Submerged Water Plants – Choosing And Planting Oxygenating Pond Plants

Image by Jenni Smith

By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Adding a water feature to your landscape adds beauty and promotes relaxation. Properly designed and maintained water gardens and small ponds include a number of different kinds of plants that actively support a healthy aquatic environment. Aquatic plants are divided into four groups including floating plants, emergent plants, algae, and submerged plants. Submerged water plants play an extremely vital role in the pond environment. Let’s learn more about these oxygenating pond plants.

What are Oxygenating Plants?

Submerged water plants are also known as oxygenating pond plants because they actually filter the pond water. Submerged plants also keep algae growth under control and provide oxygen. Submerged plants grow fully immersed in water and get their nutrients from the water through their leaves, not their roots like other plants. Plants that grow completely under water provide shelter for fish, oxygen to the water and filter out pollutants.

Common Submerged Water Plants


Here is a small listing for some popular oxygenating pond plants commonly added to these aquatic environments:

  • American Pondweed – perennial plant with both floating and submerged leaves
  • Bushy Pondweed – annual plant with dark green to greenish-purple, ribbon-like leaves and forms dense stands
  • Hornwort – sometimes called coontail, dark olive-green, rootless perennial plant that grows in dense colonies
  • Eelgrass – also called tapegrass or wild celery, a rooted submerged plant that performs well in flowing water and has thin, ribbon-like leaves that resemble celery
  • Egeria – produces dark green lance-like leaves in whorls that become dense near the tips
  • Elodea – multi-branched perennial with dark green blade-like leaves and white, waxy flowers that float across the water, perfect for preventing algae
  • Parrotfeather – submerged perennial plant usually grown in shallow water, has gray-green thickly bunched and frilly divisions for a feather-like appearance
  • Water Stargrass – grass-like with thin branching dark-green stems that can grow up to 6 feet and forms floating colonies, bright yellow flowers
  • Cabomba – subtropical plant with bright green fan-like leaves and lovely white flower on the water’s surface

How to Plant Submerged Plants

One bunch of submersed water plants per one square foot of water surface will keep the water clean and oxygenated whenever these oxygenating pond plants are added to a water garden. They are generally placed in pots and positioned in shallow water or placed one to two feet below the water surface.

Submerged plants can also be held down under water with heavy rocks. If you pot your plants, be sure to use a heavy garden soil, a pot without drainage holes and cover the soil with gravel so that it does not escape.

Depending on the variety of your submerged water plants, a slow release fertilizer may be required for optimal growth. Also, if you live in a cold climate, you may have to overwinter your submerged plants.

NOTE: The use of native plants in a home water garden (referred to as wild harvesting) can be risky if you have fish in your pond, as most natural water features are host to a plethora of parasites. Any plants taken from a natural water source should be quarantined overnight in a strong solution of potassium permanganate to kill any parasites prior to introducing them into your pond. That being said, it is always best to obtain water garden plants from a reputable nursery.

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