Pond Design – Planting Pond Sensible

Pond design – planting pond sensible

With a pond, you can transform your garden into an oasis of tranquility. A pond conveys relaxation and invites you to linger. It is a biotope, as it is home to various animals such as fish, frogs, or newts. Especially with fish, you bring life into your pond. For the pond to provide a high feel-good factor for fish and other creatures and a high decorative value for the garden at the same time, it is essential to choose the right plants.

The plants should harmonize well with each other and should fit the size and depth of the pond. When buying plants, you should take into account their requirements for water quality and maintenance. The plants also have an efficient value: they improve water quality and counteract algae formation. Since your pond produces less mud, you will need to use the mud vacuum cleaner less often.

What Should You Consider When Planting Your Pond?

For a biological balance in your garden pond, you need pond plants. They remove nutrients from the pond and prevent the formation of algae. They release oxygen into the water, which is vital for the animals living in it. Plants in the shore zone provide shelter for many small creatures. It would be best if you planned your pond-planting well to buy the right plants.

As beautiful and useful as pond plants are, you should not use them too abundantly. If you want to plant your pond for the first time, at least half of the water level should still be free. Later, it would help if you grew only a maximum of two-thirds of the water surface. If the plants multiply enormously, you should remove or divide some plants over time. Only if you plant the pond properly from the beginning you can enjoy permanently clear water.

The Planting Plan as a Useful Aid

If you want to plant or redesign your pond for the first time, you should create a planting plan. This plan is a simple sketch showing a bird’s eye view of your pond. On this sketch, you should draw in the depth zones. This drawing is not a problem if you are creating your pond for the first time.

For redesigning your pond, you should measure the depth zones and then draw them on the sketch. There is no blanket answer to the question of how many plants you need for your pond. It depends on how vigorous the plants are and how they spread out. While only three specimens per square meter are sufficient of plants that spread generously, you should buy five models per square meter of more closely growing plants.

The planting will be quite patchy initially, but in two to three years, the vegetation will be densely closed. It would help if you protected plants that grow slowly from the fast-growing neighbors.

The Right Soil

With a natural pond, you can put the plants directly into the soil. However, you can also plant the plants in pond baskets. In no case should you use fertilized garden soil! A mixture of gravel, grit, and low-nutrient pond soil is suitable for planting. Most pond plants are happy with loamy sand.

However, there are also heavy feeders among the pond plants, for example, pike herb, frog spoon, iris, or swan flower. They need nutrient-rich soil so that the root system can develop properly. Water lilies and lotuses are very demanding and need nutrient-rich soil. You can buy aquatic plant soil in stores, which is perfectly suited to the plants’ particular needs.

To prevent nutrients from spreading unchecked through the water and being stirred up by water movement, you should plant such plants in pond baskets. To avoid the formation of mud, you can cover the substrate with washed quartz sand.

The Different Depth Zones

Once you have created the planting plan for your pond with the different depth zones, you can move on to selecting plants for your pond. You should divide the pond into four depth zones.

Deepwater Zone, at Least 15 Inches Deep

In this zone, you should not do without underwater plants. They are not visible from the shore, but they perform an essential task in the water. Since they absorb nutrients from the water, they impede algae growth.

Suitable underwater plants are hornwort, water crowfoot, milfoil, or pondweed. Floating plants are also important, as they draw nutrients from the water and provide shade. Since the water temperature does not rise as quickly, the oxygen content of the water is higher. Native plants are suitable because they are hardy. I recommend crab claw, frogbit, and floating fern. The queen of the garden pond is undoubtedly the water lily, of which there are many cultivars. The deeper the water, the better the water lilies grow. However, it would help if you used water lilies sparingly, as they can quickly cover the water surface with their large leaves.

The Shallow Water Zone: Water Depth Between 4 and 15 Inches

The shallow water zone forms the transition from deep water to the marsh zone. In nature, reed species such as bulrushes or reeds thrive there. However, they are not suitable for the garden pond as they spread too quickly, and the pond would become overgrown within a few years.

You can also use various underwater plants and small-growing water lilies for this zone. Plants that can adapt well to water fluctuations are also suitable. It would help if you planted dwarf calamus, dwarf bulrush, hedgehog bulrush, or ragwort in closed containers to spread unchecked and do not interfere with other plants. Water iris, swan flower, frog spoon, or pine frond also enrich this zone.

