If we want a pond for keeping
ornamental fish or for having the sound of
running water then a water garden in the shade is fine, however
if one of our major reasons for having a pond is to be able to grow
all of those glorious water lilies and other luscious plants then
we want as much sun as possible. Sometimes we have no choice but
to place our ponds in areas of little or no sunshine, or perhaps
the pond was placed in the shade before the importance of sun was
realized. For those situations, our plant choices may be limited
but beauty can still be obtained.
Tina - A Tropical Lily
Most aquatic plants require at least 4 - 6 hours
of direct sun to flourish, there are however, several varieties
of water lily, marginal, and floating plants that will do well
in partial shade (3 - 4 hours of direct sun).
As a rule, water lilies love sunlight. For optimum
performance and flowering full sun is needed. However, you can
still have water lilies in partial shade. The foliage will still
grow and you may still get an occasional flower. Some lilies have
mottled foliage that will give you some variety in your floating
pads. The following varieties are some of the better performing
water lilies in partial shade.
Hardy Water Lilies
- This free flowering lily has a long blooming season, it’s
flowers open yellow and turn to a coppery bronze.
- The flowers of this small lily open apricot colored then change
to an orange-red.
- This red lily is a very good bloomer. It is one of the larger
hardy red water lilies.
Brydon - The flowers of this medium sized lily are a deep
red. Its pads are bronze-like in color.
Dawn - This yellow lily has leaves that are speckled with
a reddish-brown color.
- This medium-large lily contains star-shaped white flowers.
Strawn - This yellow lily is a good choice for medium to
Tropical Water Lilies
Pacific - This viviparous lily has violet-purple flowers.
- The purple flowers of this lily have a sweet fragrance. It
is a very free bloomer.
Koch - The blue flowers of this lily are cuplike with a
Moore - The star-shaped flowers of this variety are a deep
purple. The pads are speckled with purple.
Bryne - The flowers of this viviparous lily are a deep pink
With the water lilies taken care of we are not
quite as limited in our plantings. There are many shallow water
plants that will perform well in shady and partially shady locations.
Some of the better options are listed below.
[ USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
Shallow Water Plants
calamus variegates (Variegated Sweetflag) - This plant has
iris-like foliage with white and green stripes. It grows to
36” and is hardy zones 4-11.
antiquorum (Imperial Taro) - These heart shaped taro leaves
are purple and green. It grows to 3’-4’. It is hardy
esculenta (Black Magic Taro) - This taro’s foliage
is very dark and can grow up to 6’. It is hardy zones
esculenta 'Ruffles' (Ruffles Taro) - This taro’s foliage
has 'ruffles' on the edges of the leaves. It thrives in shade
to partial shade and can grow up to 8 ft in height. Ruffles
Taro is hardy zones 7-10.
alternifolius (Umbrella Palm) - This popular plant grows
up to 5’ and is hardy zones 8-11.
cordata variegata (Chameleon Plant) - This small plant grows
to 12” with multi-colored foliage. It is hardy zones 5-11.
vericillata (Water Pennywort) - This spreading plant’s
small umbrella shaped leaves grow up to 12”. It is hardy
Louisiana - These irises are available in black, red, white,
and blue. The spring bloomers are hardy in zones 5-11 and grow
effusus spiralis (Corkscrew Rush) - This plant has coiled
foliage that grows to 24”. It is hardy zones 3-8.
fulgens (Cardinal Flower) - This plant’s bright red
flowers appear in summer. It grows to 36” and is hardy
aquatica (Aquatic Mint, Water Mint) - This plant grows up
to 12” and is hardy zones 6-11.
aquatica (Parrot’s Feather) - This feather-like plant
floats over the water. It is hardy zones 6-11.
aquatica (Sensitive Plant) - This plant’s Mimosa-like
leaves close at the touch. Its yellow flowers appear in summer.
It grows to 6” and is hardy zones 9-11.
aquaticum (Golden Club) - This plant grows up to 12”
and is hardy zones 5-10. It has velvety foliage. Its yellow
spikes appear in spring.
virginica (Arrow Arum) - This plant grows to 24” and
is hardy zones 5-9. Its foliage resembles that of an arrowhead.
cordota (Pickerel Rush) - This plant has heart shaped foliage.
It’s spikes of blue or white flowers appear in summer.
It is hardy zones 3-11.
cernuus (Lizard’s Tail) - This plant grows to 36”.
Its white flowers appear in spring & last through summer.
It is hardy zones 4-10.
graminea ‘Crushed Ice’ (Crushed Ice) - This
plant will grow to 24”, it flowers in spring but has beautiful
very light green and dark green foliage. It is hardy in zones
If water lilies didn’t work well in your
garden, then you can still get surface coverage with floating
plants or lily-likes.
[ USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
caroliniana (Fairy Moss) - This is a small free floater
with green and red foliage. It is hardy zones 8-11.
spongia (Frogbit) - This floater has small round leaves
and is hardy zones 6-11.
stratioites (Water Lettuce) - The leaves of this floater
resemble lettuce leaves. It is hardy zones 9-11.
distachyus (Water Hawthorne) - This lily-like plant has
elliptical leaves and white flowers. It flowers in spring and
fall and goes dormant in the summer. It is hardy zones 6-9.
Mutica (4-Leaf Clover) - This running plant has 4-leaf clover
leaves that float on the water surface. It is hardy zones 6-11.
[ USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
* Denotes plants that are good performers
in filtered or fewer than 3 hours direct sun a day.