Grass at the edge of a pond

Creating a wildlife pond requires so much more than merely filling a hole with water and hoping for the best. There are many elements to consider with this type of ecosystem including the type of plant life that will most benefit the pond. But with so many different plants to choose from, garden enthusiasts are often left scratching their heads and wondering which is the best pond plant.

Edging plants can be placed around the pond and serve many purposes. Furthermore, there are several species that you can plant inside the pond around its perimeter which will benefit wildlife both in and out of the water.

The good news is that there are many excellent species that will do your pond a whole lot of favours. That being said, there are some that your pond simply should not be without and in this guide, we will be revealing all.

Why Are Plants Important For A Wildlife Pond?

When you create a wildlife pond, we know that it can feel a little overwhelming since there is so much to think about. But if there is anything that is going to take centre stage, it should be what plants to put into a pond.

Edging plants are important for a pond because they can help to provide significant cover for wildlife including birds, frogs and insects. Not only this, but they will provide this wildlife with a place to forage. Besides, having a selection of edging plants will give your pond a more beautiful aesthetic appeal.

If you are looking to encourage a variety of wildlife to your pond then anything you plant there will benefit it. Wildlife needs somewhere to hide out and under the cover of your aquatic plants is the perfect spot.

Plants will also help to oxygenate your pond, keeping the water perfectly balanced so that any visiting or established wildlife will thrive here. What’s more, there are many plants that will help to reduce algae buildup. While some algae in a pond are healthy and will provide nutrition for various creatures, when it starts to get out of control, it can quickly take over your pond.

What To Consider When Choosing Plants For Your Pond

In the main, there are four different types of aquatic plants; edging plants, submerged plants, emerging plants and floating plants. It is a good idea to get a balance of all four as each will bring different benefits to your pond.

However, it is no good simply grabbing the first few from each category that you lay eyes on as not all pond plants will be suitable. Later, we will look at which plants to avoid but for now, try considering the following things when choosing plants for your pond.

You should never take plants from the wild and it is important to always use native plants. These can be taken from another pond, perhaps you have a friend or family member with a few spares. Alternatively, you can purchase pond plants from most good garden centres. The advantage of doing this is that you will have advice on hand from the staff.

If you are taking plants from another pond, try to limit the amount of water that comes with them. Even if it is a healthy pond, there is a risk that the water won’t have quite the same balance and this could throw your pond out of whack.

It is important to avoid invasive plants, as while they might look controlled, to begin with, things can quickly spiral. Not only will this cause issues for your pond but it might be problematic in the surrounding area such as your garden or any adjoining fields, woodland and other countryside.

Types Of Pond Plants

As we have already mentioned, there are four types of pond plants and while they all have their benefits, it is important to understand these in a little more detail.

  • Floating plants live happily on the surface of the water and do not require their roots to be submerged in soil. The main advantage of having floating plants is to provide cover for wildlife under the water. Furthermore, these plants will also keep any algae under control by restricting sunlight. It is recommended that you cover around half of the pond’s surface with floating plants.
  • Submerged plants are those that need to be under the water, and are usually placed at the bottom of the pond. If your pond has various levels, you can plant them on these provided that they are fully submerged. They serve as excellent hiding spots for creatures that live below the water and are great for aerating your pond.
  • Emerging plants are placed on the base of the pond but grow out past the water level. They typically prefer being placed at the edges of the pond and providing good cover for a variety of animals as well as serving a cosmetic purpose.
  • Edging plants are used outside of the pond and are planted in the soil just around the perimeter. These are perfect for wildlife to hide in and find food. They also add a lot in the way of natural beauty.

Top Wildlife Pond Edging Plants You Should Not Be Without

While there are many pond plants to choose from, for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on edging and emerging plants. Below are our top five recommendations for those that your pond cannot do without.

