Abstract Submerged vegetation has a significant impact on water flow velocity. Current investigations include the impact through adding drag resistance and increasing bottom roughness coefficient, which cannot elucidate the characters of real submerged vegetation. To evaluate the effects of submerged vegetation on water currents at different velocities, a laboratory experiment was conducted using three kinds of vegetations. The effective heights of these vegetations on varying flow velocities were evaluated. An equation describing the relationship between the normalized resistance of the submerged plants and the Reynolds number based on the plant effective height was then established and used to calculate the hydraulic resistance parameters of submerged plants in different stages of growth.