Natural Swimming Pool Plants - Reflections Water Gardens
Aquatic Plants ,Natural Pool

Guide to Natural Swimming Pool Plants

September 21, 2022, 0 Comments

A point of pride here at Reflections Water Gardens is our ability to design and build natural swimming pools that offer low-maintenance tranquility and landscapes that balance functionality with beauty.

Unlike traditional pools, natural pools require a living ecosystem to clean your water. This involves utilizing various plants, gravel, and filtration systems, so you don’t have to worry about using harmful chemicals. 

When designing your backyard oasis, our team wants to create a tranquil area that blends perfectly with the surrounding environment. To learn more about some of the more common plants we use when developing projects, we put together this guide to natural swimming pool plants.

Types of Natural Swimming Pool Plants

The types of natural swimming pool plants you choose fill multiple roles. Under the surface, your plants are part of your natural swimming pool’s living ecosystem designed to help organically clean the water so you can avoid using harmful chemicals.

Above the surface, you want to choose a variety of backyard pond plants that aid in the aesthetic of your natural pool. This includes mixing in reeds and rushes alongside water lilies or lotus that sit above the water.

Mixing beauty with functionality is critical when selecting your natural swimming pool plants.

Iris Versicolor

The Iris Versicolor, more commonly known as a Northern Blue Flag, is a clump-forming iris found on the shorelines of Manitoba to Nova Scotia south to Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota. You may also find Iris Versicolor in marshes, swamps, wet meadows, and ditches. These flowers can be grown in complete submersion but also thrive in gardens.

The Northern Blue Flag features showy, down-curved, violet, boldly veined sepals. Their distinct sword-like violet-blue flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds but be aware that their roots are poisonous to humans and livestock.

Iris Versicolor’s colorful flowers add distinct beauty to any natural swimming pool while providing necessary cleaning qualities so you can enjoy swimming without the chemicals.

Sweet Flag

Sweet flag is a low-maintenance perennial found commonly across southern Canada, the Northeast, and the upper Midwest. Also known as Acorus calamus, or muskrat root, this grasslike plant grows best in full or partial sun. Other areas where sweet flag grows well are wet, mucky grounds or shallow water along shores. When considering backyard pool plants, sweet flag is an emergent aquatic plant, meaning they are rooted in the water, but their leaves extend out of the water.

A plain green grass color, sweet flag probably won’t stand out amongst other plants in your natural swimming pool, but it provides necessary texture to the growing area. There are a variety of different species of muskrat root that display different colors, but the most common species remain green.

One of the best features of sweet flag in your natural swimming pool is that it’s an organic insecticide. That means as it continues to grow, it also prevents bugs from hovering around your backyard pond.

Juncus Effusus

Juncus effusus, more commonly known as “soft rush,” prefers moist to wet soils in full sun to part shade and grows well in standing water to 4 inches deep making them an excellent plant for your natural swimming pool.

The plant’s tall, grasslike stems feature very small, greenish-brown flowers and are commonly identified as a weed. In cold temperatures, the green foliage turns brown but is a necessary background plant that highlights the poppier plants in your backyard pond.

Soft rush provides food and shelter to birds but does not attract bugs or other pests. When laying out the natural cleaning system for your backyard pool, Juncus effusus is a great choice as they provide excellent cleaning properties without bringing any unwanted pests.


Sagittaria is the name of 30 different aquatic plants, including arrowhead, duckroot, and katniss. Rising above the water level to 3 feet, these aquatic perennials happily grow in the shallowest areas of your natural swimming pool.

Most sagittaria found in meadows and natural swimming pools are green grass with small white flowers. 

Be aware, though, that sagittaria are aggressive growers but, when contained, provide plenty of benefits to your natural swimming pool.


Pontederia, also known as pickerelweed, is an emergent marginal aquatic perennial that grows best in depths of depths up to 12 inches in full sun. Pickerelweed stretches out above the water to show off its beautiful flowers at heights of 2-4 feet.

Pontederia features blue-purple (occasionally white) flowers hanging above the water line. The heart-shaped leaves compliment the flower spikes helping them stand out amongst the plants in your natural swimming pool.

These plants do well in the heat and bloom from June to October. Pontederia provides food for deer but does not attract other pests, making them the perfect type of plant to fill the biological ecosystem of your natural swimming pool.

Water Lily 

There are around 70 different species of water lilies, making them a unique, beautiful addition to your backyard swimming pond. There are two types of water lilies: hardy and tropical. A lot of our work in the north is with hardy water lilies, as they do not require any work in the winter as long as they’re planted below the freezing line in a water feature.

Water lilies float on the surface of the water. Their leaves are a bright shade of green with a reddish-purple color mixed between. The variety of appealing colors on the flowers makes water lilies truly stand out. You can find reds, yellows, pastels, and even “changeable” that change colors as the flower blooms.

Hardy water lilies are some of the easiest to take care of plants for your natural swimming pool as they require little effort, bloom during the spring to fall, and lie dormant for the winter.


Another floating plant option for your natural swimming pool is the lotus, an exotic flower with numerous varieties ranging from two to six feet tall. Lotus plants typically require at least five hours of sunlight daily and are hardy in climate zones 5-10. That said, lotus plants lie dormant and will survive the winter as long as over the rhizome is planted below the freezing line.

Don’t confuse the lotus with the water lily, though, as its ice-cream cone-shaped center creates a distinctive, calming appearance. Flowers colored white, cream, yellow, pink, or red center these beautiful plants.

The blooming period for the individual flowers on the lotus is short, though, as they “open in the morning and lose their petals by the afternoon.” 

Ready to build the natural swimming pool of your dreams? Contact Reflections Water Gardens today.

Reflections Water Gardens want to help you build your own backyard escape. Whether it’s a natural swimming pool or a decorative water garden, our experts are ready to assist in creating your oasis of tranquility. Call Larry Carnes and Reflections Water Gardens today to get started on your natural swimming pool right away.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *