Water plants

Plants available from Millpond Plants. 

All water plant recommendations are based on Water Plants for Missouri Ponds by Whitley, Bassett, Dillard and Haefner; available through the Missouri Department of Conservation Nature Shop www.mdc.gov . Besides the suggested book, more information on individual species can be found on the NRCS Plant Database – then type the plant’s scientific name in the search box. 

There will be more photos on this site later. Until then see plants on NRCS Plant Database [If you don’t want to type in the search, see home page for link.].

Please contact the business  at 

beckyerick711 at centurylink dot net     for brief site consultation,  plant availability and pricing.

Acorus Calamus [Calamus, Sweet flag]

Graceful alternative to invasive cattails.

Upright sword-shaped leaves make a graceful backdrop for any lake.  Since it does not produce viable seed, this hardy, long cultivated wetland filter is a better alternative to cattails for smaller ponds. Propagation is by root division in spring. Roots should be pushed well into mud below 1 to 9 inches of water.  Appropriate only for lakes.





Alisma trivale [Alisma, water plantain] The perfect plant to grace a lake shore, formal water garden, or wet container: dimensions of leaves approximate the magic proportion used by Greeks in their architecture. Tiny white flowers grace the tips of the feathery flowering stalk May through September, 18 to 30 inches. Plant reproduces only by seed so is easily controlled or moved to a new location. Lives in muddy shorelines to shallow water; does not crowd other plants.

Favorite for monarch butterflies; moist/wet soil

Asclepias incarnata [marsh milkweed] This delicate pink umbel is the favorite of monarch butterflies. In the right location, for instance: below a downspout or in a water garden in full sun, this species will grow to seven feet with fifteen stems. If you want to feed the diminishing numbers of monarchs, then it will be important to plant marsh milkweed.

Asclepias sullivantii [Sullivans milkweed] Usually found in native prairie draws and swales; this species is smaller and darker pink than common milkweed; shorter and more robust than marsh milkweed. The leaves are oval, shiny green with a pink mid-rib and are held up at an angle. Milkweeds are important to all butterflies, especially monarchs so planting A. sullivanti in the draws that run into your lake will help wildlife diversity.

Fragrant fringed flowers attract most pollinators

Cephalanthus occidentalis   [Button bush, snowball, globe flower, pond dogwood] This domed, woody bush of the quinine family grows to about eight feet at most. Can be pruned.  Usually found along open streambanks and wetlands, it appreciates full sun and soggy soil. Spherical, feathery, white flower clusters bloom June through September; seeds are important to all water fowl and overwintering birds. It provides nesting habitat for songbirds and shade for some shoreline plants. Easily incorporated into pondscaping and landscaping in consistantly moist to soggy soils.  Seed is viable so, if the location makes the mother plant happy, many more will thrive.

Eleocharis quadrangulata [Square-stem spike rush] Modest grass-like plant often goes unnoticed, but is extremely important for bank stabilization. This species, the most robust of the genus. Any of the fifty Eleocharis species found in North America are suitable for fishing ponds as they do not interfere with casting and rank very high for frog and fish fry habitat, and for duck food.

Eleocharis obtusa [Blunt spike rush] Modest grass-like plant often goes unnoticed, but is extremely important for bank stabilization. This, the most common Eleocharis in Missouri, is small, standing at most 12 inches; it grows in clumps right at water’s edge. Appropriate for containers, landscaped frog ponds or large lakes.

Eleocharis smallii [Small’s spike rush] Smaller version of  E. quandrangulata standing up to 20 inches; forms a rhizomatous mat along the shore of frog ponds or slow streams, stabilizing it from erosion and creating habitat for tadpoles.


Any moist area can be transformed into a carpet of blue with mist flower.

Eupatorium coelestinum [mist flower, wild ageratum] Any mud flat or draw can be beautified with mist flower. It grows to a uniform 10 to 16 inch height covered with clusters of small sky-blue flowers; a real butterfly magnet. Rhizomatous for soil stabilization; clumps grow larger every year. Can be dug, divided, and transplanted any time during growing season as long as soil is kept wet. Appropriate for any size of wetland or wet garden.

Heteranthera reniformis [Mud plantain, frog bit] An attractive ground cover, this annual does not germinate from seed until ponds recede in July or August when shoreline mud warms. Then prostrate stems of glossy kidney-shaped leaves with short spikes of light blue six-pointed star flowers grow rapidly over mudflats until the first frost. Appropriate for containers and landscaped frog ponds.

Hibiscus, flowers serially throughout the summer.

Hibiscus [Marsh mallow]  Hibiscus plants are very happy next to a stream or pond in full sun. They can be covered with large pale pink bugle bell flowers most of the summer. This large herbacious plant can grow to eight feet in diameter and just as tall. If planted in mulched clay, it will grow somewhat smaller. By planting Hibiscus in clusters along a lake shore you add bird habitat and increase plant and wildlife diversity.

Copper iris; not aggressive for a partly shaded or full sun frog pond or lake shallows.

Iris fulva [copper iris] is a glorious shoreline plant. It holds three foot sword-like leaves in a graceful, drooping manner.  Iris flowers, a bit smaller than the large cultivated varieties, with drooping petals come in hues from dark yellow to burnt copper bloom in May. Must be planted and mulched where substrate is at least muddy all year; prefers 2 inches of water. Appreciates shade in the afternoon. Grows slowly into large colonies; tubers are easily pulled from mud for transplanting. Appropriate for frog ponds, small lakes, large containers. Stock originated in southeastern Missouri.

Wild blue flag for large wet gardens and erosion control

Iris virginica [Blue flag, southern blue flag, wild blue iris] A robust shoreline plant which holds erect, three foot sword-like leaves. Typical iris flowers come naturally in shades from white, through blue, to medium purple in May and June. Can tolerate shallow standing water in winter and long dry spells from July to November. Dig and divide tubers in spring. Expect each new tuber to grow one foot in diameter per year to form strong, soil-stabilizing mats for lake outflows or perpetual creek banks. Not recommended for small gardens.  This stock originated from seed of six sources in northern Missouri.

Juncus effuses [Soft rush, bog rush, mat rush] A fine, well behaved, clumping rush grows over 2 feet tall; appropriate for a small lake shore, pond or large container. Adds diversity to shore-line fish habitat. Seed heads can be used in winter wreaths and dried plant displays. Historically and still used for mats, chair seats and for lard-soaked rush lights.

Brilliant focus in a wet garden or pond side. Important nectar source.

Lobelia cardinalis [Cardinal flower] The saturated red of this striking wetland plant is a magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies and people. Each plant has a short life, perhaps blooming only one or two years. But they produce so much seed, there is a possibility for a large continuously living colony once several plants have been established. Cardinal flower thrives in soggy soil in full sun or speckled shade.

Sky blue contrast to the yellow flowers of mid-summer

Lobelia siphilitica [Blue lobelia] Longer–lived than the much sought after L. cardinalis, this sky blue spike will compliment the water’s edge of any frog pond, water garden or lake path. It grows best in mulched clay or soggy loam under speckled shade. Let Lobelias go to seed and naturalize for the full effect of mixed red and blue colors.

Romantic, attractive, not agressive, fish cover; what more would you want?

Nymphea odorata [pink Water lily] Smaller leaves than most water lilies with reddish underside; dark pink flowers. Grows slowly in one to four feet of water. Good cover to encourage animal diversity. This strain is appropriate for ponds under one half acre or one plant in a large container. This stock was originally found in northern Missouri.

Nymphea odorata [white water lily] Larger leaves with silver underside; large white flowers with yellow center. More aggressive growth than the pink strain; suggested for lakes over one acre in size; reaches to depths of seven feet. Good cover to encourage animal diversity.  This stock was found in southern Missouri.

Spirea-like flowers of ninebark

Physocarpos opulifolius [Nine bark] Ninebark can grow to ten feet without pruning. In a good place it can be totally covered with clusters of white flowers. It is a bit rhizomatous and seed is viable so, if the location makes the mother plant happy, many more will thrive. Ninebark usually grows in open spots along Ozark streams or around gladey hillside seeps. This attractive bush has, with experimentation, been found to grow almost anywhere: shaded and moist to full sun on hill top. It does well in mulched clay soils or soggy loam. It provides shade for some shoreline plants, nesting habitat and seed for songbirds, and nectar for insects. Easily incorporated into pondscaping and landscaping in moist/soggy soils.

Breathtaking color when most plants are wilted; important summer nectar source

Physostegia virginiana [Obedient plant] Striking lavender tube-shaped flowers radiate from a three foot, square stem in late July and August. It is often used in flower arrangements. This beautiful species needs more room than a water garden or frog pond because it reproduces from seed and spreads by rhizomes. It thrives best in soggy soil and a half day of shade.


Brilliant color, soft texture, good nectar source  = excellent lake-shore plant.

Pontederia cordata [Pickerel weed] Ranked near the top of anyone’s list for beauty and function. Erect spade-shaped leaves clasp erect spikes of sky-blue star-shaped flowers from two to [rarely] four feet. Bloom from late June to early August. Very important to all pollinators and hummingbirds.  Happiest in mud to a foot of water; appreciates afternoon shade. Must be under water to overwinter. Would do well in sheltered coves, frog ponds, large containers. This stock was originally found in northern Missouri.

