Water lilies & deep water pond plants

For a well-balanced pond you should aim to have surface cover plants taking up at least 50% of the surface area when in growth and Water lilies are one of the best, most attractive and effective ways of contributing to this. Water hawthorn is also a favourite of ours and is an excellent companion to lilies as it flowers either side of the main lily season and has a fabulous scent.

Water lilies are the classic pond plant and every pond, whatever size should have at least one! Apart from looking beautiful they perform a whole host of essential functions in the pond environment, including: keeping the pond cool in hot weather by shading the water from the sun, helping to reduce algae; competing for surplus nutrients in the pond, which also helps to control algae; providing shelter and cover for fish and amphibians; providing egg laying sites for dragonflies and damselflies; and giving perching and roosting sites for insects and amphibians.

They come in many different sizes, so you should be able to find one to suit your pond whether it’s a small container or a large lake. We stock a good selection of sizes and colours including 5 of the 6 water lilies that carry the RHS AGM ‘seal of approval’, including the Chromatella, Escarboucle, Gladstoniana, Gonnere and James Brydon.

We have lilies in various sizes from 1 litre to 4 litres so please check the individual lily product page to see which sizes are available. Lilies supplied in aquatic baskets are topped with gravel and fed with a slow release fertiliser tab prior to dispatch. Any lily supplied in a solid pot should be potted-up into an aquatic basket before placing in the pond unless you are planning to plant it directly into the soil in a natural pond.

Click here for All You Need to Know about Water lilies.

How to Care for Water Lilies & Other Aquatic Plants

We recommend planting aquatic plants in Fabric Pond Pots or no-hole plastic containers (see the “Plant Supplies” section of the shopping cart) to minimize maintenance. Use a heavy clay loam (not potting soil) or a packaged soil specific for aquatic plants. Using the wrong type of soil can cause numerous problems. Most aquatics require at least 5 hours of direct sunlight for optimum growth. Do not cover the growing point of water lilies with soil or gravel.

Placing Plants in the Pond

Tropical Water Lilies
Day and night blooming- tropical water lilies should be planted in pots at least 10″ in diameter (a smaller container will result in a smaller plant). A 10 to 14 inch fabric pot (or 10 x 6 to 12 x 7.3/4 inch plastic pot) should suffice for each lily. Fill the pot 1/2 full with a loam garden soil and add 2-4 fertilizer tablets, then continue to fill the pot to about 2 inches from the top. The tuber should be set upright with the roots buried gently in the soil. Make sure the tip of the tuber is not buried. Next, add an inch or two of pea gravel or sand in order to prevent the soil from escaping from the container. Remember to keep the gravel away from the crown of the tuber. The plant can now be lowered into the water to a depth of approximately 6 inches over the crown of the water lily. As the plant grows, it can be lowered to a depth of 12 inches. tropical water lilies cannot tolerate cold temperatures and should not be planted until the water temperature reaches at least 70 degrees. Planting too early can cause dormancy and restrict the potential growth of the plant. Tropicals bloom from late spring through early fall, depending on the weather. Fertilizer tablets should be added every 3-4 weeks. (See the “Plant Supplies” section of the shopping cart for aquatic plant fertilizer.)

Hardy Water Lilies
Hardy water lilies are planted in much the same way as the tropicals using a loam garden soil and 2-3 fertilizer tablets. Hardy lilies grow horizontally across the container so a wide pot is necessary for planting (a 14 or 16inch fabric pot is the best container). The rhizome should be planted at one edge of the container with the rhizome planted at an angle of about 45 degrees with the crown exposed. Top with an inch or two of pea gravel or sand. The plant can be lowered to a depth of 6 inches to begin with, and then lowered to a depth of 12 – 18 inches as the plant grows. Hardy lilies should be planted in early spring and should be fertilized every 4-6 weeks. They bloom from June through September depending on the weather, and become dormant during the colder months. As spring approaches, growth will begin again. (See the “Plant Supplies” section of the shopping cart for aquatic plant fertilizer.)

