Plants are an essential component of any pond ecosystem, and aside from the aesthetic appeal, they offer many benefits to fish and other aquatic life. They provide a source of shelter from predators and often serve as a food source for pond inhabitants. Aquatic plants improve water quality in that they oxygenate and filter harmful nitrogen and phosphates from pond water. Plants also consume nutrients that may otherwise contribute to algal blooms.
Most aquatic plants require 4-6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive and grow, and because of this, most pond experts recommend placing your pond in a sunny location, rather than a shady one. What to do if you are limited to a shady location? Do not let the lack of light discourage you, there are plenty of shade-loving aquatic plant species that will add color, life, and texture to your water garden – you can still build the pond of your dreams in the shade! Here are some tips and recommendations to help you do so.
It’s useful to highlight the potential benefits and drawbacks of shade with respect to the health of your pond ecosystem. The pros can most certainly outweigh the cons, especially when you properly mitigate the potential problems associated with those shady environments. For example, the pond-side trees offer shady habitat but can create excess organic debris that may decompose and generates gases that are harmful to aquatic life. In this case, it’s best to use a leaf net over the pond during spring and fall months, and/or install a pond skimmer, to trap and remove the free-floating debris before it begins decomposing and impacting your pond’s water quality.
Some of the benefits of a shaded pond include cooler water temperatures, which contribute to an increase in levels of dissolved oxygen available to fish and other aquatic life in your pond. Cooler water temperatures also present an ideal breeding ground for the growth of beneficial bacteria, which assist in maintaining pond health. Decreased levels of light will also prohibit algae from photosynthesizing and proliferating in your pond.
Shadier ponds do not necessarily contain fewer aquatic plants; however, the lack of light may mean you are limited to certain plant species. Some of the more popular species of pond plants are typically sun-lovers; however, there are some varieties of lilies, lotus, and other floating types that still do well in partial shade, or 3-4 hours of direct sunlight. That is, these and other varieties still thrive in the shade, in that their foliage will grow and shine brightly, but they likely will not flower as they would in the sun.
Most Popular Hardy Shade-Tolerant Water Lilies: Suggested hardy shade-tolerant water lilies include:
- Clyde Ikins - Double Peach Hardy Lily
- Colorado Salmon Hardy Lily
- Attraction Red Hardy Lily
- James Brydon
- Texas Dawn
- Charlene Strawn Hardy Lily
Most Popular Tropical Shade-Tolerant Water Lilies: Suggested tropical water lily varieties include:
- Rhonda Kay
- Panama Pacific
- Blue August Koch (Day Blooming)
- Director Moore, and
- Shirley Bryne
Most Popular Shade-Tolerant Taro Plants: Taro plants are quite shade-tolerant, and some suggested varieties include:
- Black Magic Taro
- Pink China Taro
- Blue Hawaii Taro
- Electric Blue Gecko Taro
- Elena Taro
- Imperial Taro
- Mojito Taro
- Red Stem Taro, and
- White Lava Taro
Most Popular Shade-Tolerant Marginal Pond Plants: Suggested popular shade-loving aquatic marginal water plants and bog plants include:
- Water Hawthorn (good alternative to water lily)
- Blue Aquatic Water Forget-Me-Not (flowers in shade)
- Marsh Marigold (bright yellow flowers)
- Salvinia Minima - Mini Water Velvet
- Parrot's Feather
- Water Clover
- Cardinal Flower
- Lizard’s Tail
- Golden Club
- Water Snowflake (could be used in place of a water lily; will bloom in shade)
- Umbrella Palm
- Water Celery
- Bog Bean
- Compact Papyrus
- Joseph's Coat
- Chinese Lizard's Tail
- Blue Flag Iris
- Firecracker Plant (Cuphea Ignea)
Most Popular Shade-Tolerant Floating Pond Plants: There are not too many floater water plants that will tolerate lower light conditions. However, the suggested Floating Plant varieties include:
A Final Word on Pond Plants that do well in the Shade or Partial Shade: The plants we’ve listed above will do well in the shade, that said they may not bloom as profusely as they might with additional sunlight. These shade-loving plants will still give you a beautiful garden with some color and plenty of texture and variety to add interest to any shady area in your water garden or pond. The health benefits, and aeration benefits, of adding any pond plants to your water garden are numerous so we encourage you to “take the plunge” and enjoy!
Ask: Please comment on this post if you know of any Shade-Tolerant Pond Plants that we missed and we will be sure to research and add them.