The imaginative hobby gardener uses floating plants to create picturesque vegetation on the water surface of the garden pond. Leaves and flowers float on the water, while the free-floating roots take all the important nutrients from it. If these reach to the ground and root in the soil substrate, the specialist speaks of floating leaf plants. Both variants not only underline the idyllic charm of the pond, but also reduce unwanted algae growth and serve as shade and hiding places for the pond inhabitants. An extensive repertoire of native and tropical floating plants is available to choose from. Interested gardeners can find out below what care they require, how they overwinter and which varieties are particularly popular.

Balanced selection of varieties for a harmonious appearance

A completely overgrown water surface reduces the effect of a pond to a minimum, as does a dreary, completely unplanted water world. It is important to create a pleasing mixture of freely visible areas and areas populated with green or flowering floating plants. Experience teaches that a third to a maximum of half of a body of water in the garden should be planted. In this way, the vital exchange of air is maintained, while a well-rounded community of plants offers the eye of the beholder ever new impressions.

Flowering floating plants

The following strains have made it to the top ranks in the popularity chart:

Froschbiss (Hydrocharis bite-frog)

  • white flowers from June to August
  • lily-like leaves
  • hardy thanks to turions

Crab claw, water aloe (Stratiotes aloides)

  • white flowers from May to July
  • Growth height up to 20 cm
  • hardy

Muschelblume (Pistia stratiotes)

  • green flowers from June to August
  • Growth height up to 10 cm
  • not hardy

Wasserhyazinthe (Eichhornia crassipes)

  • light violet flowers from June to October
  • long roots draw plenty of nutrients from the water
  • not hardy

Wassermimose (Aeschynomene floating)

  • yellow flowers from May to August
  • develops long runners
  • not hardy

Green floating plants

The particular advantage of pond plants that do not flower is that they do not invest their energy in flowering, but instead produce more oxygen.

Three-furrowed duckweed (Lemna trisulca)

  • floats about 2 cm below the water surface
  • serves as an important spawning plant for the fish
  • hibernates on the bottom of the water body

Floating fern (Salvia natans)

  • ideal for sunny areas
  • Growth height 2 cm
  • hardy

Common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris)

  • carnivorous plant
  • thrives underwater
  • hardy

Sternlebermoos (Riccia floating)

  • richly branched and without roots
  • grows just above the water
  • hardy

Swimming Wolf Milk (Phyllanthus fluitans)

  • beautifully formed leaves in green to reddish
  • Growth height up to 2 cm
  • not hardy

Flowering floating leaf plants

Unlike floating plants, floating leaf plants form roots down to the bottom of the pond.

Seekanne (Nymphoides play)

  • yellow flowers with fringed edges
  • proliferating
  • hardy

Seerose (Nymphea)

  • the queen of pond plants
  • available in numerous varieties
  • only very rarely hardy

Teichrosen (Nuphar lutea)

  • yellow flowers from June to August
  • ideal for water depths of up to 120 cm
  • hardy

Water chestnut (Trapa natans)

  • white flowers in July and August
  • suitable for water depths up to 100 cm
  • hardy

Green floating leaf plants

African water spike (Aponogeton distachyos)

  • oval leaves up to 20 cm long
  • thick rootstock
  • Winter protection required

Raues Hornblatt (Ceratophyllum demersum)

  • small whorled leaves 2 cm long
  • partly free-floating, partly rooted
  • hardy and evergreen

Floating Pondweed (Potamogeton natans)

  • herbaceous plant with stems up to 150 cm long
  • reddish shoots that turn green
  • hardy

Whether free-floating or rooted in the ground or plant basket; Floating plants and floating leaf plants can only exist in standing or very slowly flowing water. A current would sweep them away and rob them of any livelihood. They feel comfortable and thrive in the garden pond, terrace pond or mini pond. However, they have no place in the stream.


Floating plants need care just like their colleagues in the garden bed. Without question, there are several differences to consider; on the other hand, factors such as fertilizing, cutting, multiplying or overwintering play an equally essential role with pond plants as with perennials and shrubs.


Floating plants take the nutrients they need from the pond water. Depending on the type and variety, this occurs via the leaves, the freely floating roots or the roots that are anchored in the ground. The fact that the nutrient requirements can be quite extensive is confirmed by the fact that floating plants are very rarely found in nutrient-poor waters such as bog lakes. It does not automatically follow from this that the administration of fertilizer is fundamentally necessary. In a well-kept garden pond, the water quality of which is ecologically balanced, other nutrients that are supplied from outside could have a counterproductive effect and cause rot or algae growth.

  • Fertilize floating plants only when necessary.
  • Deficiency symptoms, such as yellow leaves or stunted flowers, signal a need for nutrients.
  • Press fertilizer cones or fertilizer sticks into the substrate.
  • Alternatively, add special liquid fertilizer to the pond water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Fertilizers should never come into direct contact with floating plants.

As a rule of thumb, re-fertilizing is much less complicated than reversing over-fertilization. As a result, the experienced gardener approaches this tricky subject with caution and prefers to use too little rather than too much.

