How to Care for Water Lilies


The richly colored blooms of water lilies add an exotic touch to any landscape. Whether you have a single lily in a small pond, or a multitude of plants, the right care will ensure blooms for years to come. Water lilies come in both hardy and tropical varieties. The blooms of hardy lilies rest on the water's surface, while tropical water lily blossoms extend above the water on graceful stalks. Both varieties have broad leaves that float on the water and come in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow and white.

Hardy Water Lilies

Step 1

Plant your lily in heavy clay-loam garden soil, or soil especially designed for aquatic plants. Plant a standard sized lily in a pot 14 to 16 inches wide. Insert three or four fertilizer tablets especially formulated for water lilies in the soil.

Step 2

Immerse the planter in the pond, about 6 inches below the surface of the water. Support the planter on bricks to bring it up to the appropriate level.

Step 3

Lower the planter to about 12 inches below the water's surface after a few weeks, when new growth has appeared on the water lily.

Step 4

Add more fertilizer tablets every four to six weeks. Push the tablets down into the soil between the edge of the pot and the roots of the plant.

Step 5

Protect the plant from freezing in winter. If your pond does not freeze during winter, set the lily pot on the bottom of the pond. If the pond freezes, put the lily in the pot indoors in a dark corner where the temperature stays below 55 degrees and above freezing. Return to the pond in the spring.

Step 6

Divide and repot the lily every two to three years.

Tropical Water Lilies

Step 1

Plant tropical lilies in heavy clay loam or specially formulated aquatic plant soil. Be careful not to cover the crown of the plant. Add three or four lily fertilizer tablets at planting time. The pot should be 10 to 14 inches in diameter.

Step 2

Submerge the pot about 6 inches below the surface of the water. Support the pot on bricks to keep it at the proper level.

Step 3

Lower the pot to about 12 inches below the surface of the water after a few weeks, once new growth has emerged from the lily.

Step 4

Add more fertilizer tablets every three to four weeks.

Step 5

Bring your tropical water lily indoors as soon as the water temperature consistently drops below 70 degrees. Keep the lily in an aquarium indoors until the water warms in the spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Aquatic plant potting soil
  • Water lily fertilizer tablets
  • Plastic pots
  • Bricks
  • Aquarium


  • How to Care for Water Lilies and Other Aquatic Plants
  • Growing Water Lilies Successfully

Who Can Help

  • Growing and Caring for Water Lilies
Keywords: tropical water lilies, hardy water lilies, aquatic plants

About this Author

Cynthia James is the author of more than 40 novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from Modern Bride to Popular Mechanics. A graduate of Sam Houston State University, she has a degree in economics. Before turning to freelancing full time, James worked as a newspaper reporter, travel agent and medical clinic manager.