Out of all the different categories of Pond plants, there is a very small collection that has adapted over the years, to free float on the water. Fortunately, they are easy to grow and have very little requirements other than to bask in the sunlight and absorb the nutrients from the water straight into their roots. Plants with floating leaves cut down on sunlight and help prevent green water and blanket weed problems. For this reason, they are among the most popular of all aquatic plants. Some varieties are very attractive and produce flowers that appear on, or above the waterline. All provide valuable cover and protection for fish and wildlife. I recommend, that two thirds of your pond should be covered in floating, submerged or oxygenating plants as this should keep everyone from visiting insects, to those already present, happy.
Frost Hardy Plants
Personally, I would only recommend two frost hardy, free floating plants in the UK and they are – Hydrocharis Morsus Ranae and Stratiotes Aloides. Hydrocharis Morsus Ranae, more widely known by its common name Frog bit, has attractive floating leaves the size of a 10 pence piece and spreads around shallow muddy margins or across the water with a depth of up to 30 cm. It occasionally produces small white flowers, but is grown for its attractive leaf appearance. In the winter, its 3 mm seed pods sink into the mud for the winter, and then float to the surface at the beginning of May where they gradually sprout into miniature plantlets. Stratiotes Aloides, common name Water Soldiers, give the appearance of giant pineapple leaves and can measure up to 45 cm in width. By mid-summer, they will sit half submerged and half above the water. In winter, they disappear down to the bottom of the pond until the spring when the mother plants, will produce up to 20 more plants on off shoots, much the same way as an indoor spider plant produces new growth.
Tropical and Annual Plants
These are probably the most popular, free floating plants, as they spread fast, eat up unwanted nutrients and give essential surface cover and as an added bonus, look very attractive in appearance as they do so. Unfortunately, they are not frost hardy, but will look great all summer long and they won’t take over as they cant survive our UK winters, so wont invade your pond. These are always available to buy from mid-may on wards. Pistia Stratiotes, also known as Water Lettuce, grows in tidy bright green rosettes measuring up to 30cm across. Eichornia Crassipes, common name Water Hyacinth, are stunning plants with round swollen air filled buoyant stems that produce glossy bright green leaves and exquisite mauve and lilac flowers with a yellow throat, unfortunatly they are now banned for UK sales under a ridiculous EU law. Salvinia Natans, sometimes known as Water Velvet, prefers shallow waters. It resembles hundreds of tiny water resistant hairy ferns, each measuring 1 cm across and water droplets literally roll off the hairy leaves leaving the plant-lets dry.
All the above plants can be overwintered in a heated greenhouse or conservatory, with clean, warm water and light. However, beware of overwintering them in a garden shed or garage as they will die off within a few days due to the lack of light and warmth.
The Ones to Avoid
There are, in my opinion, a few plants that should be seriously avoided and again, in my opinion, should not even be available for sale. One of these plants is Azzola Pinnata, a variety of floating fern, and any species of duckweed such as ( lemnaceae ). These plants are extremely invasive and will cover the entire surface of your pond, clinging to every plant and rock. The biggest pain of all though, will be the amount of effort and time you will have to spend on eradicating the problem. Here at Lilies Water Gardens we take pride in owning a nursery that is free of these invasive and problematic plants, so you can purchase from us with complete confidence.
Here’s to stress free gardening!
To see our range of free floating pond plants, please visit our website www.lilieswatergardens.co.uk