Dividing and Repotting Hardy Water Lilies
Hardy water lilies should be divided every two or three years depending on the plant container size. For the average to large size water lily, a five to seven gallon container is ideal. The best container will be shallow and wide. Small water lilies can be potted in a three to five gallon container.

Begin by removing the soil from the water lily using a water hose to expose the rhizomes. Select the best looking piece with good growth showing and cut to about three inches long, discard the remainder of the plant. Trim away excess roots and any damaged foliage from the selected piece.If the water lily is to remain unpotted for any length of time, keep it in the shade with damp paper towels or newspaper covering the plant.

Prepare the container by filling about three fourths full of aquatic planting soil (clay-based topsoil or packaged aquatic soil) and add ten grams of a good fertilizer such as 10-20-10 for every gallon of soil.

Mound some soil against one side of the container and place the rhizome at a 45 degree angle with the cut edge against the pot and the growing point at the level the top of the soil will be. Add more soil to within a couple of inches of the top of the container. Firm the soil in place and add about one inch of pea gravel to cover the soil keeping it from covering the growing point of the plant. Gently add some water to the container and then slowly lower the plant into the pond.

If you place the plant just a few inches under the water for the first few weeks, you will get faster growth. After this, place the plant at the proper growing depth (12 to 18 inches of water over the top of the plant). Fertilize the water lily every month with the same amount of fertilizer during the growing season.

Lotus come in several sizes from dwarf types that will grow in a two or three gallon container to the standards which are better off in a twenty to thirty gallon container. Fill the container with the same soil that you would use for a water lily and fertilize with 5 to 10 grams of tablet fertilizer per gallon of soil. Place the tuber with the cut portion against the edge of the potting container. Place a stone on the tuber to hold it in place and add more soil but do not cover the growing point. Cover only with a couple of inches of water until the plant is growing well and then it can be lowered to several inches of water over the pot.Standard lotus that are planted in too small of a container will not bloom well. After the lotus are well established they can be fertilized every month during the growing season.

Lotus are hardy and should come back year after year.

Lily-like Aquatics
These plants grow similar to water lilies. They are rooted in a pot several inches under the water but the foliage grows to the surface and floats. Pot the same way as tropical water lilies except most are much smaller and only need a small pot.Use one fertilizer tablet every 4 – 6 weeks. Lower the container to 6 to 12 inches of water over the top of the pot. Some of these are hardy and will winter over, others are tropical and are treated as tropicals.

Shallow Water Plants
Marginal plants should be planted in individual containers of approximately 10 to 14 inch fabric pots. Plant as you would the lilies in a loam garden soil, but when adding fertilizer tablets, use 1 tablet for each gallon of soil. These plants should be fertilized about every 6-8 weeks. Marginal plants should be lowered to a depth of only 2-3 inches. They grow out of the water and are usually found at the water’s edge.

These plants require no planting. Simply place them in the water and they will grow. Many floating plants desire tropical temperatures and cannot tolerate a frost.

Underwater Plants
Underwater plants aid in maintaining clean and pure water. These plants help prevent algae growth. These plants can be potted in one gallon containers with pea gravel to hold them in place or they can be weighted and dropped to the bottom . Completely submerge these plants to a depth of at least 12 inches.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Water Lilies are one of the classic freshwater floral species.

These plants are so popular in part due to their pleasing looks and fragrant scent.

In our article below we will give you an insight into the wonderful world of Water Lilies.

We will be discussing everything you need to know about these aquatic plants and hopefully share some interesting information which even some of you expert Lily keepers may not know.

So stick around and start your Water Lily journey with us here today…

About Water Lilies

There are around 60 species of Water Lilies which make up the family Nymphaeaceae. They are found throughout many parts of the world in both temperate and tropical climates and they come in a lots of different colors, shapes and sizes.

All of these factors have made them one of the most popular species of aquatic plants to be kept within both the water gardening and fishkeeping.

Within these hobbies, people house these different species within lakes, ponds and even large aquariums.

They are kept for various reasons but the main aim for most people is to see these plants bloom their beautiful and fragrant flowers. However their joy is short lived, as sadly the flowers only last for around 4 days.

