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10 Aquatic Plants for Your Fountain: Free-Floating Flowers & Greenery

Water fountains alone can be one of the best additions to a landscape design, but if you're like me, you like to enhance every piece of decor with a little bit of personality.  Many people choose to express personality through the use of flowerbeds, bushes, and other landscaping elements to create harmonic scenes that capture the essence of the household (or to 1-up the neighbors). I’'ve always thought when constructing these masterpieces, every detail counts, therefore I started researching what I could do to help make our water fountains stand out even more in an outdoor layout.  I got to thinking, what if there were flowers and greenery that could accent your fountains and grow right inside the basin?  It just so happens, there are such free floating plants that do just that while looking wonderful!

These plants are specifically built for aquatic life but because they won’t have access to natural nutrients from decaying plants, animals etc… you will need to add fertilizer like Miracle Gro or something similar.  Also note that these plants do not respond well to water being continuously splashed on them, so be sure to put plant in the calmest area of the fountain basin.  Using plants as fountain accessories has some major advantages, including oxygenation for fish, algae growth reduction, and water surface coverage.

1. Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

The Water Hyacinth is extremely popular for its easy maintenance and beautiful violet blooms. With heavy flower production for most of the year, the blooms will surely add color to your outdoor area.

  • Hardiness Zones: 10-12
  • Height: 4-26 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – full shade
Water Hyacinth

2. Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Water Lettuce has large velvety leaves that resemble spinach. In the right conditions, this plant will develop tiny white flowers as well. The plants spread out quickly therefore a large fountain would make a nice home.

  • Hardiness Zones: 10-12
  • Height: 3-10 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
Water Lettuce

3. Sensitive Plant (Neptunia aquatica)

Contrary to its name, the Sensitive Plant is not sensitive at all. It’s mini fern leaves close at night and the flowers bloom all summer long. Flowers can be either yellow or magenta depending on the seed family.

  • Hardiness Zones: 9-12
  • Height: 3-5 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
Sensitive Plant

4. Lucky 4-Leaf Clover (Marsilea mutica)

You can create your own good luck by planting 4-leaf clovers in your fountain. This particular species will create a blanket of clovers over any water surface.

  • Hardiness Zones: 9-11
  • Height: 1-4 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
4-Leaf Clover

5. Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri)

These water garden plants produce many small glossy leaves that float to the surface to form a dense “carpet” on the water. Moneyworts are also known to produce small fragrant flowers in the summer.

  • Hardiness Zones: 8-12
  • Height: 3-7 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – full shade
Moneywort

6. Mosaic Flower (Ludwigia sedioides)

The Mosaic Flower requires a water temperature of 72 degrees or higher so it might not be a possibility for all climates (especially Wisconsin) but nonetheless, if you have a way to heat the water, it would be well worth it. These surface covering plants create green and red rosettes of diamond shaped leaves.

  • Hardiness Zones: 11-12
  • Height: surface only
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
mosaic

7. Water Poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides)

The Water Poppy looks much like it’s land-loving cousin with simple yet elegant pedals and a dark center.

  • Hardiness Zones: 9-12
  • Height: 1-6 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
Water Poppy

8. Red Star Ludwigia (Ludwigia glandulosa)

Much of the Red Star is actually submerged with only 10% popping out from the surface. You will also need to be aware of the “creeping” properties this plant has since it may creep right into your pump and burn in out.

  • Hardiness Zones: 9-12
  • Height: 3-7 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
Red Star Ludwigia

9. Red Parrots Feather Dwarf (Myriophyllum spp)

The red stems and small green leaves make these water coverings a perfect accent to a fountain. Very easy growers that spread quickly across the surface.

  • Hardiness Zones: 7-12
  • Height: 1-3 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – full shade
Red Parrots Feather

10. Fairy Moss (Azolla filiculoides)

If you are looking for a low-level, shallow growing surface covering, the mini fern-like leaves of Fairy Moss will do just the trick.  Not to mention, the leaves change color as the season ends making for a beautiful autumn change.

  • Hardiness Zones: 6-11
  • Height: 1-5 inches
  • Light Requirements: full sun – partial shade
Fairy Moss

Below is a video showing the roots of some of the plants above. Also, you can see how they grow and spread.


As the video shows, these types of plants do not need soil to survive. They pull all nutrients they need directly from the water.

I'd like to thank Zac from the Pond Mega Store for helping me with some of my research. You can buy any of the plants mentioned in this article at their online store.