Uses of Water Lilies

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.

Pond Plants

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.

Historical Uses

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.

Keywords: water lily uses, using water lilies, eating water lilies

About this Author

Izzy McPhee has been a freelance writer since 1999. She writes about gardening, nature conservation, pond care, aquariums, child care, family, living on a budget and do-it-yourself projects. Her paintings have appeared in the well known gallery The Country Store Gallery in Austin, Texas. Her work can be seen on and Demand Studios.