If you’re dealing with a wet garden, trying to establish a planted aquarium tank, or looking for some plants for your pond, you’ll want to look for aquatic plants. These plants can grow in fully submerged, floating on the water’s surface, or in constantly wet soil. We’ve rounded up a list of 39 amazing aquatic flowers and plants that you can try growing at home.
How Are Aquatic and Water Flowers Defined?
Aquatic and water flowers grow either in soil that is covered in water or in highly moist soil. That means they may grow in ponds, lakes, bogs, and beside streams and rivers.
People generally define aquatic plants by their growth habits.
- Submerged plants grow entirely underwater.
- Emergent plants have their roots in wet soil but grow out of the water.
- Floating plants float on top of the water, but their roots may grow below the water’s surface.
Can You Grow Aquatic Flowers and Plants at Home?
Each type of aquatic plant will have a preferred growing environment. Some plants can be submerged entirely, others grow best in shallow water, and some grow best in moist yet unsubmerged soil.
You may be able to grow these plants in garden ponds, aquariums, or naturally wet areas of your garden. You can also establish a water garden to support these plants.
Along with taking note of their preferred moisture level, you’ll also want to look at other environmental factors like sun and temperature. Some aquatic plants like full sun, while others can handle a bit of shade. Additionally, these plants’ temperature tolerances vary considerably.
39 Beautiful Types of Aquatic Flowers and Plants
1. Water Hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes)
Although the common water hyacinth is native to South America, it has now naturalized throughout much of the world. Water hyacinths can grow in freshwater between 50ºF and 90ºF. However, in many areas, it’s considered invasive.
The plant’s stem has hollow, buoyant nodules, which allow it to float on top of the water. The plant’s roots don’t attach to the soil but rather float in the water.
The plant also has glossy, thick, green leaves that can grow into dense mats and rise a few feet into the air. Purple flowers appear on long stalks.
2. Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)
Swamp lilies spring up in moist areas or standing in freshwater in the Southeast United States. They have sword-like leaves arranged in small clumps and white lily-like flowers on the umbels.
It is also known as a spider lily or Florida crinum lily. These plants grow from bulbs that can be easily tucked into moist soils or swaps. The plants are tender perennials and will likely become damaged if temperatures drop below 50ºF.
3. Japanese Primrose (Primula japonica)
The plant forms rosettes of ovular leaves and sends up a long stalk topped with pink, white, or purple flowers in the spring. The plant will continue to produce whorls of flowers for a few months.
Although the plant will die back in the winter, it will reemerge next year. Therefore, it’s a good choice for cooler regions.
4. Water Poppy (Hydrocleys nymphoides)
This floating plant is native to Central and South America, where it carpets freshwater. The plant gets its common name from the delicate yellow flowers that sit atop thin stems. These flowers last only a day, but new blooms are continuously produced during the summer.
The leaves appear a bit like concave hearts and are thick and waxy. Roots extend down and into the soil surface, so these plants grow best in water that is less than a foot deep.
If you’d like to grow a water poppy, place it in full sun. It will perform best in highly wet soil or standing water.
5. Perennial Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Also known as hardy hibiscus or swamp rose mallow, or rose mallow, this plant is a shrub that thrives on moisture. It’s native to the Southern and Eastern United States, and it can survive temperatures below 0ºF.
The shrub has woody stems and can grow up to eight feet tall. During the summer, the plant produces lots of large flowers that can be white, pink, or red.
Although these plants can grow in a wide range of soil moisture conditions, they prefer wet soil.
6. Rough Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale)
The rough horsetail plant, also known as scouring rush or snake grass, is truly unique. It has thin, upright green stalks that look a bit like bamboo. These stalks often form dense clumps and can spread quite a bit. The plant grows in shallow water, riparian areas, or wet soil.
Rough horsetail is native to regions in temperate North America, Europe, and Asia, but it has become invasive in parts of Africa and Australia.
7. White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba)
The white water lily has round green leaves that float atop the water’s surface. The plant also produces white flowers that can be up to eight inches in diameter. Together, the leaves and flowers can cover large bodies of water as long as the water is less than five feet deep.