Note: Only use special fertilizers for pond plants without phosphate.


To cut

It is advisable to cut and thin out floating plants regularly. Cut back at the latest when half of the pond surface is overgrown. In the course of the vegetation phase, rampant pond plants, such as the sea jug, should be kept in particular in order to keep them under control with a bold pruning.

  • Fall is the ideal season for pruning.
  • Cut off yellowed, withered leaves and stems.
  • Thin out overly dense plant covers.

Special pond scissors are best suited for this work. Thanks to its extendable telescopic handle, hobby gardeners can reach their floating plants from the edge of the pond.


The majority of native floating plants are hardy or have evolved amazing strategies to survive frost and snow. Since the surface of the water freezes first at sub-zero temperatures, the plants form survival organs, called turions, which sink to the bottom of the water and remain there. The next spring, the turions give rise to daughter plants that ascend and thrive on the surface for another season. Floating plants that have migrated from the tropics, on the other hand, are endangered when the temperature is permanently below 10° Celsius and spend the cold season in adequate winter quarters.

  • Relocate the non-hardy floating plants in good time in autumn.
  • Collect free-swimming specimens with the landing net.
  • Lift floating leaf plants rooted on the ground together with the plant basket out of the water.
  • Ideally, let them hibernate in a warm water aquarium in a bright place.
  • Alternatively, convert a large vat or zinc tub into winter quarters.

The hibernation of sensitive exotic floating plants is associated with a risk every year. If there is a lack of suitable space or there is not enough light, popular varieties such as water lilies, water hyacinths or water lettuce will die within a few weeks. If the expense of overwintering exotic floating plants in the house is too much effort, cultivate these varieties as an annual, since the purchase price of new plants is manageable.


Various floating plants tend to reproduce so intensively that they are stopped by pruning. Other varieties, on the other hand, hardly seem to reproduce themselves, so that the garden lover has to be active in this case if he wants to settle more specimens in his pond. Depending on the variety, there are different methods to choose from.


Floating leaf plants that form a root ball, such as water lilies, are particularly suitable for this form of propagation. During the hibernation or in spring, this root ball is potted out of the plant basket and divided with a sharp knife. The individual pieces are placed in their own containers and finally placed in the new location in the pond.


If a floating plant, like the water hyacinth, forms its own foothills, the experienced hobby gardener uses these parts of the plant for propagation. If they have their own buds, they are cut off from the mother plant and released somewhere else on the water surface. They form their own roots and shoots within a short time.

Use prudence when planting

Suitable floating plants and floating leaf plants are available for almost any water depth from approx. 20 cm. As part of the purchase, detailed inquiries should therefore be made as to which pond zones the favored varieties are suitable for. The planting process itself then does not present the garden enthusiast with any demanding challenges:

  • Place free-floating floating plants in a suitable location on the water.
  • Use non-hardy floating leaf plants in special pond lattice baskets.
  • Low-nutrient pond soil, clay granules or gravel are suitable substrates.
  • If soil is used, it is protected from being washed out by pebbles.

Tropical floating plants are not placed on the pond until mid-May because delayed ground frosts could put an early end to them. In addition, it is advisable to put new plants on the water surface only when there are no more young fish in the pond. Although they deprive themselves of a protective hiding place and sun protection in this way, young fish like to nibble on the tender shoots of the floating plants. Older fish are much more cautious in this regard and do not touch aquatic plants.

Troubleshoot floating plants

In a garden pond that is biologically balanced, diseases and pests on floating plants hardly stand a chance. However, they are not completely immune to an infestation, so the attentive hobby gardener always keeps an eye on them.


As if they weren’t already causing enough trouble for the hobby gardener in the kitchen and ornamental garden, a species of snail, the pointed mud snail (Lymnaea stagnalis), even appears in the pond every now and then. Generally, this aquatic snail feeds on algae. However, she does not disdain lush green floating plants. By the way, it is strongly recommended to fish them out as soon as possible so that they do not multiply in large numbers. Fish food can be used as a lure.


In the warm summer months, aphids like to occupy the leaves and flowers of floating plants. They can be contained to a large extent with the help of a sharp jet of water.


Hardly any body of water in the garden is spared by them. Algae will appear sooner or later and crowd the floating plants. Green algae, which are fished out again and again with a good deal of patience, disappear completely over time. In addition, black peat has proven itself as a control agent, which is hung in the water in small bags or spread on the pond floor. It has a preventive effect if the hobby gardener strictly ensures that there is no over-fertilization. In addition, the distribution of fish food should be kept to a minimum.

From the mini pond to the impressive water world; without floating plants, no ornamental water should be created in the garden. They are not only used for decoration in close touch with nature, but also make a significant contribution to a functioning ecosystem from which both animals and plants benefit. Floating plants improve the water quality, prevent algae growth, and provide shade and hiding places. If they are settled in a balanced relationship to the pond size, the water depth and the entire plant population, the maintenance effort is kept within an acceptable range.

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