We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Edible Water Garden Design

Plants suitable for water gardens range from those that require moist soil to those that thrive in deep water. They are usually grouped into six categories although some plants will fall in to 2 or more categories. The categories are: oxygenators, deep-water plants, surface floaters, marginals, bog plants, and moisture loving plants. When buying plants be careful to check their requirements as some garden nurseries will group moisture-loving plants  (which cannot be in waterlogged soil) along with bog plants. For more information on water gardens view our page: The Edible Pond and Bog Garden, in the Habitat section.


The table below gives examples of plants falling into the different categories

Plant Type Plant examples
Deep emergent Sagittaria latifolia   Sagittaria sagittifolia   Nelumbo lutea   Nelumbo nucifera   Orontium aquaticum   Typha latifolia
Shallow emergent Iris versicolor   Pontederia cordata   Peltandra virginica   Saururus cernuus  Veronica beccabunga   Lysichiton camtschatcense  
Emergent floater Vallisneria americana Nasturtium officinale  Ipomoea aquatica
Floater Lemna gibba   Lemna minor   Wolffia arrhiza   Azolla filiculoides
Bog & moisture loving plants Aruncus dioicus   Astilbe chinensis  Chelone glabra   Filipendula ulmaria  Hosta longissima
Submerged Ceratophyllum demersum  Myriophyllum spicatum   Myriophyllum verticillatum   Potamogeton natans



Water Garden Plants

Oxygenators Fast-growing submerged plants that help to clean and oxygenate the water. e.g. Myriophyllum spicatum  (Water Milfoil)  Myriophyllum verticillatum  (Myriad Leaf)   Elodea canadensis  (Canadian Pondweed)   Essential if fish are added to the pond.

Shallow Emergent (shallow marginals). Grow in shallow water usually about 8 -15 cm (3"-6"). Shallow marginals provide cover for wildlife and are a key ornamental element to a water garden design.

Deep Emergent (water depth 6" -12")   Nelumbo lutea  (American Water Lotus)   Nelumbo nucifera  (Sacred Water Lotus)   Typha latifolia  (Reedmace)  Also includes deep-water plants (water depth usually 30-90cm, 12"-36").e.g. Nymphaea alba (White Water Lily)   Aponogeton distachyos  (Water Hawthorn)   Water lilies (Nymphaea) form the largest group of deep-water plants that root in deep water. Leaves and flowers must be above water. Some water lilies for example, Nymphaea alba, can thrive in water up to 3m (10 feet). Plants may need to be grown in pots or divided regularly to reduce root growth and plant vigour.

Surface Floater   Trapa natans  (Water Chestnut)  Azolla filiculoides  (Azolla). Have a similar function to deep-water plants. Oxygenators need light so it is important that surface floaters do not cover too much of the water surface. Some floaters are vigorous and will need to be controlled (which can be a good thing as many floaters have useful properties).

Bog Plants Thrive in water-logged soil withstanding occasional flooding. e.g.    Lysichiton americanus  (Yellow Skunk Cabbage)  Caltha leptosepala (Western Marsh Marigold)  

Moisture-loving Plants Like soils that have extra moisture but are not waterlogged. Can include herbaceous perennials e.g. Astilbes (Astilbe chinensis) and Hostas (Hosta longissima)


Finding water plants in the Database

You can search for plants that can be used in water gardens using the Plants For A Future Database.

Search for Wet or Boggy Soil and/or Water Plants


Additional Plant Links

The following list contains many plants, most of them either natives of Britain or naturalized here, that can be grown in ponds or boggy ground. They are all perennials and, unless stated otherwise, can be easily propagated by seed or by division in spring or autumn. You can find more information on these plants here

The database has more details on these plants: Acorus calamus, Aponogeton distachyos, Beckmannia eruciformis, Butomus umbellatus, Chrysosplenium alternifolium, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, Cornus canadensis, Cyperus longus, Glyceria fluitans, Gunnera tinctoria, Nasturtium officinale, Nuphar advena, Nuphar lutea, Nuphar polysepala, Nymphaea alba, Nymphaea odorata, Peltandra virginica, Pontederia cordata, Sagittaria sagittifolia, Samolus valerandi, Scirpus lacustris, Sparganium erectum, Trapa natans, Typha angustifolia, Vaccinium macrocarpon, Zizania aquatica, Zizania latifolia.



Now available: PLANTS FOR YOUR FOOD FOREST: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens.

An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More



© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.