Deborah gardens as a hobby and enjoys organic vegetables in her kitchen. She keeps a variety of edible plants in her garden.
Gardeners enjoy aquatic plants for the ornamental beauty they bring to water features. Many popular aquatic plants are actually edible as well and can provide a thriving harvest for those who have a pond, water garden, or even aquarium. It can be quite convenient to simply drop a plant into the pond that will be eventually added to a tasty recipe.
There are other benefits to nurturing aquatic edible plants as well. Conserving water is much easier when plants thrive in water rather than daily watering. Water that includes your favorite fishes benefits the water garden too, as they can provide the nutrients in aquatic substrate that is usually maintained in soil by the gardener. The fish and naturally occurring algae in a pond provide nutrients that feed the aquatic plants.
The Environment You Cultivate Is Critical to Healthy Growth
Before you begin, however, please consider the aquatic environment your plants will be growing in, especially for floating or submerged edible plants. When growing edible plants in a pond, there are many things to think about!
- It is best to have a working system with relatively clean water. Moving water helps keep a pond oxygenated and free of unwanted bacteria—a waterfall or bubbler works well to keep circulation in the pond.
- Definitely avoid placing edible plants in a tank or pond treated with chemicals not designed for consumption.
- If you have a snail infestation that needs to be eradicated, wait on putting edibles in the water, because you definitely don’t want those in your harvest!
Simply consider the pond and water you will be growing those tasty plants in, and you should be well on your way to cultivating an edible aquatic garden.
To help you begin your journey, here is a list of some of the most popular edible aquatic plants that can be placed in your backyard water feature.
7 Delicious Edible Aquatic Plants to Grow in a Pond or Backyard Water Feature
- Sacred Lotus
- Asian Pennywort
- Water Mint
- Water Spinach (Kang Kong)
- Lebanese Watercress
- Mint (Multiple Varieties)
Also known as the heavenly lotus, sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is popular with koi ponds. Every part of the this ornamental plant is edible. The flower is commonly used to make lotus tea. The large leaves are used to make tea as well and other stir-fried recipes.
The lotus has been known to provide health benefits and has come to be thought of as a spiritual plant in some cultures. This beautiful plant is a must have for the aquatic garden.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a delicate plant that will float on top of the water or can be potted as a bog plant. When pieces break away from the mother plant, it will float in the water. Though it is often potted in soil substrate, it is at times thought of as floating plant.
This tasty plant is popular in salads and gourmet dishes. The choice of fish that will accompany watercress in your backyard water feature is important, however, because the plant can be eaten by some species of fish. Goldfish will mercilessly eat this plant!
The most common variety of the edible pennywort species is Asian pennywort (Centella asiatica), also known as the dollar weed and money weed. It grows shoots that look like little lily pads, and the stems stick up out of the water, adding an exotic look to a water feature. This plant is a popular ornamental plant for ponds and one of the prolifically growing water plants that will commonly thrive in water features.
Pennywort is a tasty plant used in soups, salads, and the popular pennywort drink. It requires low maintenance and will grow easily in the pond. The roots will spread in the water, making it easy to transplant. Simply break a piece off and move to another spot, and you have another pennywort plant that will also grow abundantly.
Water mint (Mentha aquatica) is lovely in appearance, aromatic, and can be used as a bog plant. It can be potted and put in pond, though it is commonly placed in a floating basket. This edible aquatic variety of mint is a popular choice for small water features.
Note: For those who enjoy collecting wild herbs, please take caution when gathering wild aquatic plants. In wild patches of water, there will not be the controlled environment of the pond or grow tank, and unfortunately parasites lay their eggs on floating plants. Be sure to thoroughly wash and cook any aquatic edibles. When washing vegetables whether terrestrial or aquatic, it is beneficial to add a dash of apple cider vinegar to the rinse water (or when soaking vegetables before final rinse). I find it a sure way to enjoy vegetables without unwanted debris.
Water Spinach (Kang Kong)
Water spinach (Ipomoea aquatica) is just like its terrestrial counterpart in that it can be used for recipes like broths and stir-fries and is highly nutritious. Also known as kang kong, it is a semi-aquatic plant with many varieties, each just as tasty as the next.
This leafy green is used predominantly in Southeast Asian cuisine and is considered a delicacy in other parts of the world when stir-fried with vegetables. Water spinach thrives when it is always supplied plenty of water and grows prolifically once planted in the moist soil of the pond.
Though it is commonly sold in Asian stores, if grown at home there are restrictions, because it is considered an invasive species. As such, kang kong should never be planted in wild, tropical ponds. It is even illegal in some states of the U.S. to transport it without a permit. Be sure to check the laws of your state!
Also known as fool's cress, Lebanese watercress (Apium nodiflorum) grows quickly and thrives in water. Simply pot the plant, place it in water, and let it grow. It is considered a semi-aquatic evergreen herb that does well in full sun or part shade.
Lebanese watercress is very easy to propagate. Simply break a stem off an adult plant and replant it in wet or boggy soil. This plant can be grown singularly in a large container of water or added to the backyard pond.
Mint (Multiple Varieties)
Although terrestrial mint is not an aquatic herb, it thrives in water. In fact, all varieties of mint will have the same result if placed in a pond. Simply transplant them into aquatic substrate. I prefer to top off pots with small gravel, then place them in the pond. Be sure to place pots in a way so that water only covers up to the soil like a bog plant—that way, the pot is submerged and leaves will be sticking out of the water.
Note: It has been a popular craze to place herbs in plant floaters and leave them to float on the surface of the pond. This is a form of aquaponics. The leafy herbs like basil do well in a floating basket.
Additional Edible Aquatic Plants
- Water Lily: The flowers, young leaves, fruit, and seeds are edible.
- Arrowroot: The rhizome is edible.
- Edible Taro: The tuber is edible, but never eat raw taro leaves—they are toxic.
- Water Chestnuts: These edible tubers add a refreshing, crispy dimension to meals.
- Pickerel Rush: The leaves can be eaten as greens, while the seeds can be eaten like nuts—raw or roasted.
- Duckweed: This grows quickly and tastes similar to spinach or watercress.
Aquatic Gardens: Relaxing Additions to Any Home
Enjoy your water garden! The peaceful, relaxing nature of a water feature will add a beauty to your home. With these lovely plants, you may enjoy the benefits of an edible patch of leafy greens growing in the watery garden of your backyard.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Deborah Minter (author) from U.S, California on July 12, 2020:
I am glad you enjoyed it! Water Hyacinth is a wonderful plant to adorn the pond.
Danny from India on July 12, 2020:
Wonderful article Deborah. I remember one more, Water Hyacinth and that is my favorite.