Pickerel Weed

Pickerel weed in bloom by lake

Photo by Ann Murrary, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Used with permission.

Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) is an aquatic native plant found throughout Florida. This perennial is usually found in shallow wetland areas or around the edges of lakes and ponds. The aggressive habit of these plants helps stabilize the banks of natural water bodies and retention ponds.

In the home water garden, pickerel weed will complement waterlilies by adding texture, height, and a harmonious flower.

Characteristics

Pickerel weed grows in shallow water no more than a foot deep. Shiny green lance-shaped leaves emerge in the spring from below the water and eventually grow to 3-5 feet above the surface. Purple-blue 3 to 4 inch long flower spikes can be seen several weeks after the appearance of foliage. Each flower spike holds numerous tubular purple flowers. Individual flowers last only a day, but this repeat bloomer can be enjoyed from spring through fall.

Beyond its visual allure, pickerel weed serves an important ecological purpose. The submerged portion, as with all aquatic plants, provides a habitat for the micro- and macro invertebrates that ultimately become a food source for fish, amphibians, ducks, and reptiles. Additionally, as aquatic plants die and decompose, bacteria and fungi break down the plant matter; the resulting detritus is food for many aquatic invertebrates. On top of that, the flowers are known to attract butterflies and the seeds are a tasty treat for ducks, making this plant a water garden winner.

Planting and Care

Pickerel weed is usually purchased in containers and should be planted in full-sun locations with about a foot of water. You can keep your plant from spreading and invading a shallow pond by keeping the plants in containers without drainage holes. Place plants about 4 feet apart and they will form a nice stand several years after planting.

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