Marginal Plants for Your Water Garden

Marginal Plants

The small plants you usually find at the edges of ponds are called marginal plants. These are typically perennial and prefer shallow depths.

Most water garden designs will support marginals, although in a very formal setting you may want to reconsider. Or they can be used to soften the edges of a formal pond, if that is your preference.

Different varieties require different depths, therefore, if you are creating your own water garden design, it's a good idea to make some planting shelves at different heights to accommodate different needs.

Below are several varieties of marginal plants...


Cattail, Cat's Tail, Reedmace - typha spp.
A well known water garden plant, commonly associated with garden ponds. This plant has tall, narrow grass like leaves and sends up the characteristic swollen brown "cattails" in early summer.

There are several varieties that range in sizes, so choose a plant that will not outgrow your pond. Choose a container that will restrict roots from invading other nearby plants, as the cattail root system can be very penetrating.

Planting depth - 2-12 inches, depending on variety Height - 24-100 inches, depending on variety

Striped Bulrush - scirpus albescens
This is another upright plant that will lend a vertical element to your plantings. It has tall segmented stems that are hollow between each segment, similar to the way bamboo grows.

Like the Cattail, Striped Bulrush has a very strong root system and should have a sturdy container to prevent penetration into other parts of your water garden. It is also a good idea to choose a wide based container to minimize the risk that this tall plant will blow over in high winds.

Planting depth - 2-6 inches. Plant height - 40-52 inches. Full sun or partial shade.

Zebra Rush - scirpus zebrinus
Zebra Rush is very similar to Striped Bulrush, although less vigorous. Its foliage is more distinctive than Striped Bulrush, with bold horizontal stripes of white and green.

Planting depth - 2-5 inches. Plant height - 30-42 inches. Full or partial sun.

Water Poppy - hydrocleys nymphoides
The water poppy has thick, dark green oval leaves that spread across the surface of the water. Its three petaled flowers are a pale yellow with darks centers and open flat. It will grow at a variety of depths and is suitable only for warmer climates.

Water Iris Japanese water Iris - iris laevigata
The water iris is an upright plant that only grows to a medium height. The plant produces beautiful flowers which bloom in succession in early to mid summer. There are many varieties available with colors ranging from white or yellow to deep blue.

Planting depth - 2-4 inches Height - 20-28 inches Full sun.

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