  • Iris is a great plant to have growing around your pond. The flowers provide a splash of colour while the plant will also give a good amount of foliage for the local wildlife.
  • Rushes are found naturally growing around ponds and should be placed around the edges when creating a pond. They offer some of the best shelters for animals and insects and give the pond a stunning natural feel.
  • Water mint is an emergent plant that is ideal for keeping the balance of your pond healthy. These plants can help to prevent excess soil from entering the water but will also serve as cover for wildlife, particularly when new frogs begin emerging.
  • Meadowsweet produces gorgeous white flowers and will attract pollinators to your pond. Not only this but they are one of the best plants for creating an attractive-looking pond.
  • Water celery is placed around the edges of the pond and is an emerging plant. It will be an excellent food source for many creatures owing to its edible leaves.

Are There Any Pond Plants That I Should Avoid?

In the main, anything that is non-native should always be avoided. This is because these plants are not suited to the ecosystem in the UK and while they may look nice, they could have a devastating impact. These plants may overtake the growth of native species and can quickly become invasive, clogging up the pond and any of the surrounding areas.

What’s more, since you will likely have a lot of wildlife visitors to your pond, it doesn’t take much for these to spread the seeds. This means that it won’t only be your pond that is affected but a much more widespread problem. As a general rule, all of the following plants should not be used:

  • New Zealand pygmy weed
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Water ferns
  • Water chestnut
  • Curly waterweed
  • Water lettuce
  • Floating pennywort
  • Indian balsam
  • Giant Salvinia

Tips For Planting Pond Edging Plants

Once you have chosen your plants, it is important to give them the best chance of thriving as you introduce them to your pond. For starters, we would always recommend using natural products for your pond. While there may be a large choice of chemical fertilisers and treatments, organic solutions are much more favourable where wildlife is concerned.

Plant placement is an essential consideration. Your pond can be split into five zones;

  • Zone 1 is right at the edge of the water where there is very shallow water.
  • Zone 2 is the next level down where the water is shallow.
  • Zone 3 falls on the bottom shelf and is suitable for deep-margin plants
  • Zone 4 is the very bottom of the pond and is where your oxygenators will go.
  • Zone five is the pond surface where floating plants will thrive.

When planting edging plants, you should always stick with zones 1 and 2 as this is where these plants will provide the most benefits and will survive well.

It is best to add new plants around the pond in the spring or early summer as the weather begins to warm up. Furthermore, you should try to let nature do what it needs to and interfere with the plants as little as possible. Many ponds will take time to establish and this requires a degree of patience, but it will be worth it.


Starting a wildlife pond takes some careful consideration and thought should always go into your choice of plants. There are four types of plants for a pond; those which are fully submerged, floating plants, emerging plants and those which are planted just outside of the pond.

While there are many edging plants available both in and out of the water, the ones we have discussed in this guide will bring your pond the most benefits.

Garden Doctor Trev

Garden Doctor Tips

“For the healthiest wildlife pond, it is a good idea to have all 4 types of plants!”

“Iris’ and Meadowsweet around your pond will produce beautiful flowers that will attract bees!”

“Do not transfer unknown plants to your pond, many invasive species are no good for the local environment!”

“Floating plants are also a great idea, especially if you want to attract frogs to your pond!”

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I put in my wildlife pond?

To start a wildlife pond, it is best to just add plants. Add the 4 types of plants to the pond and simply wait, the ecosystem will soon start to develop and naturally attract all sorts of wildlife

What types of pond plants are there?

There are 4 main groups of pond plants that are beneficial. 

  1. Floating Plants
  2. Submerged Plants
  3. Emerging Plants
  4. Edging Plants

It is a good idea to have a balance of all 4 types in your wildlife pond.

What plants do I want to avoid in my pond?

There are quite a few not native plants that you will want to avoid having in your pond.

  • New Zealand pygmy weed
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Water ferns
  • Water chestnut
  • Curly waterweed
  • Water lettuce
  • Floating pennywort
  • Indian balsam
  • Giant Salvinia

About Me

Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.

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