Water lily, Cambodia
image by Holly Johnson
Varieties of water lilies grow all over the world, from Europe to Africa to the Americas. While they are not related to true lilies, they are still amazingly beautiful plants. With large blooms in a splashing of colors--white, pink, purple and yellow--and the leafy pads that float on top of water, they are a lovely addition to a pond or aquatic garden. Some varieties of water lilies are even hardy throughout most U.S. zones, although they will go dormant in the winter.
Choose a variety of water lily to plant. They fall into two general categories: hardy and tropical. Hardy water lilies will grow from zones 4 to 10, but they only bloom during the day. Tropical water lilies bloom day and night, but they are only hardy from zones 8 to 11.
Choose a spot in your pond for the water lilies. Make sure they will get plenty of sun, as water lilies like full sun. They can handle partial shade as well.
Prepare a pot in which to plant the water lilies. It should be 1 gallon and plastic with no holes. Fill it with heavy garden soil, but leave about 3 inches of space to the rim. Push three or four aquatic fertilizer tablets into the soil at a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Fertilize every spring with three or four aquatic fertilizer tablets in the same manner. You must remove the pot from the water in order to fertilize.
Plant the water lily. Dig a hole for the tuber about 4 inches deep. Place the tuber in the hole vertically. Allow the top of the tuber, the end without the roots, to stick above the surface of the soil by 1/4 inch. Fill the hole with soil and pat down firmly. Place a layer of pea stones or gravel on top of the soil. Keep them away from the tuber.
Lower the pot into the pond deep enough so that the pot will be completely covered by the water. The water lily pads will grow toward the surface.
Repot the water lilies after 2 years. Divide the tubers into two or three pieces with a knife, making sure a lily pad is attached to each piece. Remove any dead lily pads at this time. Repeat steps 1 through 5.