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.
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.
Comanche - This free flowering lily has a long blooming season, it's flowers open yellow and turn to a coppery bronze.
Indiana - The flowers of this small lily open apricot colored then change to an orange-red.
Attraction - This red lily is a very good bloomer. It is one of the larger hardy red water lilies.
James Brydon - The flowers of this medium sized lily are a deep red. Its pads are bronze-like in color.
Texas Dawn - This yellow lily has leaves that are speckled with a reddish-brown color.
Virginia - This medium-large lily contains star-shaped white flowers.
Charlene Strawn - This yellow lily is a good choice for medium to large ponds.
Panama Pacific - This viviparous lily has violet-purple flowers.
August Koch - The blue flowers of this lily are cuplike with a nice fragrance.
Director Moore - The star-shaped flowers of this variety are a deep purple. The pads are speckled with purple.
Shirley Bryne - The flowers of this viviparous lily are a deep pink color.
Shallow Water Plants
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 Map ]
Acorus calamus variegates (Variegated Sweetflag) - This plant has iris-like foliage with white and green stripes. It grows to 36 inches and is hardy zones 4-11.
*Colocasia antiquorum (Imperial Taro) - These heart shaped taro leaves are purple and green. It grows to 3'-4'. It is hardy zones 9-11.
*Colocasia esculenta (Black Magic Taro) - This taro's foliage is very dark and can grow up to 6'. It is hardy zones 9-11.
*Colocasia 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.
Cypress alternifolius (Umbrella Palm) - This popular plant grows up to 5' and is hardy zones 8-11.
Houttuynia cordata variegata (Chameleon Plant) - This small plant grows to 12 inches with multi-colored foliage. It is hardy zones 5-11.
Hydrocotyle vericillata (Water Pennywort) - This spreading plant's small umbrella shaped leaves grow up to 12 inches. It is hardy zones 5-11.
Juncus effusus spiralis (Corkscrew Rush) - This plant has coiled foliage that grows to 24 inches. It is hardy zones 3-8.
Lobelia fulgens (Cardinal Flower) - This plant's bright red flowers appear in summer. It grows to 36 inches and is hardy zones 5-11.
Mentha aquatica (Aquatic Mint, Water Mint) - This plant grows up to 12 inches and is hardy zones 6-11.
Myriophyllum aquatica (Parrot's Feather) - This feather-like plant floats over the water. It is hardy zones 6-11.
Neptunia aquatica (Sensitive Plant) - This plant's Mimosa-like leaves close at the touch. Its yellow flowers appear in summer. It grows to 6 inches and is hardy zones 9-11.
Orontium aquaticum (Golden Club) - This plant grows up to 12 inches and is hardy zones 5-10. It has velvety foliage. Its yellow spikes appear in spring.
*Peltandra virginica (Arrow Arum) - This plant grows to 24 inches and is hardy zones 5-9. Its foliage resembles that of an arrowhead.
*Pontederia 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.
Saururus cernuus (Lizard's Tail) - This plant grows to 36 inches. Its white flowers appear in spring & last through summer. It is hardy zones 4-10.
Sagittaria graminea 'Crushed Ice' (Crushed Ice) - This plant will grow to 24 inches, it flowers in spring but has beautiful very light green and dark green foliage. It is hardy in zones 4-11.
* Denotes plants that are good performers in filtered or fewer than 3 hours direct sun a day.
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 Map ]
Azolla caroliniana (Fairy Moss) - This is a small free floater with green and red foliage. It is hardy zones 8-11.
Limnobium spongia (Frogbit) - This floater has small round leaves and is hardy zones 6-11.
Pistia stratioites (Water Lettuce) - The leaves of this floater resemble lettuce leaves. It is hardy zones 9-11.
Aponogeton 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.
Marsilea Mutica (4-Leaf Clover) - This running plant has 4-leaf clover leaves that float on the water surface. It is hardy zones 6-11.