Creating a Cool, Relaxing Water Garden

Suitable Plants for a Water Garden

There is any number of plants which are suitable for use as water plants either in or around a water garden. Some of those suitable are listed below.

The Dwarf Bullrush (Typha laxmanii) (also known as dwarf cattail) can be an interesting addition to a water garden. As it is nowhere near as rampant as its invasive cousins, this variety has a place in small ponds or even barrels. The dwarf bulrush is a native of North America and has round seed heads. It averages a metre in height and will tolerate a water depth of up to 40cm during the spring/summer growing season.

Indiana (Nymphaea hybrid) is a small to medium water lily and is classed in the 'changeable' group. The blooms are a rich yellow when first open then change to a fiery orange over the course of the three days when the flowers are open. It is compact water lily and will be happy with a water depth of 30cm or lower. This makes it a perfect choice for small barrels and ponds.

Red Sedge (Carex sp.) is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The Carex genus has provided many plants suitable for water gardens. The red sedge is a compact little grass suited to wet soil, pond margins and streams. Less than 15cm depth is still within its comfort range. Plant height is 30cm and in full sun, the leaves develop an intense deep red on the tips of the blades of the leaves.

A tropical dweller of floodplains is Rotala (Rotala rotundifolia). This has achieved fame as an aquarium plant because of its characteristic of turning from green when above the water to a metallic bronze when submerged. As the plant reaches the surface of the water, sprays of pink flowers reach for the light. Rotala grows best in shallow water of less than 20cm although if the water is clear it will live in deep water. It makes an ideal border round a pond, softening the border and drawing its nutrients from the pond. It can also be placed in a stream.

Strelitzia reginae (Bird-of-paradise or crane flower) is a native of South Africa. It is suited as an edging plant for ponds and water gardens. It forms a clump which ranges from 3 to 5 feet in height and makes a nice focal point. The evergreen, leathery leaves do not drop which makes it a low maintenance plant. The orange and blue flowers are very attractive. Mature plants may produce up to 3 dozen flower spikes a year. It is excellent as a cut flower with blooms lasting up to two weeks indoors. The bird-of-paradise will tolerate temperatures as low as 24oF for short periods but freezing conditions will cause damage to buds and flowers.

Bird-of-paradise flowerCredit: Wikimedia

Bird-of-paradise flower (above)

Thalia dealbata (silver thalia) is a spectacular native from the everglades of Florida. As each rosette matures a thin flower spike stretches over a metre above the leaves. Small, wrinkled purple flower open one after the other and give way to pea-sized seeds. The leaves are bluish in colour and have a powdery coating. This causes water to bead when hitting the leaf surface.

The toad lily (Tridyrtis formosana) is a native of East Asia. It is suitable for bog areas, streams and the margins of ponds. The leaves are mid green with dark green spots creating a spectacular show. The blooms appear in autumn and resemble passionfruit or orchid blooms. As each stem dies after flowering, it can be pruned out. The plant will continue to grow from an under ground rootstock. Although the active growth periods are spring and summer, some foliage remains all year round.

Like the red sedge, Villarsia (Villarsia albiflora) is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. It is in the same group of water plants as the Nymphoides such as water snowflake and water fringe. It will cope with conditions from wet soil to 40cm deep water. In deep water the kidney shaped leaves float like lily pads and turn a rusty red colour. This is an absolute must for ponds created to attract frogs.

The Water Hawthorne (Aponogeton distachys) is a native of South Africa. It has a growing season at odds with most aquatic plants and the white petals on divided flowers can boost the appearance of an otherwise drab pond when most plants are at the end of their growing season. The leaves are shaped like spearheads and are attached to a golf-ball size bulb. Adaptation to water depth occurs very quickly and up to a metre of water is comfortable for this plant.

Zebra Rush (Scirpus tabermontae 'Zebrenus') is beautifully variegated whereas many rushes are branded as being drab and boring. The leaves have even white and green bands which are very attractive and eye-catching. It is suited to damp soil and up to 30cm of water.

Your local garden centre can always help out with suggestions of plants suitable for your area, conditions and requirements.