These species of aquatic plants provide both adult and juvenile species of fish with shade from the sun and shelter from predation. They also provide amphibious species like frogs with a place to rest (which is the classic image which comes to mind when you think about these wonderful plants).

A group of these plants will cost you anywhere from $18-$120.


Water Lilies come in lots of different colors, sizes and shapes. There are many different species which are known to exist, but they are all rooted within the substrate at the bottom of the water body they occupy.

At the top of their stems and at the surface of the water, thin, flat leaves sit afloat. They are usually round with a V-shaped split down the center.

However Giant Water Lilies have pads which can grow to 9 feet in diameter and have upturned edges.

These pads can vary in color both between individuals and species. Most however, are green with a dark reddish to purple pigmentation.

From the rhizome, stems can also form which possess a spear-like tip.

Once this tip grows and protrudes from the water, within a day or two it will begin to open up and reveal a beautiful and fragrant flower which can be one of a large number of different colors (once again species dependent).

It is these flowers which make the plant so popular.

Pink Water Lily

The Pink Water Lily which is also referred to as Pink Darwin Water Lily, is scientifically known as Nymphaea darwin. The stems can grow as large as 3 feet tall and can have a spread of nearly 5 feet across.

This plant usually produces stunning pink flower flowers between June and September. The flowers only last for around 4 days before re-submerging themselves.

They are a relatively inexpensive aquatic plant which can be purchased from most aquatic garden centers or online for between $15-30.

Purple Water Lily

Over the past decade, the hybridization of aquatic plants has exploded. This has resulted in new strains of Water Lilies, with the most extravagantly colored ones being a deep and vibrant purple.

A lot of different garden centers or online stores are now producing their own patented hybrids, and the purple ones can set you back as much as $110.

How to Plant a Water Lily

When it comes to planting your Water Lily, there are five things you are going to need. These are a planter, soil, pea gravel, slow release fertilizer balls and the plant itself.

The size of the planter you use depends on the size of the Lily you have chosen and whether the plant will be placed within an aquarium or a pond.

As for the substrate, you need to use soil which has a low organic matter content and not composting soil as it will pollute your water. To start, simply fill the planter with soil and compact it until you have around 3 inches of space left.

The next step is to dig a small trench in the soil around half an inch deep, then place the tuber (the root body) of the plant sideways to one side of the planter to allow it to grow across the pot.

Probably the most important thing you need to do in order to have healthy growth is to add a slow release fertilizer ball. This provides essential nutrients and lots of Water Lilies will not grow without one.

They should be pushed into the soil next to the plant.

After adding the fertilizer and extra soil, you should gently place some more soil over the tuber and then fill the pot to an inch below the rim with pea gravel to prevent the soil from escaping (this also prevents the water to become discolored).

You can now place the plant within the aquarium or pond, it can be planted in the foreground, midground or background.

The ideal location for this plant would be in the midground, in the center of the aquarium because it is a fast growing plant.

By placing it in the center of the aquarium you provide the plant with room in every direction for the stems and leaves to spread.

Pond Setup and Conditions

As there are so many different species, it is impossible to give one set of parameters which are correct for all the species.

Species that usually dwell in the tropics require a stable water temperature of at least 70-80°F.

Whereas hardy temperate species can be grown throughout the year within indoor ponds and aquariums by maintaining a water temperature of 70°F. The reason they are a hardy species is due to the fact they are able to survive the winter in these colder climates where water temperatures can drop to 47°F.

Both tropical and temperate species grow best when in full sunlight.

So to grow them indoors artificial lighting which mimics that of the sun (around 6500 Kelvin) will need to be provided for 10-12 hours each day. Cool white LED lights are perfect for this and are relatively inexpensive and extremely efficient.

When considering what size aquarium you will need to house your Water Lily within, we recommend a minimum 50 gallon aquarium. The species you choose will ultimately decide the tank size as some grow fairly small whereas others can become huge and should be kept in ponds.

