Pond Plants That Survive the Winter

What Pond Plants Will Survive the Winter Months?

When the weather turns cold, you have two choices for handling delicate and tropical pond plants – you can either bring them inside for the winter or treat them like annuals and replace them each spring. However, what many pond owners prefer to do is plant cold-hardy perennials that go dormant beneath the snow and come back to life in the spring.

If this is the sort of setup you want, consider including the following pond plant species in and around your backyard water feature:

pond plants that survive the winter

Hardy Water Lilies: Most hardy water lilies should be planted in 12”-24” of water to make it through the winter. Shallower plantings may freeze and deeper ones take a lot of the plant’s energy just to reach the surface of the water, decreasing the number of blooms that you see each year. Hardy Water Lilies come in nearly every color imaginable, white, pink, yellow or red and now even purple.

American lotus: You’ll find this dazzling beauty in natural lakes as far north as Ontario and as far south as Florida. Hybrids like the “Empress” and dwarf “Momo Batan” are some of the most eye-catching varieties. Flowers come single or double in a wide array of colors: white, yellow, pink, “red”, “blue” and bi-colors. We recommend growing lotus in pots for easy maintenance. They require regular feeding through the growing season to support their large leaves.

American Lotus - pond plants that survive the winter in northern jersey
corkscrew rush - pond plants that survive the winter in northern climates

Arrowhead plant: Named for its arrowhead-shaped leaves, the tall, graceful stems of this perennial will add great interest to your hardy water garden. If you have a small pond, contain this vigorous grower in a pot.
Corkscrew rush: Plant this robust, upright grower in one section of your pond to mimic the quality of old-world reeds. These are great for creating a beautiful natural setting.
Purple Pitcher plants: A native plant and one of our favorites. Choose this low-growing perennial if you have a pond in full-sun. It takes a couple years to really take off, but when it does it is a remarkable specimen. We recommend planting marginal plants like pitcher plants in groups of 3-5.
Pickerelweed: The carefree growth habit and bold, upright foliage of this pond plant make it a popular choice for pond owners. Beautiful lavender blooms in summer will return year after year.

Lizard’s tail: This is a breathtaking addition to the edge of a natural pond. Characteristics include compact, upright growth and spiky, slender flowers that resemble a lizard’s tail.
Cardinal Flowers: A biannual (grows foliage one year and flowers the next) is a fantastic tropical looking native plant that adds color to your pond side. It blooms late summer into the early fall at a time when many other perennial aquatic plants have retired for the season. The cardinal red blossoms are also attractive to hummingbirds.
Acorus: Plant this hardy perennial in the boggy areas around your pond. The sharp clean cut leaves resemble that of an iris and come in a number of attractive varigations.
Marsh marigold: This brief bloomer from the buttercup family will delight you in spring. One of the earliest flowers with lovely yellow blossoms. Plant it in marshy areas around your pond.

small backyard waterfall with natural moss

Whatever hardy perennials you choose for your water garden, they still need a little care every fall. Remember to trim off yellow or brown foliage. Lotus pots should be moved to a deeper section of the pond for winter.

For more advice when selecting pond plants, or for help caring for your perennials, please contact Atlantis Water Gardens at 973.627.0515. We provide full-service pond design, pond maintenance and cleaning in Northern New Jersey.

Atlantis Water Gardens – Denville, NJ / Northern New Jersey (Morris County and surrounding areas)


Recognized as an industry leader (Certified Contractor of the Year 2010, Artist of the year 2014 and Businessman of the Year 2018 and #1 Aquascape Retailer 2016 and 2018) With projects on three continents and across the country Atlantis Water Gardens has the passion, experience and expertise to help your bring your water garden dreams to life


Give us a call! 973.627.0515

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Do I Need a Pond Aerator This Winter?

If you have fish that you wish to winter over in your pond it’s necessary to use a pond aerator. A pond aerator or small recirculating pump that agitates the water’s surface will oxygenate the water. Why do you need to oxygenate your pond in winter? When people drown, their bodies are deprived of oxygen because their lungs fill with water rather than air. Fish obtain their oxygen from air that is dissolved in the water in which they swim. … Oxygen diffuses into the fish through their gills, without aeration your fish will drown! (Well…technically speaking suffocate may be a better term.)

do i need a pond aerator this winter
fish bones

If you don’t have fish in your pond a pond aerator can still be beneficial as it will help to continue to break down nutrients from leaves and debris in your pond and keep the water from becoming stagnant and foul smelling, but is not necessary.

Other options for winter aeration: a small recirculating pump may be used instead of an aerator. It will pump water up to the surface of the pond an agitate the surface (which adds oxygen to the water.)

