By Gail Barnhill

The Tucson Watergardeners


The most popular water plant is, of course, the water lily. There are two major types of water lilies, the hardy water lily and the tropical water lily. The later may freeze here in the winter unless it is protected by placing it in the deepest part of the pond (probably minimum of 24") or the tuber lifted and kept in damp sand.

Another much loved water plant is the lotus. However, this might grow in So. Az, but it does not bloom due to the combination of high heat and lack of humidity.

Most water plants multiply very rapidly. Free floating plants are the most notorious for this, and when you run out of friends to give the excess plants to, they make wonderful compost fodder.

In addition to many nurseries in town, a great source of water plants is The Tucson Watergardeners. Club members regularly bring their excess water plants to meetings to be given away as free doorprizes. The Tucson Watergardeners also hold a water plant sale in May each year where you can find some of the more uncommon or unusual water plants to be had.

There are many other water plants worth growing, some of which are:

Free Floating (not planted in a pot): These are also good "filtration’ plants as well as favorite spawning places for fish:

Water Lettuce
Frog Bit

Marginals or Bog Plants: The majority of "other" water plants are plants that thrive in very moist to boggy soils or in the watergarden with the top of their pots 1"-6" (depending on variety) below water level:

Louisiana Iris and Pseudacorus Iris
Japanese Iris (bloom season only)
Taro and Elephant’s Ear
Papyrus, Giant, Dwarf, Miniature
Umbrella Grass
Water Hawthorne
Canna (yes, the garden kind)
Flowering Rush
Pickerel Rush
Corkscrew Rush
Marsh Marigold
Swamp or Bob Lily
Horsetail (Dwarf & Giant)
Cattail (Dwarf & Giant)
Manna Grass
Ribbon Grass
Daylilies (in boggy soil, not pond)
Chameleon Plant
Water Pennywort
Water Primrose
Water Clover
Water Forget-Me-Not
Water Sensitive Plant
Water Snowflake or Water Fringe
Arrowhead Plants
Lizards Tail

FULLY SUBMERGED PLANTS: These are primarily plants that help oxygenate and clean the pond and provide nourishment and spawning areas for pond insects and fish:

Hair Grass
Canadian Pondweed
Giant Tape Grass

Because you do not want a rich soil in your pond that can contribute to an algae bloom, use a very lean soil – desert dirt is fine – unscented kitty litter (it’s just clay) is easiest to obtain and work with.
Use fertilizer tablets monthly, or time release fertilizer granules (available in 3, 6 or 9 month formulas) deep in the center of the pot. Put an inch or two of pea gravel in the top of the pot and when putting a pot in the watergarden, put it in at an angle, not straight down, so the water gently covers the top of the pot and doesn’t disturb the soil as much. Use upside down black plastic nursery pots or brick (not concrete block because of lime) to raise or lower the pot to the proper level.