Water Lily Care and Maintenance

Giant Water Lily

Caring for these plants requires extremely good attention to detail as they can be subjected to pests, diseases and overcrowding.

These plants often come under attack by pests such as midge larvae which can severely damage their leaves if left uncontrolled. They can be prevented by adding species such as Mosquito Fish to your aquarium which will consume both adult and larval midges.

Another common pest is the Water Lily Leaf Beetle which feeds on the surface of the leaves. You can remove them by hand as well as covering the aquarium with a hood or mesh lining.


To keep your plant healthy and supplement its growth, you will need to add a fertilizer ball to the potted substrate to provide the beneficial nutrients required for plant growth. This should be done once every 2 months to ensure maximum growth and disease prevention.

The addition of a carbon dioxide system will also benefit the plants.

These however are not essential as Water Lilies are extremely fast growers when kept in the right conditions.

Because of this, they will require a fair amount of maintenance as they can soon overcrowd your aquarium/pond.

When the stems and leaves overcrowd one another, you will notice they start to die off. You want to try and avoid this because when they rot and break down, they release nitrate into the water.

Too much nitrate leads to unwanted algal blooms.

In order to prevent this, regular trimming should be undertaken. Use a sharp pair of scissors and simply cut the stems of the leaves which are yellow. Try to cut them as close to the base of the plant as possible.

Water Lily Propagation

Water Lilies have two methods of reproduction: the production of seeds and also vegetative reproduction.

When the plant blooms, the flower will only last for around 3-4 days. On the first day, the flower produces a sweet and fragrant liquid which attracts insects like bees that are needed for pollination.

Providing these organisms have visited other Water Lily flowers, pollen will wash off of their bodies and fertilize the female reproductive organ (stigma).

The following days, the male reproductive organ (stamen) will produce pollen which is carried by pollinators to fertilize other plants.

After day 3-4, the flower will begin to recede beneath the water and up to 2000 seeds will begin to be produced within the plant over the next couple of weeks.

These seeds are then released into the water and will float on the surface, they are then carried to different locations until they become waterlogged and sink to the substrate where new plants will form.

If you are keeping a Water Lily inside, you can fertilize the flowers yourself by transplanting pollen from one plant to another. This is difficult as you need several individual plants to flower at the same time.

The second reproductive method of this species is propagation via vegetative reproduction. This is definitely the easier method of propagating your plants as it will naturally occur on its own. The plant will produce it’s own runners/rhizomes which are essentially clones of their parent plant and can be detached from the parent in a process known as rhizome division.

They are often referred to as daughter plants and they can be separated from the roots of the parent and transplanted into their own pots with substrate and slow release fertilizers to aid growth.

Buyer’s Guide

Before going down to your local garden center, make sure you research individual species to find out how large they grow and the conditions they need to be kept in.

Don’t just buy the first plant you see.

Carefully inspect the plants before buying them.

Look out for any pests which have burrowed into the leaves of the plant and eaten long ridges out of them.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is crown rot.

The visual signs to look out for are yellow curling leaves which can be pulled off from the main plant body with ease. It is very important that you never buy plant which you believe to have crown rot.

Spend your money wisely on the correct and healthy plant for your aquarium. This is extremely important, especially when you consider that these plants can cost anywhere from $18-120 depending on the species.

Water Lily Pond Mates and Compatibility

Because these freshwater plants can be either temperate or tropical, there are lots of living organisms that they can be kept with.

You can keep them with other aquatic plants like American Water, Java Fern and American Eelgrass. Hornwort on the other hand should be avoided entirely as it excretes a chemical which stunts the growth of a Water Lily.

Keeping aquatic plants has a variety of benefits for your aquarium, including the production of dissolved oxygen.

In addition to plants, there are lots of fish which make superb tank mates.

One such species is the Otocinclus Catfish which can help these plants as they are algae eating species that eat algae off of every surface in the aquarium (including the leaves and stems of these plants).

Bristlenose Plecostomus, along with Siamese Algae Eaters will also do this same task. Live bearing species like Guppies, Platys and Mollies are also perfect species to be kept in the same aquarium as Water Lilies.

