Water lilies (Nymphaea) are used for food, as landscaping plants as well as for religious ceremonies. Water lilies prefer heavy soils rich in organic matter. Water lilies come in many colors, some bloom during the day while others release their fragrance during the cool of night. Plant all water lilies in an area that receives full sun for at least six hours; this ensures the most blooms possible.
Clean and dried, water lily rhizomes and seeds make starchy flour suitable for flour. The young, unopened blossoms and rhizomes can be cooked or eaten raw in salads and soups. Eat young leaves raw or sautéed in butter with a pinch of salt and pepper. Even the tubers can be dug out of the mud, washed off and baked like potatoes.
Planting water lilies in a pond will prevent algae growth, provide oxygen and feed fish. The leaves block light, making it difficult for the nuisance plants to grow. They also keeps the water at a safe temperature for fish and other inhabitants. Water lilies provide suitable spawning areas for many aquatic species. Fry and other young creatures will feed on invertebrates and other items clinging to the stems, bottom of leaves and roots of the water lilies.
Not grown exclusively for their beauty, the ancients believed that water lilies had medicinal and spiritual purposes as well. The Greeks dedicated water lilies to the mythical creatures called nymphs, hence the botanical name, Nymphaea. Egyptians offered the blossoms of the sacred blue water lily as a sign of respect to the dead and their gods.