Pond Stars: The Water Lily


Pond Stars: The Water Lily

Posted by Green Acres Nursery & Supply
Categories: Blog

water lily

Why Grow Water Lilies?

Summer is here and when the heat is on, there are few sights in the garden more calming and refreshing than water lilies in bloom floating on clear water.   Water lilies are not only a flashy centerpiece to any pond, but they also provide several benefits.  Listed below are just 3 of the many benefits they provide to your waterscape.

  1. They aid in promoting a balanced ecosystem in ponds or container-water-gardens. 
  2. As their broad leaves (pads) grow and spread above the surface of the water, they block the sunlight from penetrating the water and thus preventing the rapid growth of algae. 
  3. If there are fish in the pond, water lilies also provide shade from the sun and shelter from predators.  

Types of Water Lilies:

There are two types of water lilies (Nymphaea): Hardy water lilies and Tropical water lilies.  Both types like warm temperatures in order to bloom.  They can be differentiated by their morphological features such as pads (color, edges); flowers (position, color, and shape); and rootstock but the main difference between these two types of lilies is their tolerance to cold.   Hardy water lilies can withstand freezing temperature while Tropical water lilies succumb to it.   This is not saying that tropical water lilies cannot grow well in regions with cold winters. On the contrary, this is where gardening styles and techniques come into play.  

Growing water lilies can be intimidating to beginners but there is peace in knowledge.  Here, we put together some of the most important factors that affect the success of water lilies in home gardens.  

Water Lilies & Their Top 3 Needs:

Room to Grow

Water lilies (Nymphaea spp.), like most plants, need soil and space to grow into.   It is a good idea to repot water lilies in larger containers before laying them into your container-water- garden or pond.  Heavy clay soil is best for growing hardy water lilies.   Avoid using soils with additives such as perlite, which will tend to float away, and organic material, such as manure and compost which will decompose in the water.  Plant water lilies deep enough so that the rhizome and roots are all buried and shallow enough so that the crown (the central point on the rhizome where the leaves and buds emerge) is in level with the soil surface.  After that, cover the soil with a thin layer of sand to keep the soil from floating around.  Gravel can also be added on top of the sand for extra weight and support for the roots.  Note that some of the existing pads may die after transplanting but don’t worry, new ones will grow eventually.  

water lilies

Division is the process of separating individual plants to allow sufficient space for them to grow.  Poor flowering and too many leaves standing up above the water suggest that the plant has outgrown its container. To maintain good blooming performance, divide water lilies every 3 or 4 years, in early spring. 


Water lilies require a lot of sunlight to grow and bloom in a spectacular fashion.  The more sunlight they get, the more flowers they produce.  A minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight result in considerably great blooms.  The water temperature – which is a function of sunlight – determines flower initiation.  Position the tub or container-water-garden where it gets the most sunshine during the course of the day.  In the case of a pond, set plants in areas where they get the maximum exposure to sunlight. The sooner the water reaches a continuous 60 degrees, the sooner flowering will begin.   


Water lilies need a good supply of soil nutrients in order to bloom.  They are heavy feeders and when they are well fed they will reward you with spectacular blooms.  Slow-release fertilizer tablets, available at Green Acres, are commonly recommended for fertilizing aquatic plants.  The fertilizer tablets can be placed into the soil during repotting.  For subsequent feedings, push fertilizer tablets into the soil away from the crown of the plant and cover it with soil.   Sometimes time-release fertilizer granules (such as Osmocote 14-14-14) embedded into “mud dough” balls are used to fertilize plants that are hard to reach (as in the middle of a large pond).  Avoid using of regular granular fertilizer as it can cloud the water and encourage the growth of algae.


Hardy water lilies are delightful plants and easy to grow.  Green Acres offers a varying selection of water lilies throughout this summer season.  Find water plants exclusively at our Sacramento store for the duration of the summer.  See what varieties they have available – you might just find the right one for your garden!  Click below to see more water plants.