Monocultures of functional equivalent species often negatively affect nutrient cycling and overall biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems. The importance of water and sediment nutrients for the occurrence of monocultures was analysed using field data from drainage ditches. Ranges of nutrients were identified that best explained the occurrence of monocultures of Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) St. John (Waterweed type), monocultures of duckweed (Duckweed type) and the occurrence of a diverse submerged vegetation (Mixed type). Results indicated these three vegetation types occurred at distinctive ranges of phosphorus in water and sediment. Sediment phosphorus distinguished monocultures from the Mixed type, with the two monocultures occurring at two to four times higher concentrations. The Waterweed type occurred at higher sediment phosphorus levels than the mixed type, showed a higher degree of dominance and lower number of red list species. Phosphorus concentrations in water were four to six times higher in the Duckweed type compared to the Waterweed and Mixed type. The three vegetation types had comparable total biomass which was unexpected. This comparability was likely caused by duckweed only growing at the water surface at the highest nutrient levels and the limited space in drainage ditches for increased submerged biomass development at high nutrient availability. Possible measures to limit the occurrence of monocultures, and thereby increasing the ecological quality, are discussed with focus on lowering phosphorus concentrations in both water and sediment and on removal of plant species that develop into monocultures. © 2013 van Zuidam and Peeters.