Click the play button on the YouTube link to see what went wrong in my pond when I went out of town for a few weeks last winter….

recirculating pump for pond

A recirculating pump such as the one pictured above can be used to provide necessary oxygen to your pond in winter in place of an aerator.

pond aerator

Pond Aerators provide oxygen to your pond in winter and are necessary for keeping fish alive through the winter

Will a pond aerator alone keep my fish alive in winter?
No.  An aerator adds oxygen to the water.   If the temperatures drop you still need to be able to maintain a hole in the surface of the ice for gas exchange.   What is gas exchange?  Your pond slows down over the winter months, but it never completely shuts down. Leaves and debris continue to break down  too,  just at a slower pace than during warmer months.  The process of the plants and debris breaking down creates methane gas.  When the ice is allowed to completely cover the surface of the pond methane gas builds up and harms the aquatic life in your pond -including your fish.  To prevent this use a simple deicer.  The better ones are thermostatically controlled so that they consume electricity only when the temperatures drop.  The deicer keeps just a small ring around the unit melted in the ice and allows the harmful gasses to escape.  When installing a deicer for the winter be certain that it is placed a good distance from the aerator as the movement of water by the aerator may make it run more often than necessary.

Aquascape pond heater de-icer for fish

De-icers keep a small hole in the ice allowing for gas exchange in Winter.

pond de-icer and pond aerator

If you have questions about how to properly winterize your pond please don’t hesitate to call our pond shop (973)627-0515. We have the knowledge and supplies you need for proper pond winterization. Still feeling uncertain about how to winterize your pond? Just ask and we’ll winterize your pond for you!

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How to Properly Winterize Your Koi Pond and Waterfall

Learn how to properly winterize your koi pond for the cold New Jersey winters!

Pond by Atlantis Water Gardens - Mendham NJ-24

Getting your fish pond ready for the cold NJ Winter really begins in the Fall. Switching over to a high quality, cold water fish food when the water temperature drops below 65 degrees is very important for your fish going into the cold winter months. Having a pond thermometer is a great tool that will indicate when to switch the type of fish food you are using, when to stop feeding in the late fall and also when you can begin feeding again in the spring.
Generally, you want to stop feeding your fish once the water temperature stays consistently below 50 degrees. At temperatures below 50, the fish will not be able to properly process the food and it will remain undigested in their gut, possibly causing health problems during the winter months.

fall pond leaf netting
Hopefully you installed a net over your pond for the Fall months to keep heavy leaf debris from collecting at the bottom of your pond. This is important because the buildup of organic debris in the pond bottom can turn to sludge, providing the perfect environment for fish parasites and other unwanted pond pests.

If you have a significant amount of organic debris that is still in the pond, you’ll want to get as much of it removed as possible. It may be necessary to perform a full pond cleaning if there is an excessive amount of debris left in the bottom of the pond.

cutting back dead aquatic plants in the fall
The process begins by removing all of your Fall netting materials and properly store them for the Winter. Leaving the net over the pond for the Winter months is not a good idea because it can not handle a snow load. It will become entangled in the ice and damage the materials and possibly harm your fish.

Now you can begin to cut back all of your aquatic plants to the proper height for their Winter slumber. Marginal aquatics should be cut 2″ above water level and lilies can be cut all the way down to 1″ above their crown. Tropical aquatics should be removed and disposed of, as they will not over-winter in the harsh New Jersey cold.

waterfall in the winter
We generally recommend shutting down your waterfall for the Winter. Leaving your waterfall running can produce some amazing ice formations and scenery, but if you are not going to be able to constantly monitor your waterfall during freezing temperatures, you can run into a problem with ice dams forming in the stream & waterfall which will force water over the top of your liner and out of your pond.

When shutting down your waterfall, be sure to install some form of aeration and a floating de-icer for your fish to allow for gas exchange and introduction of oxygen during the Winter. If you have a skimmer system in your pond, make sure you remove the check valve and filter material, clean them off and store them properly for the Winter. Also, if you have a Biofalls filter, make sure to remove the filter material, clean it off and store that as well.

Aquascape pond heater de-icer for fish
To keep your fish safe during the Winter you will need to install some form of aeration to provide oxygen. Using a bubbler pump or aeration system are both acceptable methods, but you’ll need to make sure that your install the pump or diffuser plate aprrox. 10″-12″ above the bottom surface of the pond. Supplementing with a floating de-icer is also recommended to be sure a hole is kept open in the ice for proper gas exchange.

Even though the cold weather has set in and your pond is covered in ice (except the hole from your aeration/de-icer!), your fish can still be vulnerable to predators. Here in Northern New Jersey we have the great blue heron and mink that will fish in backyard ponds all Winter long. Taking measures like adding a dark pond dye monthly during the Winter months will make it difficult for predators to see your fish that are resting on the pond bottom.
blue heron in koi pond

If you live in Northern New Jersey and need help with pond winterizing or any other pond related issues, contact us. Be sure to fill our your information and upload a few pictures of your pond, filtration, waterfall or stream and we’ll give you a call to see if there is any way we can help!

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Do I need to bring my fish in for the winter?

Do I need to bring my fish in my pond inside for the winter?

Bringing fish inside for the winter | Denville, Rockaway, Morris County NJ

Fish do fine during the coldest of winters as long as you give them two feet of water to swim in, oxygenate the water, and keep a hole in the ice with a bubbler or floating heater, allowing the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice. Otherwise, you let Mother Nature do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond and then they will slowly wake up as the water warms in spring.

How deep does a koi pond need to be Denville NJ
Do I need to bring my fish insode for the winter
Aquascape pond heater de-icer for fish

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Learning make you tired?

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