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The South Puget Sound Since 2000.

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Hardy Waterlily Care

Hardy Waterlily Care

Pond Maintenance & Care , Pond Plants 🕔September 10, 2020 0 comments

Waterlilies are an essential feature for every water garden.  They are one of the oldest, most sacred plants used as an important native species to many people in several countries for food and medicine.  The water lily family- Nymphaeaceae- is one of the oldest plant families of water plants found scattered throughout the world.  There are four other genera in this family- Euryale (Gorgon plant), Nelumbo (Lotus), Nuphar (Spatterdock) and Victoria (Amazon Lily).

Pink Hardy Water Lily- ‘Darwin’

There are 40 species of water lilies (Nymphaea) worldwide and many hybrids that are split into two main groups- Hardy and Tropical. The differences are in temperature hardiness, leaf structure, flower color and performance.   Typically the brighter & more colorful the flower, the more complex it’s genetic history.

Tropical Water lilies, those that are not hardy in colder climates (need water at 70 degrees F or higher), are exotic gems that thrive in hot, tropical climates. Tropical water lilies tend to bloom late in the day or at night, with bold colors from bluish-purple, red, pink to crisp white. They hold their flowers higher in the water than their hardy cousins and many are fragrant. The leaves are typically large, may have heavy mottling and have wavy edges vs. hardy lilies that have smooth leaf edges.
Hybridizer’s have now come up with a new type of water lily that is a cross of hardy and tropical- giving the look of the tropical with added hardiness from the hardy lily. They are more expensive, but so worth it! Try  Tropical Star or Violicious.
Now let’s learn about Hardy Waterlily Care…..


Most water lilies need at least 6 hours of sun a day. There are a few that can bloom in 4-6 hours, but not less than 4 hours of sun. For shady ponds- choose Water Hawthorne instead. Water lilies also prefer a still area away from waterfalls and water spray. They breathe through stomata’s on the top of the leaves so excessive splashing can actually kill your water lily.


Smaller lilies like to be in shallower water- 6”-18”, medium to large- 10”-24”+ depending upon the variety and if they are in pots or directly planted into the pond. Pots do restrict the root size- smaller root’s support thinner stems that need a shallower spot, larger roots can support longer and stronger petioles (stems) in deeper water.

Soil & Water Chemistry

Most waterlilies prefer a more neutral soil & water ph of around 7 (6.5-8 is ok) too low or too high ph will not allow proper nutrient absorption weaken the plant. Use an “aquatic planting soil”, lava rock, pea gravel or other inert media to pot up your lilies. Make sure the pot has holes in it and they do not rot inside their pots, you will notice black slimy roots if this occurs. Regularly divide or repot your waterlily every season or every other.

Seasonal Care

Place new lilies at their appropriate depth and area in the pond that suits the variety (see our list of waterlilies with information). Fertilize monthly if desired with aquatic plant fertilizer (never use fertilizers for your landscape or garden) May-August or if you have fish you may choose not to fertilize. Over-fertilizing may cause algae blooms. Trim yellowed and fading leaves and spent blooms from the water surface. Do not remove leaves that grow at the root base, these are indicator leaves that tell the plants when to start and stop growing. Generally, individual  leaves last a few weeks, then yellow turn brown and die with individual flowers lasting 3-5 days. Divide in spring or early summer, plants may go through an initial transplant shock but should recover as the season progresses.


Water lilies should be grown in pots with holes or planting bags that are made of a porous material.  Eventually they will outgrow their pot and need a new one or need to be divided. They can also be directly planted into the pond in rocks. If directly planted into the pond, you will need to monitor the spread in small ponds, with medium to larger ponds having more space to allow lilies to grow more naturally.

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