A dragonfly landing on an opening waterlily flower

Attract wildlife to your garden pond

Learn how to make your garden pond enticing and helpful to wildlife, in our expert guide.

Even a wildlife pond in a small garden will make a big difference to your garden, attracting a wide range of creatures. Let wildlife find your pond naturally and it will soon become a thriving habitat for anything from mayflies to hedgehogs.

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Give your pond the best chance of success by selecting the best possible site. Lots of sunshine will attract the widest range of creatures, but even shady ponds make good habitats for newts.

For a naturalistic effect, make a pond with an informal, curved outline. But a formal rectangular or square pond can still be wildlife friendly. Straight edges can easily be disguised with plants, both in and outside of the pond.

To attract the widest range of wildlife, create areas of shallow water (around 2-3cm deep), which are essential for the lifecycles of frogs, dragonflies and water beetles, and will also make it easier for creatures like hedgehogs and birds to bathe. Deeper areas (up to 1m) are essential too, as frogs overwinter in the muddy depths, breathing through their skin.

The following creatures are likely to use your pond:

Frogs

Frogs need ponds to breed and tadpoles will feed on the algae in the water. Create an area of plants where frogs can shelter, to provide valuable shade and cover from predators.

A frog sitting with its head above water in a pond
A frog sitting with its head above water in a pond

Birds

Birds will visit ponds to drink and to bathe. Keeping their feathers clean is essential, especially in winter, as damp feathers are easier to preen. Preening spreads oil and waterproofs feathers, insulating them from the cold.

A robin perched on a clod of earth in a garden
A robin perched on a clod of earth in a garden

Dragonflies

Dragonflies breed in water and need submerged plants for their developing larvae. Ideally, the pond should be in a sunny, but sheltered location.

A dragonfly landing on an opening waterlily flower
A dragonfly landing on an opening waterlily flower

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs can swim, but if they have no way out of the pond, they will become exhausted and die. Either create a gentle slope for access or lay a plank down as a ramp. Avoid pond netting, as it can trap hedgehogs.

A hedgehog emerging from a wooden shelter onto a lawn
A hedgehog emerging from a wooden shelter onto a lawn

Water invertebrates

Water invertebrates include water snails (pictured), pond skaters, which you’ll see zipping across the pond’s surface from April until autumn, and water boatmen, which live at the bottom of the pond and feed on plant debris and algae.

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Water snails in a jar
Water snails in a jar

Newts

Newts lay their eggs on pond plants. Good varieties to include are water forget-me-nots, brooklime, watercress and reeds.

A newt on pebbles
A newt on pebbles

Kate Bradbury says

Give your pond a bit of a clear out in autumn, removing fallen leaves and other decaying plant material. Leave this at the side of the pond for a couple of days to allow creatures to return to the pond, and check it thoroughly before adding to the compost heap.

Kate Bradbury