Marginals grow in shallow water or damp soil at the edges of ponds.
They’re as important as oxygenating plants for healthy pond life. Native flowering marginals are good for attracting flying insects, while their foliage will give aquatic wildlife shelter and good hiding places for laying eggs.
While they’re essential to help disguise the edges of ponds, marginals are also important when it comes to thinking about the design of your planting scheme. Look at your pond in the same way as a border and consider how plants will work together – for example as part of a colour scheme, or for textural contrasts. And it’s not just wildlife ponds that benefit from marginals – they’re important for adding height and contrast in formal ponds too.
Check out some of our favourite marginal pond plants to grow.
Carex elata ‘Aurea’
Also known as ‘Bowles’s Golden’, Carex elata ‘Aurea’ is a popular choice for borders. However, being a sedge, it loves damp growing conditions and looks great in the boggy areas at the edge of a pond. Happy in sun or shade, the tufts of golden, strappy leaves will light up a dark area and make a good contrast with other plants.
Golden strappy leaves of sedge ‘Bowles’s Golden’
Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus)
Flowering rushes, Butomus umbellatus, bear umbel-like, pastel pink flowers that attract hoverflies and butterflies in summer. Give them plenty of room to grow and divide regularly to encourage flowering. It’s a British native, too.
Pale-pink umbels of flowering rush (in front of darker-pink flowers)
The marsh marigold is well-suited to the boggy edges of wildlife-style ponds. It grows naturally along alongside streams and in shallow water around ponds, ditches, fens and wet woodlands. It’s an attractive plant, with bold glossy leaves, and yellow, buttercup-like flowers on tall stems in late spring and early summer that draw in pollinating insects. Best planted in baskets in shallow water at the edge of a pond.
Golden-yellow flowers of the buttercup-like marsh marigold
Pretty British natives, water forget-me-nots have blue flowers that appear from May to July, providing shelter for tadpoles, while newts lay their eggs in the leaves. It also attracts butterflies, hoverflies and bees. Plant in sun or part shade, directly into the soil in shallow water, or in a basket with aquatic compost. Divide it every few years.
Pale-blue water forget-me-nots
This is another common British native suited to the margins of a wildlife pond. The pretty yellow buttercup-like flowers appear from May to August and are loved by hoverflies, butterflies and bees. It has a tendency to sprawl, providing a natural shelter for timid pond wildlife. Ranunculus flammula will spread easily.
Golden-yellow flowers of buttercup-like lesser spearwort
Pickerel weed, Pontederia cordata, is one of the best marginals for injecting some colour into pond planting schemes. In late summer, the sagittate leaves form a green backdrop for masses of bright purple flowers that attract pollinating insects.
Purple-blue flower spikes and spear-shaped leaves of pickerel weed
The yellow flag iris is found growing at the edges of large, sunny ponds. The sword-shaped leaves are very distinctive and the bright yellow flowers are typically elegant iris blooms, appearing in late-spring. It makes a wonderful display when planted in large drifts or naturalised among other marginals, or try growing it in a small container pond.
Yellow flag iris blooms
The Egyptian paper rush is a tender marginal plant, so plant in a pot, resting in water, ready to move to a sheltered spot over the winter months. It’s worth the effort if you want to add some exotic architectural foliage to your pond. The tall, bright green, upright stems are crowned with tufted umbels, so it’ll stand out among other more natural plants.
Exotic tufted umbels of Egyptian paper rush
Choose your spot
It’s important to think about the location of your pond and choose marginals to suit the aspect. Some plants will need a very sunny spot, while others will be equally happy in partial shade.
More marginals to grow