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Plant Profile: Water Lilies

Plant Profile: Water Lilies


Today we’re happy to feature a stunning new pond plant on our website--the water lily

Scientific name: Nympthaea species.

Of all pond plants, the water lily is most popular for many reasons. 
Water lilies are a striking (and long-lasting) addition to water gardens and ponds. Their exotic flowers are beautiful enough to catch anyone’s attention. Many ponds are specifically designed around showcasing water lilies. 

*THIS IS NOT AN AQUARIUM PLANT. Please ensure this plant is planted in an appropriate pond setup*

hardy water lily nymphaea madam wilfron gonnere

Shown above: Hardy Water Lily Madame Wilfron Gonnere

Plant Specs:

Although the selection of water lilies is vast in terms of size and color, there are TWO MAIN TYPES of water lilies: 
Hardy (available on Buceplant now!) and Tropical (coming soon!)

We will go into detail about both types.


Hardy Lilies are a good choice for beginners because they are easy to grow and maintain.

Hardy Water Lilies produce thick green, slightly brown-spotted, round leaves that can reach up to 12 inches. Their flowers are lightly scented and multi-petaled. These flowers can come in a variety of colors, including pink, white, yellow, and red. They will even change color with age.

For example, the Nymphaea Wanvisa lily showcases speckles of lighter colors on their peachy pink petals.

Hardy Lilies have the potential to have several flowers open at once and can grow to be up to 12 inches. The flowers will blossom during the day and close at night, lasting about 3-4 days before sinking beneath the water’s surface.

Unlike Tropical Water Lilies, the Hardy flowers will float on the surface of the water and grow from rhizomes--not the tubers.

hardy water lily nymphaea masaniello

Pictured above: Hardy Water Lily Nymphaea Masaniello



Tropical Lily pads will be larger than a Hardy Lily’s. Their leaves are thin and will be green, mottled with maroon. The flowers (also multi-petaled) will bloom many at a time with intense colors such as red, pink, purple, blue, and yellow, and white. They will grow high above the water’s surface and give off a flowery scent that is much more fragrant than Hardy Lily flowers. Their flowers can grow up to 13 inches across. (Dang!)

With Tropical Lilies, you have the option of choosing day or night blooming flowers.

Plant Care:

It’s best to plant your lilies in the springtime and in a sunny location when the plant is just beginning to grow.

(Disclaimer: optimum planting season may vary based on climate.)

Before going into the care tips of Hardy and Tropical lilies, we want to note that you may experience green algae in your pond water with full sun and fertilizer. 

DO NOT use chemicals to control it! It will kill your beautiful lilies. 

Instead, encourage growth of plants that will help starve the algae--such as water lettuce.


Hardy Lilies stem from a rhizome or tubers and need sufficient depth for planting.

In order to plant these lilies properly, you’ll first need to start with a wide and shallow container (at least 18” Width x 10” Depth). The rhizome will need to grow horizontally above the soil.

Before planting the lilies, fill your container with garden soil and push aquatic plant root fertilizer tabs into the soil.

Have you ever used controsoil as a medium for your pond?

Then, remove any dead leaves or roots from the lilies. Plant the tuber along the edge of the pot with just the tip exposed. Have the crown pointed at the center of the pot. Make sure the tuber is pointing upward at a 45 degree angle towards the center of the pot. Fill with soil, but be careful to not cover the crown of the plant. Lastly, add a layer of rocks or gravel to keep the soil in place before lowering the plant into the water. Make sure it’s covered by 6-18 inches of water when placing the container into your pond.

planting hardy water lilies

Make sure to keep water well-oxygenated by adding an aerator, small waterfall, or small fountain.

In order for your Hardy Lilies to bloom, they need AT LEAST 6 hours of sunlight a day. It is important to fertilize regularly (at least once a month) and trim off any brown leaves. Always keep up with removing decaying vegetation.

As long as your pond water won't freeze solid, Hardy Lilies will survive winter if left in the pond. Make sure to remove all dead and dying foliage before the colder weather arrives. Hardy Lilies will even bloom in colder water (about 60 F). They may become dormant throughout colder weather, but they will begin to sprout more flowers once the weather warms.

Hardy Lilies are generally easier to grow and maintain and Tropical Lilies.

hardy water lily joey tomocik

Pictured above: Hardy Water Lily Joey Tomocik



Tropical Lilies grow from a central crown in which all leaves and flowers sprout from. Unlike Hardy Lilies, this plant’s growth is vertical. 

When planting Tropical Lilies, place them in the center of your large container and push aquatic plant root fertilizer tabs into the soil before planting. When planting the Tropical Lily in the soil, leave just the crown showing. After planting, add a layer of rocks or gravel to keep the soil in place before lowering the plant into the water. Keep in mind that Tropical Lilies require at least 6 inches of water, while larger lilies may need 8-10 inches of water.

Tropical Lilies grow quickly and multiply easily (about 2 to 4 times as much as Hardy Lilies). They often grow runners from the larger tubers that create new plants. In this case, the lilies require water at least 6-18 inches deep over their tubers.

They thrive in quiet waters, so steer clear of waterfalls or fountains.

They need at least 6 hours of sunlight to bloom. The more sunlight--the better!

Tropical Lilies should ONLY be planted when the weather is warm enough. One very important thing you need to know about Tropical Lilies is that they HATE the cold!

Tropical Lilies need a water temperature of about 70 F, and can only survive a minimum of 45 F. If water is too cold for them, they will become dormant or be killed by frost. 

If you live in an area where it snows during the winter, then you must remove them from your pond during this time. You can remove the lily containers from your pond and place them in an area, such as a garage or basement, where the temperature is consistent (between 55-66 F). Let them dry out until the soil is barely moist. Wrap your lily container in a garbage bag to keep the soil from drying any further. Close the bag so the lilies can breathe just a little. When winter is over, put them back into your pond when the water is at least 65 F.

Like Hardy Lilies, it is important to fertilize regularly (at least once a month) and trim off any brown leaves.
Always keep up with removing decaying vegetation from your water lilies.

tropical water lilies

Fun Facts:

Water lilies not only look great and add a pleasing aesthetic to your water garden or pond--they can also:

  • Play a role in reducing algae by shading the areas in which they grow.
  • Insulate water from extreme temperature changes.
  • Protect your fish from the sun and predators.

There are about 70 species of water lilies that are found across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Australia.


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