Flowering Water Lilies and More

Flowering water lilies are one of the most popular plants among pond owners. Besides being beneficial to a natural pond, they are also appreciated for their beauty. I keep them in my two largest ponds. While they’re also kept in smaller ponds, I prefer to give them room for aesthetic value.

Water lilies | Natural Pond Lover

When it comes to finding water lilies, I recommend buying them from a pond supply distributor and not taking them from the wild. This is because wild lily pads quickly attempt to take over an entire pond. You probably don’t want that. I’m lucky enough to live near a koi pond dealer that specializes in water lilies. It’s better to have them in a certain area, or in a corner of the pond. The best placement is an area that receives the most sunlight.

Flowering water lily modification

When you buy them modified, water lilies should stay in check. When the old pads die, they are directly replaced by new ones. Same goes with the flowers that bloom. There’s always a new flower ready to take an old flowers place. In my experience, one plant produces a certain colored flower. Colors differ from plant to plant. Flower production peaks mid-summer and lasts longer in warmer climate zones.

In my opinion, water lilies are more for aesthetic value. They can’t compete with hornwort or anacaris when it comes to oxygenating the water. They also serve as a cover for fish to hide under. This is especially important for koi whose bright coloring which makes them a prime target for hawks and other top-of-the-food-chain predators. Smaller frogs occasionally sit on the lily pads as well. Adult or larger frogs are too heavy. 

Like with any plant, water lilies help keep a pond clean by feeding on natural waste while competing with string algae. Water lilies don’t keep their surface leaves during winter. Don’t worry, they will come back in the spring.

Invasive water lily

The Mexican water lily an invasive species. Once established, it becomes difficult to keep up with. Stay clear of the Mexican water lily. Plenty of other plants are available. All the online pond plant distributors that I’ve frequented only ship plants which are legal in your state.

You have a true friend in dragonflies

Water lilies also seem to attract dragonflies. Dragonflies are a useful visitor to your natural pond. They primarily feed on mosquitoes and biting midges. They also don’t bite or sting. What more can you ask for? You may see the aquatic larvae-stage of the dragonfly among your oxygenating plants. They also creep along the bottom of the pond. They seem quite fearsome at this stage resembling an alien from a science fiction movie. I truly appreciate their presence.

Flowering water lilies | Natural Pond Lover
Dragonflies | Natural Pond Lover

More of my favorite pond plant picks

Mermaid

Mermaid is a submersible oxygenating plant that serves many purposes. Tadpoles love to nibble on it and spawning fish use its leaves for egg laying. Already we’re off to a good start. This plant also helps keep problematic algae at bay by competing for the same nutrients. When adding mermaid to your pond, anchor it down to the bottom medium. Avoid throwing mermaid in the same way you might with anacharis and hornwort

I give mermaid a four out of five-star rating. I deduct one point when it comes to hardiness since it’s not as hardy as anacharis. It’s also slightly more sensitive to cooler water temperatures. Plant mermaid in the spring when the pond water is warm and after the anacharis has taken root. It’s a beneficial oxygenating plant.

Cabomba

Another, four out of five-star rated oxygenating plant that aids with algae elimination. Cabomba works well by providing small fish with cover. It also helps to encourage spawning. Cabomba is more of a delicate plant though. I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about it out-growing a well-established anacharis population. Cabomba actually reminds me of hornwort. 

Cabomba brings some variation to your submerged plant collection. Sometimes, it’s a bit more difficult to come by and its price reflects that. Still, the cost falls within a reasonable range. They usually go for just under $4 for a bunch of five. It’s no surprise that cabomba is popular among aquarium keepers. In an aquarium setting, the beauty of cabomba surely outshine plants such as anacharis or hornwort. In a natural pond setting, anacharis and hornwort take priority for being more prolific and hardy. Cabomba prefers warm water because it originates from humid, tropical locations.

Cattails

I’m not so sure if I would add cattails to my favorite pond plant list but this seems like a good time to mention them. I do like the general appearance of cattails, but I didn’t purposely add them to my pond. They showed up on their own. I’m guessing it was either brought in by a bird or seeds came in on another pond plant I added. 

Pond Plants | Natural Pond Lover

The problem with cattails is that they will take over an entire pond. I’m having this issue in my bass pond as I write this. One of these days, I’m going to have to manually remove them (Update: I have). That’s a job that I’m not looking forward to. I do like the way they look though. Both snails and dragonflies lay their eggs along cattail reeds.

Cattail infestation

I had a problem with a cattail infestation. During early summer, a few cattails grew along the edge of the pond. They looked nice at first so I left them. As weeks went by, they started spreading out into the water. Eventually, by the end of the summer, they had spread across the entire pond reaching the other side. A cattail infestation developed. It turned into a major problem that needed to be solved.

Cattail infestation
This photo is from the spring when the cattail problem began to spread into the water. I wasn't sure if they would spread any further so I left them at the time. That was a mistake. Eventually, they worked their way across the entire pond.

The only solution I could come up with was to buy a $25 inflatable raft with the idea of manually removing the cattails. This proved harder than I thought but I eventually managed to remove every single cattail in about an hour. The job turned out successful.

Cattail Removal
Early October, moments after completely removing all the cattails. Mission accomplished. The water is cloudy from all sand being stirred up from pulling the cattails by the roots. Within 24 to 36 hours, the water settled and was clear again.

To avoid this from happening in the future, I pull new cattails as they pop up along the water’s edge. I won’t allow this problem to get out of hand again. Now I look forward to relaxing days in my raft drifting along the pond.

Birds spreading seeds and fish eggs

It’s amazing how birds spread plants from one pond to another. Birds also spread fish eggs from one body of water to the next. This is a way invasive plants and fish spread. If you add invasive fish to your pond thinking there’s no way they can spread to other waterways, you’re wrong. If they spawn and a pond-dwelling bird comes in contact with the eggs, they could spread them to another pond.

Every now and then I come across a fish in one of my ponds that I know I didn’t add. Grown fish are also sometimes transported from one pond to another by way of bird flight. This is much more unlikely though.

Pond Friendly Fertilizer

Sometimes, plants such as flowering water lilies might need supplementation with pond friendly fertilizer to get started. This is especially the case with new ponds. I have yet to use any kind of fertilizer for my plants. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I didn’t spend a great deal of money on my plants. If you did, it’s always a good idea to protect your investment.

There were a few situations when I could have used a boost in plant growth. My plants are slow to get started in early spring. Once a pond is completely established, fish and other pond animals naturally fertilize plant life.

If you decide to use a fertilizer because your pond soil (sand, river pebbles, etc) is lacking proper nutrition, make sure to use a product designed specifically for pond plants. 

Common pond frogs | Natural Pond Lover

Fertilizer intended for grass, shrubs and other land plants is bad for water quality. It also causes fish kills. Be sure to follow the directions on the label carefully. Too much is not good.

Flowering Water Lilies and More