Swamp Zone: Up to 4 Inches of Water Depth

The actual pond begins with the sump zone. A fluctuating water level characterizes this zone. It is sealed with a pond liner and located at the edge of the water body. A capillary barrier separates the sump zone from the shore zone. Since this zone is always wet, plants from the shallow water zone or the riparian zone can thrive here. Many of these plants like it particularly rich in nutrients. To prevent these nutrients from getting into the shallow water, you should create a barrier as a boundary. The marsh marigold already delights in spring with its beautiful yellow flowers and is perfect for this zone. Marsh forget-me-nots, creeping bulrush, marsh iris, water mint, and marsh fern are also suitable.

Riparian Zone

The riparian zone is continuously moist and is also known as the wet zone. Characteristic of this area is an alternately moist soil that never dries out completely. In this zone, there is usually still raised pond liner. It ensures that the adjacent garden soil does not suck the water out of the pond. The plants in this area have direct contact with the pond water with their roots. Classic garden perennials can thrive in this zone, as can pond plants. Water astragalus, purple loosestrife, meadowsweet, troll flower, or three-master flower are suitable. Brook carnation, Siberian iris, and pennywort are also perfect for the riparian zone.

Pay Attention to Contrasts Among the Plants.

If you do not want to choose the plants for your garden pond yourself, you can buy ready-made plant assortments. Such assortments are suitable for initial planting and offered for ponds of different sizes.

If you put together the plants for your pond yourself, you should pay attention to beautiful contrasts. This way, the plants are displayed to their best advantage. You can create differences with plants with different leaf shapes, leaf colors, and leaf sizes. Leaves matter because numerous aquatic plants bloom only for a short period. Flowers create natural magic. When buying pond plants, you should pay attention not only to the colors and shapes of the flowers but also to the flowering period of the plants:

  • Opening of flowering in spring with marsh marigold, marsh forget-me-not, and lesser celandine as riparian plants.
  • Flowering from May onwards with various water lily varieties, which you should, however, not use too profusely
  • Water lilies and other plants that bloom in the summer – here you will find a wide selection because most water and pond plants bloom then
  • Marsh aster, which blooms into the fall.

In nature, most marsh and water plants grow in groups. Depending on the type of plant, you can plant groups of three to six and add larger specimen perennials to the riparian area.

What to Consider When Planting?

When planting your garden pond, you should start in the deepwater zone and work your way up to the riparian zone. Planter baskets are great for smaller ponds and entry points. It would help if you remembered that some of the plants could spread quite lushly.

With planting baskets, you can later vary plants’ spacing and prevent plants that spread quickly from constricting other plants. Pond planting on steeper bank sections is made easier with slope mats. Pond plants find better footing on them and cannot slip off.

Plant Care in Spring

Spring is the right time to create order in the pond and clean it up. It would be best if you did this in May, after the Ice Saints. In the middle of May, water temperatures rise, and plants start to grow again. Cleaning out your pond is an excellent time to inspect the plants and remove dead plant debris. You can dispose of the plant debris in the compost. It would be best if you cut back or divide any plants that have thrived. Pruning encourages plant growth. With this measure, you counteract the formation of algae in your pond. If you want to divide plants in the planting basket, you must remove them from the basket, separate them with a spade and then put them back in the basket. With firmly planted pond plants, division becomes more difficult. You may need to drain some water to divide these plants with the spade.

Put the plants back in and bring new plants into the pond. It would help if you weighed down freshly planted plants with gravel. You should add quartz sand to the substrate again to prevent too many nutrients from entering the water.

If you have divided plants, you can give the detached plants to friends who have a garden pond or trade them with other pond owners at swap meets.


Pond plants counteract the formation of algae and improve the oxygen content of the water. If you are planting your garden pond for the first time, you should first create a planting plan and draw in the depth zones. You should select the plants according to the depth zones and not plant too densely, as the plants can spread out a lot. You should make sure to create beautiful contrasts with different leaf shapes and flower colors.

Florian Egert

I am Florian Egert, the owner of pondlovers.com. I live with my wife and two children in Germany in a small village in the countryside.

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