En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Landscaping with water garden from Pendleton SC
August 15, 2012 - Searching for native plants in SC. Your results miss some plants listed on your site. I noticed this reading the Mr. Smarty Plants response to "Edible Plants for North GA" We aren't far apart. ...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for a pond area that will not hold water
January 07, 2009 - We are in area code 77437 in the Coastal Plains of Texas. We have a 1 acre pond that will not hold water (dug to deep into the clay)and we would like to fill this pond with flowers (maybe wildflowers...
view the full question and answer

Overwintering a Juncus effusus in Great Neck, NY
October 23, 2008 - Can I over winter a juncus effusus spiralis indoors or must it be kept outdoors? Whether indoors or outdoors, what is the proper way to keep it alive during the winter months?
view the full question and answer

Plants for pond, for incline and area with poor soil
April 23, 2012 - I have three plant recommendation questions for Austin, TX. 1. I have a large pond that I would like to put native aquatic plants in. What are some hardy aquatic natives I could put in? The pond ...
view the full question and answer

Tree with stilt roots for Louisiana bog garden
February 07, 2013 - Does Louisiana have any native trees with stilt roots? I would like one to go with my cypress and tupelo bog garden. I have several native plants such as spider lilies and blue flag irises, but I'm...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center