Caring For Pickerelweeds - How To Grow Pickerel Rush

Purple Flowering Pickerelweeds
(Image credit: emer1940)

Pickerel rush (Pontederia cordata) is a native North American plant with a wide zone range in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 10. The plant may become invasive due to a rhizomous rooting system, but it is an attractive plant that bears blue spiked flowers from early summer well into fall. Pickerel rush care is easy and the tenacious plant is an unusual addition to riparian zones and along home ponds. Few tips are necessary to learn how to grow pickerel rush, but this semi-aquatic plant is worth a try if you plant it in a submerged pot to prevent unwanted spreading.

About Pickerelweed Plants

Pickerelweed plants are rushes that are closely related to grasses. The plants are in the family Pontederia, named after an 18th century botany professor. These plants grow in clumps with thick to flat stems. The foliage is glossy and dark green with a heart-shaped leaf and grows 24 to 30 inches (61-76 cm.) high. Stems on mature plants arch gracefully on water grown plants. The flower spires are a deep to soft blue and rise several inches (8 cm.) above the body of the rush. Decorative and useful plants for around the home water feature should include pickerel rush for ponds because of its ease of care and hardiness. When the plant is partially submerged, the floating leaves provide important shade to prevent excess algae growth. They also form a network of foliage in which fish can hide.

How to Grow Pickerel Rush

You can share new starts of the plant with friends easily. Divide the rhizomes in late winter to early spring. Simply dig up the plant or remove it from its pot. Use a clean sharp soil knife or pruners to cut apart the roots, leaving each piece with several healthy leaves and thick rhizomes. Replant the new clumps and they will take off quickly, increasing your pickerel weed inventory. You can also save and dry the seeds from the plant to start inside in flats in late winter. Seeded plants can take several seasons to produce the bright flowers. Caring for pickerelweeds once the seeds have germinated just requires consistent moisture and bright sunlight. Plant outside in spring.

Pickerel Rush Care

Negligence is the word of the day in caring for pickerelweed plants. These unfussy little rushes can tolerate almost anything except full shade and drought. Pickerels should be kept in deep pots where the roots can remain moist. You can also submerge the entire pot and just let the broad leaves float out around the plant. Pickerel rush for ponds performs best when soils are heavy and rich. Loamy soils with moderate to slightly acidic pH create the best growing conditions for the plant. Pickerelweed plants that are grown in pots thrive in potting mix blended with a good quality topsoil and peat.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.