You should avoid predominantly vegetarian species like larger Cichlids and Silver Dollars – they will eat the plant. Goldfish species should also be avoided as they have a reputation for uprooting any and all aquatic plants in their path.

However, you can combat this by purchasing specialized netting which surrounds the leave and stem of the plant.

Whilst these nets take away from the visual beauty of the plant, they are effective.

If you are keeping Lilies in a Koi pond, nets are a must.

Are Water Lilies Suitable For Your Pond? (Summary)

These wonderful aquatic plants are the highlight of most collections with their stunning flowers which come in lots of different colors.

There are dozens of different types you can choose from and if you don’t have a large aquarium or pond then you should stick to the smaller species.

When it comes to picking good companions to keep in your aquarium along with your Water Lilies, there are a lot of great options to choose from. Just avoid anything with an appetite for plants.

Have you kept these magnificent aquatic plants before? Let us know in the comments section below…

Everything there is to know about keeping fish.

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Small ponds with miniature water plants excite the imagination

Whether you live in an apartment with only a small balcony, have a secluded courtyard on even a little garden nook. The smallest garden can be transformed using miniature water plants to create a delightful focal point.

Patio ponds using large urns can give you that tropical resort feel, creating your own garden retreat. The peaceful sound of water babbling in the background soothes the mind, taking you away from the stresses of today’s hustle and bustle.

Table top displays using decorative bowls make wonderful centre pieces. Hanging basket and even window boxes can be converted and used to display miniature water plants.

Can I grow miniature water lilies in a bowl?

Miniature water lilies and other miniature water plants are ideal for the smaller water features. These plants will grow happily in almost any container that will hold water, so the possibilities are endless.

See Pond Themes – Small ponds/water bowls for other miniature water plants.

Miniature water lilies are available in a range of flower colours similar to the hardy water lilies including – Apricots, Pinks, Reds, Whites and Yellows. Some even change colours….There are also dwarf flowering tropical waterlilies producing blue flowers.

We define dwarf or pygmy waterlilies as those that produce flowers about tea cup size 7-8cm, whereas the true miniature water lilies produce flowers down to 4cm across.

How do I care for my miniature water lilies?

Just add water. Well it may seem simple, but they do not need a lot of work. As with any plant, some maintenance is required to get the best results. Miniature water lilies need about 10cm of water above the crown, whereas most other water lilies prefer 30-60cm. Miniature water lilies tend to grow slower than their bigger brothers, so they do not need dividing – repotting as often, typically every 2-3 years may be enough for the smallest types. However they still need to be fed. We recommend slow release fertiliser tablets applied in late Spring.


  1. Miniature water lilies need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to flower. Some varieties such as Nymphaea ‘Helvola’ can tolerate light shade.
  2. For information on the plant care and maintenance of miniature water lilies go to our Tips & Hints page.

Please use our store locator to contact your nearest garden centre, to place an order

Here along the Gulf Coast, waterlilies are repotted annually, starting in April. Otherwise, they become crowded and will not bloom as frequently. Remember to use clay-based topsoil to repot. (Do not use commercial potting mixes)

Starting 2 months after repotting, fertilize with 2 Pondtabbs per 7qts. every two weeks until October.

  1. Wash all soil off the lily roots. Hardy waterlilies produce long fleshy roots called rhizomes, these can be cut when repotting.
  2. The part of the root where the leaves emerge is called the growing tip. Cut the rhizome 4-5 inches back from the growing tip.
  3. Use a 7 qt pot or larger without drainage holes. Fill 1/3 full with topsoil, sprinkle with 1 tbsp of Landon Fertilizer per 7 qts. of soil and mix thoroughly.
  4. Dig a shallow trench from the center of the pot to the side; next lay in the rhizome with the growing tip pointing toward the center.
  5. Fill with topsoil to within 1-2” of top.
  6. Firmly punch down the soil to eliminate any air pockets.
  7. Top off with a 1/2” layer of sand and then a 1/2”-1” layer of pea gravel.
  8. Gently lower the waterlily back into the pond.

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