En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants for a pond bank in NE Pennsylvania

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Thursday - January 13, 2011

From: Thompson, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Water Gardens
Title: Plants for a pond bank in NE Pennsylvania
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I had a 3/4 acre pond built this fall in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Susquehanna county; zone 4). The pond banks are packed, hard rocky clay. What plants can I plant in the 3 foot bank between pond water and top of the bank? I'm assuming cattails and other volunteer plants will locate themselves from neighboring ponds to the area below the water level; I'm looking plants that will grow well in the hard-pan above that. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Wow ... that was a huge endeavour ... good for you, that is a garden feature that is going to change things on your property!  If you didn't have one before, you now have a "wildlife habitat" garden. 

You are right that you will have many volunteer plants, and not just below water level.  Any plant that can thrive in your conditions, whether it is native or alien (and perhaps agressive or invasive) will be battling for a foothold once the growing season starts (not to mention the weed seeds that have been released from the soil seed bank due to the construction).  It will be an important season for you to monitor the pond, as many of the "weeds" will actually be native plants that are appropriate for your ecosystem.

You haven't described the setting.  Whether you have carved the pond out of an opening in a woodland or it is in an open field will have some bearing on your plant choices.  What you will be trying to do is to create a pond ecosystem that mimics the ones occuring naturally in your area so go have a look at the neighboring ponds and see what is growing around them. 

Although the plants you install will ultimately be the plants you can access in the nurseries in your area, you can start the selection process by doing a Combination Search on our Native Plant Database.  If you select Pennsylvania, the type of plant (shrub, herbaceous plant, grass and so on),  light conditions, and soil conditions the database will generate a list of plants native to PA that fulfill those requirements.  Each plant is linked to a detailed information page that will give you images as well as information about wildlife attributes and is, in turn, linked to the USDA website.  You will want to choose a mix of shrubs, perennials and grasses.  If you leave mown or otherwise unimpeded access to the water, you WILL have geese move in and never move out.  Research on shoreline restoration indicates that geese like to be able to see the surface of the water from the shore, so planting shrubs and taller herbaceous plants really discourages them from settling in.

I recommend you also visit the Evergreen.ca database as they have a search feature for habitat gardens.  Although it is a Canadian resource, you will find that most of the plants they recommend that are native to Ontario, will also be native to your area of Pennsylvania (you can cross reference with the list you have generated from ours).  For example, when I search Ontario & pond edge a list of 171 plants is generated.  When I narrow the search to include erosion control (something you will be concerned with), the list is only 30 plants.  One of those plants is Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush) which is also native to PA and on the list our database generates.  It is a good choice for your project.  Many of the dogwoods are also good choices.

It is a long winter in Pennsylvania so you will have many months to plan and learn before it is time to plant (and learn more!).  I recently discovered a website that will be a valuable resource for you called Ecosystem Gardening.  Sign up for their newsletter/blog and check out the links and books they recommend.  I particularly recommend a book by Carolyn Summers, titled "Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East" and Doug Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home". Visit our Bibliography and search the topic "Wildlife" for more recommendations. 

I hope you will find this answer more helpful than the simple list of plants you may have been expecting.  Here at Mr. Smarty Plants we are big fans of "teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime".  Enjoy the new gardening adventure you are embarking on!

 

 

More Water Gardens Questions

Plants for wetlands in Illinois
September 21, 2008 - I have a home that is just above a wetlands in Northern Illinois. It is on a river and the wetlands go from bone dry to under 3 feet of water. The shoreline is beginning to erode where there are no tr...
view the full question and answer

Plants for floodplain in Fairfield, New Jersey
March 21, 2010 - I have an easy question for you... I hope... We just moved into the floodplains of NJ in Fairfield and are interested in some plants. We would like to know what plants are best suited to grow in flood...
view the full question and answer

BEST plants for keeping water clean
February 19, 2005 - We're in the process of building a small swimming pool that will utilize Texas native bog and marginal plants to clean the water for the pool. Do you know of some good resources (i.e. online, books, b...
view the full question and answer

Plants for area around a fountain in full sun near Dallas
May 19, 2010 - I'm seeking advice on what I can plant around the base of a fountain, in full sun, that can tolerate the fountain water splash/spray. I'm seeking something that can be maintained to a maximum h...
view the full question and answer

Flowering vine for trellis behind fountain in Anaheim Hills CA
June 05, 2010 - We are looking for a flowering vine to plant on a trellis surrounding a water fountain. The fountain splashes leaving the soil constantly wet. We have tried numerous vines, but they all die due to t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center