As long as the weather is warm enough, the flowers continue to bloom throughout the summer. This water lily is native to Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and parts of Asia but can be grown in other tropical and temperate regions.
8. Yellow Pond Lily (Nuphar lutea)
This water lily is known for its large yellow star-shaped flowers that bloom throughout warmer months. It also has large floating green leaves that can carpet the water’s surface. The plant is native to areas in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, where it grows in freshwater.
To keep the plant happy, plant it in water that is no more than two feet deep. Additionally, provide it with lots of sun.
Anubias is a genus of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants that are popular freshwater aquarium plants. They are native to warm water in central and west Africa. Depending on the species, the plants grow completely underwater or in marshy areas. They may anchor themselves to either the soil, branches, or rocks.
These plants don’t need much light, which makes them easy aquarium plants to care for. The plants can even produce flowers in low-light conditions.
10. Tulips (Tulipa)
While you’ve likely seen tulips growing in gardens, these flowering plants can also be grown in water! Just place a tulip bulb in a vase filled with a bit of water, provide warm temperatures and lots of light, then watch them grow! Just make sure only the bottom of the bulb is covered with water.
Tulip flowers come in a wide variety of colors and petal shapes, making them fun to grow.
11. Rain Lily (Zephyranthes)
The rain lily is a genus of flowering plants in the Amaryllis family. These plants are also known as rainflowers, magic lilies, and fairy lilies.
The plants have slender stalks that give way to delicate blooms that range in color from white to yellow to pink. The flowers often bloom after drought, followed by heavy rain, hence their common name. They like moist but well-draining soil along with part or full sun.
12. Caribbean Spider Lily (Hymenocallis caribaea)
This aquatic plant is a tender perennial that emerges from a bulb. It has clumps of long, sword-shaped leaves and showy white flowers. The flower’s petals are elongated and resemble a spider’s legs.
The plant can be grown in moist soil or up to six inches of water. It is native to portions of the Caribbean and South America.
13. Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia hybrids)
This genus of plants is commonly known as trumpet pitcher plants due to the plants’ pitcher-shaped traps that are used to catch prey. That’s right, these plants are carnivorous!
The plants are native to North America, growing in the moist soil in boggy areas. The best way to grow these plants in the garden is by creating a specific water garden just for them.
14. Bulrush (Typha latifolia)
Also known as the common cattail, this grass is native to North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is considered invasive in other areas. The plant has thin green leaves that can grow up to ten feet tall with tall spikes topped with oblong, brown flower heads.
It grows near the water’s edge or in water that is less than three feet deep. It is a clumping plant and can quickly take over an area.
15. American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)
The American lotus sports yellow lotus flowers contrasting nicely with the plant’s concave, green leaves. When growing in water, the leaves float on the water’s surface, and the flowers bloom on short stalks that rise a few inches above the surface. However, the plant can also grow in dry areas prone to flooding.
The plant is native to areas surrounding the Mississippi River in the United States. The plants can survive cold temperatures and are considered hardy in USDA zones four and above.
16. Duckweed (Lemnoideae)
This genus of plants consists of small plants that float on or slightly below the water’s surface. The plants lack pronounced stems, flowers, and leaves and appear as small green leaves. Duckweed generally occurs in slow-moving water such as ponds, lakes, and marshes.
Duckweed can reproduce asexually, quickly spreading and taking over aquariums and wild aquatic areas.
17. Amazon Sword (Echinodorus)
These aquatic plants can grow entirely submerged or partially submerged, which makes them popular aquarium plants. They are native to both North and South America. They grow best when they receive lots of light and are rooted in deep soil or substrate.
While the exact size and shape vary depending on the species, plants generally remain less than a foot tall. Most of these plants have green leaves, but you can also find red varieties.
18. Japanese Iris (Iris japonica)
Also known as the fringed iris or butterfly flower, this iris is native to China and Japan. It has evergreen sword-like leaves that can grow up to a foot tall and light blue or white flowers with fringed petals.
It thrives in moist soils and full or partial shade. Try tucking it in moist areas of woodland gardens.