Sagittaria graminea [grass-leaved arrowhead, duck potato]

Brilliant white flowers accent rythmic leaf pattern

Wonderful addition to the shoreline of a fishing pond. All species of the genus Sagittaria have white, three-petalled flowers in whorls of three on a spike. S. graminae has very narrow leaves compared to others of the genus. Spreads throughout barren shallows rapidly but is not aggressive among other shore-line plants. Provides cover for fish and most other aquatic life, doesn’t interfere with casting. Many wildlife from songbirds and ducks to muskrats and deer eat these plants.



Sagittaria lancifolia [lance-leafed arrowhead, duck potato] Wonderful addition to the shoreline of a fishing pond. All of the genus Sagittaria have white, three-petalled flowers in whorls of three on a spike. S. latifolia is the same height as S. graminea, but the leaves have a much wider spade shape. Spreads slowly; mixes well with other shore-line plants. Also appropriate for small water gardens and wet containers.

Sagittaria latifolia [broad leafed arrowhead, duck potato] All of the genus Sagittaria have white, three-petalled flowers in whorls of three on a spike. Stately, broad leaves half as large as elephant-ear leaves can grow to 6 feet, usually used in landscaped frog ponds and around docks for aesthetic value. Spreads slowly. Appreciates afternoon shade.

Lizard tail prefers wet feet. Grows well in part shade. >   >   >     >

Saururus cernuus [lizard tail, water dragon, swamp lily] Tall zig-zag stem studded with shiny heart-shaped leaves; crowned with a tall, nodding spike of feathery, white, orange peal scented, flowers blooming May to September. This unusually beautiful plant, found in all of eastern North America, forms a thick rhizomatous mat which can be used to stabilize lake outflows or perpetual creek banks. Carefully consider the planting location because it is difficult to move once established. Not appropriate for small gardens.

Schoenoplectus [formerly Scirpus] acutus [spike bulrush] A handsome addition to the diversity of a wetland or pond mudflat. Tall, straight, triangular stem with a drooping tuft of smooth rusty seed near the top. Bullrushes will grow in any ditch, draw, bowl or other spot that holds a bit of water; clay soil is best. Bullrushes are second only to pond weeds for their wildlife food and cover value. Not recommended for small water gardens.

Excellent soft background for colorful flowers

Schoenoplectus [formerly Scirpus] cyperinus [wolly bulrush]A handsome addition to the diversity of a wetland or pond mudflat. Tall, straight, triangular stem with a large drooping cluster of hairy, rusty seed near the top. Bullrushes will grow in any ditch, draw, bowl or other spot that holds a bit of water; clay soil is best. Bullrushes are second only to pond weeds for their wildlife food and cover value. Not recommended for small water gardens.

Sium suave [Water parsnip] This imposing member of the parsley family is the tallest and latest blooming of the shallow water plants. Large umbells of lacey white flowers grace the crown of this five foot plant in September. It can be integrated in any standing water plant community where diversity is desired. This stock originated from seeds taken from plants at Tucker Prairie near Kingdom City MO.

Shy string of pearls among stiff reeds



Sparangium eurycarpum [Broadfruit bur reed] 

This linear leafed emergent blends with the other reeds until its balls of white flowers appear as a string of large white pearls. Bur reed is an important componant of shore plant communities on sizeable ponds and lakes.





Thalia dealbata [Thalia, water canna]  This stately accent to your dock or lakeside path, is the tallest of the submerged native plants and has the largest leaves of any North American plants beside palms. The clusters of unusual, dusty, lavender flowers attract hummingbirds. Thalia spreads slowly by rhizomes; seeds do not germinate unless the pond goes completely dry. This stock came from the Missouri bootheel.

Fragrant water canna flower attracts hummingbirds


4 Responses to “Water plants”

  1. Agnes Jalkut May 29, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Wow! Thank you! I continually needed to write on my website something like that. Can I implement a part of your post to my blog?

    • Millpond Plants June 4, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      Actually, please don’t copy any part of my blog and insert it into yours. This blog is the discription of my business: garden planning. This blog is not just a creative writing exercize. Even if it were just creative writing, no one would want their work posted on someone elses’ blog.

  2. Stoecker August 19, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    Can this be planted in any wild environment and not become deciduous?

    • Millpond Plants August 21, 2018 at 11:32 am #

      All of these plants live in the wild – or in dirt outside all year. I hope they are deciduous [leaves fall off] or they could not survive winter. They all can be moved from one place where they live in dirt or mud and planted in another. You will get a faster reply if you use my email address found within the text of the website.

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