Beginner's Guide to Aquatic Plants and Flowers

There's something soothing and inviting about a well-put-together aquarium or pond. It's naturally inviting as well as aesthetically pleasing, which really makes these water features a focal point of your home or yard. One way to really make your aquarium or pond eye-catching is to select the appropriate kinds of aquatic plants. Choosing the correct kind of plants is not only important visually but also on a practical level, as many aquatic plants can nurture the mini-ecosystem at work in your home aquarium or pond.


If you've decided to include some live aquatic plants in your home aquarium, be sure to keep a few important things in mind when choosing and installing your plants. First, make sure the tank placement will be healthy for both your fish and your plants. If you want to have live plants, you will need to position the tank in an area that gets eight to 10 hours of sun a day. It should also be away from drafts and radiators, as these can make it more difficult to regulate the climate within the tank and this can harm your plants.

Next, you have to decide on the kinds of plants that you want to have in your aquarium. As a beginner, you should probably start small with no more than a five-to-10-gallon tank and have a variety of plant types. Some basic types are rooted plants, bunch plants, and floating plants. Rooted plants grow from runners and usually need moderate to strong light. Bunch plants are bought and planted in bundles; they may have roots but do not grow from runners. Floating plants do not root in sediment; they float along the surface of the water and tend to reproduce quickly if they have a lot of light.

Because your aquarium is essentially a manufactured environment, you have to provide everything that your plants would need in nature in order for them to thrive. For rooted and bunch plants, that means a healthy sediment bottom where they can anchor themselves, receive nutrients, and grow. In this case, the type of gravel and floor of your aquarium is very important. When choosing sediment, be sure to pick a nice medium gravel that is not too coarse. Don't use more than three to four inches of gravel, and when planting rooted plants, do not bury the crown (the area just above the roots) beneath the gravel - leave it above the gravel line. One more tip: When planting rooted plants be sure to always have the roots pointing downward; never plant aquatic plants with the roots curling around or back up on themselves. Like any garden, be sure to use a fish-safe, high-quality fertilizer to keep your aquarium plants in tip-top shape.


Outside, the environment is totally up to the whims of Mother Nature, which makes controlling the pond environment difficult. Additionally, ponds are much more likely to attract outside wildlife like birds, frogs, or maybe even turtles, deer, and small mammals, so it is important to remember that these animals can easily spread pollen and seeds from your aquatic plants elsewhere. This is especially important to consider when you are purchasing and planting your pond aquatics since invasive species (i.e. non-native species of plants that are detrimental and hazardous to the native ecosystem) can easily travel from your pond to other water habitats. Be sure to educate yourself on invasive aquatic plants and to always purchase plants from reputable, knowledgeable vendors to avoid the possibility of introducing something detrimental to your pond. You should also always consult your climate guide when choosing plants to make sure the plants you pick can survive in your climate. In colder climates, pond gardeners should always check to see about an aquatic plant's ability to "overwinter" outside. Many species of aquatic plants need to be brought inside during the winter or they will die. If you decide to pick these kinds of plants, be sure to have a winter system for keeping the plants inside during the colder months.

The best time to plant pond aquatics is during pond construction. This allows you to plan and build your pond according to the specifications of the types of plants you want to populate your water feature. One of the most valuable aspects of pond design is the incorporation of submerged pond ledges; this will allow you to plant different plants that require different depths in order to thrive and will basically give your pond a layered, natural look. Effective pond designs that include ledges will also naturally help space your aquatic plants out with alternating areas of deep and shallow water.

The easiest ponds to maintain are those that feature both plants and fish. Aquatic plants offer fish shelter from predators and the heat of the sun, while fish can nibble away at pests and help fertilize the plants with their waste. Be aware that when you do plant aquatics in your pond, you should only have about 10% to 20% of the pond surface covered. More than that can be detrimental to the health of your fish and lead to plant overcrowding, which can choke out your pond. The types of plants to choose from are similar to aquarium plants and are generally categorized into three groups: floating aquatics, submerged aquatics, and marginal plants. Floating aquatics float on the surface of the water, while submerged aquatics sit just below the water's surface. Marginal plants are moisture-loving plants that love the gooey mud around the banks of your pond.