Making space for Water

As the climate gets warmer and wetter the planting of a rain garden or a wetland may be the answer.

Wetlands are vital for supporting wildlife, providing clean water, food, protection from extreme weather (including floods) and carbon storage.

Even small wetland areas or rain gardens, can support a range of unique wildlife including birds, bats, hedgehogs, frogs, newts, dragonflies and other pollinators. Rain gardens provide necessary resources such as food, drinking water, places to reproduce and bathe for passing creatures.

Sadly, freshwater habitats in the UK are declining. According to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, we’ve lost over 50% of our ponds in the last 100 years, with people increasingly turning their gardens and wild spaces into paving or lawns.


Wetland Species are in decline

Many wetland plant species are habitat specialists, meaning they have adapted to a limited range of conditions which makes them especially susceptible to habitat changes and pollution.

Many of UK native wetland plants are in decline due to:

  • Atmospheric pollution
  • Run-off of chemicals from farmland
  • Neglect of ponds
  • Drainage of wetlands for agricultural use
  • Groundwater extraction
  • Invasive species

Some ideas for gardens

Get creative – there's lots you can do to bring interest and wetland wildlife to your outdoor space.


  • Mini pond or small container pond
  • Bog garden - An area of waterlogged soil with slow drainage.
  • Drainpipe rain garden - A shallow area of ground or dip with plants tolerant to waterlogging, which receives rainwater from buildings and other hard surfaces.
  • Scrape  - A scrape is a shallow pool that holds water seasonally, often drying out in the late summer but remaining damp and boggy, supporting wetland plants and insects.


UK Native plants for your mini-wetland

Whatever the size of your wetland, a mix of the right plants will help keep it clear and oxygenated, preventing algae from taking over. Make sure to add stones and small ledges to your aquatic habitat as it will provide safer access and escapes for any visiting wildlife.

Oxygenating plants for ponds

These native plants help keep your pond clear and clean by producing oxygen, absorbing impurities and outcompeting algae.

  • Water violet, Hottonia palustris
  • Greater Bladderwort Utricularia vulgaris
  • Spiked water milfoil, Myriophyllum spicatum
  • Hornwort, Ceratophyllum demersum
  • Greater pond-sedge - Carex riparia
  • Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae
  • Water crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis

Marginal/ bog plants

These plants grow at the edges of ponds and in the damp soil in marshy or boggy environments.

  • Starfruit (Damasonium alisma)
  • Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
  • Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)
  • Watermint (Mentha aquatica)
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  • Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
  • Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpiodes)
  • Slender club rush (Isolepis cernua)


Look out for invasive species

Some of the most invasive plants are aquatic plants which have been accidentally or purposively introduced into standing and running waters.

Examples to look out for include: 

  • New Zealand Pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii)
  • Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides)
  • Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)