fish and wildlife can seek out the shade when the rest of the pond is getting too hot and there is not so much light available to drive algal blooms so readily.

Pond Tree Problems

However, many pond-keepers are of the opinion that the good that trees can do is vastly out-weighed by the potential trouble they cause. Some trees are poisonous, for instance – laburnum being a well-known example – while bay, laurel, yew and lime may also cause problems, particularly for fish ponds. Others have particularly deep roots and can affect the structure of the soil by significantly lowering the water table – poplar, for instance, are particularly thirsty, while willows are far less greedy and some pond-keepers insist that you should never site a pond beside sycamore.

There are many anecdotal tales of tree roots damaging liners too, though perhaps the biggest problem with trees near ponds is their leaves. The annual leaf-fall in autumn can contribute vast amounts of organic material to the pond in a very shot space of time. Coupled with the gradual slowing down of biological activity as the water temperature falls, this can store up problems for the winter – and fuel major algae problems in the spring. Fitting the pond with a pond net is the only way to avoid routinely raking fallen leaves out of the water.

Suitable Trees for ponds

Fortunately a number of ornamental trees can be trusted to sit alongside a pond without causing trouble – and if the pond is large enough to carry it off – the visual effect can be well worth the effort required to manage the leaves in autumn. The trick is to find a balance between the impact of the foliage, fruit and flowers and the potential damage to the aquatic eco-system. For the newly-built garden pond, a tree which grows to maturity fairly quickly is usually called for, though one which ideally remains relatively small. The Mountain Ash and its relatives (Sorbus sp.) are hard to beat for an impressive and showy spectacle of berries and foliage – while remaining fairly compact, with a non-invasive root system. They are an ideal choice for the wildlife pond too, providing a great source of winter food for wild birds.

A variety of other small trees are worth considering, including the various forms of Willow (Salix sp,) Siver Birch (Betula sp.), Crab Apples (Malus sp.) and the May or Hawthorn (Crataegus aestivalis) – not forgetting its cultivated forms, which provide great autumn colour.

Trees and ponds can successfully sit alongside each other and for those of us planning a new pond – or selecting what to plant around it – avoiding the main pitfalls can be fairly straightforward. Inheriting a pre-existing pond amid trees can, however, inevitably pose a bit more of a challenge. Even so, with careful management and an understanding of the potential problems, trees and ponds can be complementary – rather than conflicting – elements of the garden.

More information about Pond Trees.

Trees give a mature and charming look to a pond. The greenery, hanging branches of wispy trees and the pond reflecting its surrounding looks amazing.  Trees help in providing a frame to a pond and create a beautiful and seamless boundary which creates shade. 

Pond trees, however, have their pros and cons. The first benefit that these trees provide is shade to the inhabitants of that pond and to the water as well. Fishes, frogs and other aquatic life are much more comfortable living in the presence of shade as compared to the temperature changes during day and night time. These changes can vary a lot throughout a day depending on the weather that day, therefore, it is important that cooling shade is present for these creatures. Hot waters tend to be fatal for fishes as there is lack of oxygen. 

Apart from the aquatic life benefits, shade from these trees eliminate the risk of algae overgrowth or weed taking over the whole pond. Hot water leads to the growth of weed blankets and algae which is harmful for the pond’s ecosystem. Most of the time, people with ponds want it to be closer to the way natural ponds are, having trees or shrubbery around it. Trees attract birds which adds to the serenic beauty of a pond, they also prevent erosion of soil and help get rid of contaminants from the soil. 

Pros and Cons of pond trees

Albeit all the advantages of having trees, there are some cons of pond trees as well. The first very obvious disadvantage is the leaves falling on trees which add organic matter, removing oxygen from the pond water as it decomposes affecting the fishes in a pond. Tree roots are a threat to the integrity of a pond as they have the capability of creating holes and interfering with water control systems. Make sure not to surround your pond with trees, as this will disrupt aeration that is needed by the pond to break down compounds in the deeper part of the pond. In conclusion, trees are not harmful to your pond if they are planted after proper planning. Try introducing smaller trees around your pond first, for example Japanese Maple. However, limes and bays trees could be toxic for fishes in the pond therefore it is best to avoid them at all cost! 


What are some trees that thrive near water?

Trees like weeping willows, river birches, alder, and poplar varieties prefer wet, moist, and damp conditions and offer plenty of landscaping choices for various garden styles. They are the most common water-loving trees that people use for soggy gardens or wet sites.

What are some evergreen trees that work well around a pond?

Junipers are an excellent option for planting around ponds. They do extremely well next to ponds, and there are many different species to choose from. Junipers are evergreen, so you will not need to worry about dropping leaves, and the berries that they drop can be eaten by most fish.

What types of trees grow well near water in the UK?

Alder, willows, and birch are the dominant trees that grow well on wet soils in the UK, while sedges, ferns, and mosses flourish beneath them. They are unique and valuable habitats that create ecological niches in the UK.

What is the minimum distance to plant a tree from a pond?

If you wish to plant a new tree close to your pond, maintain a distance of about 20 feet from the water’s edge so the root systems don’t erode the pond edges. This distance should be maintained to ensure that your pond’s health is not compromised in any way.

Are cherry trees safe to plant near fish ponds?

No, all parts of cherry trees are toxic to fish, and therefore it’s not recommended to plant them near fish ponds. It’s important to avoid planting any trees or plants that can harm the aquatic life in your pond.

Last Modified: March 31, 2023