19. Water Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis scorpioides)
This plant is covered with tiny blue flowers with five petals and yellow-orange centers. It is also known as the true forget-me-not and should not be confused with the common forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica).
It grows via rhizomes and can quickly take over an area. While it is native to Europe and Asia, it has become an invasive species in other areas. It grows best in wet areas, such as near rivers, bogs, and ponds.
20. Louisiana Iris (Iris fulva)
As you might expect, this iris is native to the southern and central United States. It has deep orange flowers that bloom in the late spring and early summer.
It grows well in poorly-drained clay soils and can also grow in up to six inches of water. For the best blooms, provide full sun or part shade. It’s hardy to USDA zones five through nine, which makes it a great choice for much of the United States.
21. Umbrella Palm (Cyperus alternifolius)
This plant produces clumps of thin stems topped with long, thin frond-like bracts arranged in circles. Despite its name, it is not a palm but rather a type of sedge. It is native to West Africa but can now be found worldwide.
The plant’s roots need to remain wet, so the plant grows well in wet soil. It can also grow in ponds or other shallow standing water.
22. Water Hawthorn (Aponogeton distachyos)
This floating plant is native to the capes of South Africa. It grows in shallow water between six and 24 inches deep. Water hawthorn produces distinctive white flowers that grow a few inches above the water’s surface. Flowers bloom in late winter through early spring, making it a welcome delight during colder months.
The plant spreads via rhizomes and can cover multiple feet of a pond or lake. It grows best in cooler water that is below 70ºF.
23. Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)
Yes, this is the plant used to make papyrus scrolls and paper! This perennial grass is native to parts of Africa and grows in shallow water. The plant can grow up to twelve feet tall and multiple feet wide, but you can limit its size by growing it in pots.
The plant prefers wet soil, shallow standing water, and full or partial sun. If it grows in the right conditions, it will produce flower clusters that resemble exploding fireworks.
24. Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum)
This aquatic plant has small floating round leaves and roots that trail down into the water. The plant is native to Central and South America but is used in aquariums worldwide. At one point, it escaped into the wild and is now present outdoors in the United States.
The plants can reproduce through flowers and seeds and also through stolons. Other names include West Indian spongeplant and South American spongeplant.
25. Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera)
Perhaps the most well-known lotus, the sacred lotus is a gorgeous plant. The plant sports bowl-shaped leaves that emerge on short stems above the water’s surface. But the real attraction is the pink blooms with yellow centers that bloom on short stems.
The plant is native to Asia and Australia, growing in sunny areas with standing water. Although it can grow in areas of the United States, be aware that it can become a noxious weed.
The seeds can remain dormant and then sprout over a thousand years later, which relates to the longevity symbolism.
26. Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
Sweet flag is a tall wetland plant native to regions in Asia, Europe, and North America. Its long, thin leaves can grow up to six feet tall and appear on the edges of ponds and lakes as well as in wetlands and shallow standing water.
The plant contains psychoactive compounds that have been used in traditional medicine, but the toxicity of these compounds has led to them being banned in the United States.
27. Fanwort (Cabomba aquatica)
This plant typically grows fully submerged in freshwater, with some portions of stems emerging from the surface. It has numerous vertical stems that are covered in frilly, fan-like leaves.
This species of fanwort is native to South America, where it grows in areas with low light. However, other species of fanwort are native to regions across the world. Many types of fanwort are also popular freshwater aquarium plants.
28. Fragrant Water Lily Flower (Nymphaea odorata)
Also known as the American white water lily, this plant is native to shallow freshwater bodies in North and Central America. Rhizomes root into the soil and give way to petioles that are topped with rounded, floating lily pads. The plants also produce large white, fragrant flowers from spring through fall.
This water lily grows best in ponds, shallow lakes, and roadside ditches. They prefer lots of sunlight but can also grow in shady areas.
29. Water Iris (Iris laevigata)
This iris is most often found growing in the shallow of pond and lake edges, but it can also thrive in constantly wet soil. It grows and blooms best in full sun.
The plant typically produces purple or blue flowers, although they are sometimes partially or entirely white. Other names for this plant include Japanese iris or rabbit ear iris. As the one common name suggests, this iris is native to Japan.
30. Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia)
This genus of plants contains many species of plants with large, heart-shaped leaves that emerge from swollen underground stems known as corms. The plants are native to South-East Asia and grow in moist, rich soil.
One popular species (Colocasia esculenta) is also known as taro. It can be grown for its edible, starchy tubers as well as its beautiful, large leaves.
31. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
If you’ve walked along stream banks or moist woods in the United States, you may have stumbled upon a cardinal flower plant. This wildflower grows one to six feet tall and produces stunning spikes of bright red flowers.
Cardinal flowers work well in wildflower gardens in the United States as long as you plant them in an area with constantly moist soil. It’s not picky about sun as long as the soil is moist.
32. Canna Lily (Canna genus)
Canna lilies, also known simply as cannas, aren’t true lilies. Instead, they’re more closely related to plants like ginger and bird of paradise. Regardless, their broad leaves and large flowers are gorgeous.
Cannas are native to tropical regions in North, Central, and South America, where they emerge from rhizomes. Even if you live in a colder area, you can still grow cannas in the warmer months. Just dig up the rhizomes in the fall, store them indoors, and replant them in the spring. These flowering plants like constantly moist soil but can also tolerate wet soil.
33. Amphibious Bistort (Persicaria amphibia)
A member of the knotweed family, this aquatic plant is also known as longroot smartweed, water smartweed, and water knotweed. Its native range includes areas of Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.
It’s quite versatile and can grow submerged in water, in moist soil beside lakes, or in bogs. No matter where it grows, it produces a thick stem with elongated, oblong leaves. The plants also produce clusters of tiny pink flowers.
34. Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
While most aquatic plants root into the soil or produce roots that hang into the water, hornwort floats freely. In fact, hornwort doesn’t have any roots! It does have thick stems that give way to wispy leaves.
The plant, also known as coontail, is native to areas of every continent except Antarctica. It’s often found floating in masses in lakes and ponds and is also used in freshwater aquariums. It can thrive in temperatures between 50-85ºF and survive water temperatures below this range.
35. Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)
Pickerelweed is a flowering, aquatic plant native to North and South America. It produces narrow, heart-shaped leaves and spikes of purple flowers in the summer.
The plant grows well in shallow standing water but can also survive in constantly moist soil. It prefers full or partial sun. Since the flowers are visited by pollinators and the seeds are eaten by birds, it is a good plant for a wildlife garden.
36. Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica)
Calla lilies are often used as cut flowers in bouquets, but they can also be grown at home! The plant produces clumps of waxy, arrow-shaped, green leaves that emerge atop a long stem. But the real attraction is their elegant trumpet-shaped flowers.
The plants prefer constantly moist soil, so they grow well along the edges of ponds or streams, as well as in bog gardens. They are hardy to USDA zone 8, so they are best for warm areas. However, you can replant calla lilies yearly if you live in a colder area.
37. Broadleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)
Also known as duckroot or wapato, this aquatic plant grows in lakes, ponds, and wet soil. It produces arrowhead-shaped leaves that rise a few feet above the water’s surface and small white flowers. The plant also produces starchy tubers that can be dug and eaten.
It is native to both North and South America. The plant grows best in full sun and can quickly form large clusters in the right environment.
38. Mosquito Fern (Azolla genus)
Despite their small leaves and floating nature, these plants are true ferns. However, they more closely resemble duckweed or moss. They are native to North and South America but have been introduced to regions worldwide.
They can reproduce rapidly and double their size in as few as two days, so they can quickly take over an area. Therefore, it’s best to contain this plant in a small container rather than release it into a large body of water.
39. Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
This aquatic plant may grow fully or partially submerged. It has a thick stem and feather-like leaves lead to its common name. The plant is native to the Amazon River region, but it has spread throughout the world. It can be used in both indoor aquariums and outdoor water gardens, but you should be aware of its potential to spread.
The plants grow best in full or partial shade and water temperatures between 55-90ºF.
Aquatic Flowers and Plants – The Final Word
Like terrestrial plants, the world of aquatic plants and flowers is quite diverse! Now that you know some of the most popular aquatic plants, you can begin exploring which plants will work best for your garden or aquarium.
Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.