Miniature Water Lily Pots for the Patio

March 29, 2017 3:58 pm

The white pygmy water lily is tiny and perfect for container culture.

Nothing is more cooling in summer than a water garden filled with water lilies. Lack of space and resources for a garden pond keep most gardeners from growing these beautiful aquatic flowers, but what if a pond isn’t needed? Spacious troughs or large pots without drainage holes can be converted into small water gardens for miniature water lily varieties. If you have a partially sunny patio, deck, or flat garden space that can take the weight of a water-filled pot, you are set!

Choosing a Container

Any deep, spacious, water-tight pot will hold miniature water lilies.

Water lily pots have to be large and spacious, so start with choosing a container that’s at least 15-18 inches deep and 24-40 inches wide. This will give you enough water-holding space for your lilies and their roots.
Pots must be water tight. Specialty “no hole” pots designed for aquascaping are sold, but you can also fill line large pots with pond liner, which is often the cheaper option. Simply cut the liner to a round that will fit in your pot and fit it snugly along the inner lip of the pot. Its helps to apply a strong, non-toxic adhesive along the edge to keep it in place.

Choosing Miniature Waterlilies

The yellow water lily ‘Helvola’ is a classic compact variety that grows beautifully in containers.

True miniature water lilies are so tiny that some even have flowers the size of a quarter. Many are pygmy waterlily (Nymphaea tetragona) variants, which are very hardy—surviving winters as cold as USDA Hardiness Zones 4-11, with good protection. They come in a suite of colors that include ivory, pale yellow, pink, and red. The best for home gardens are easy to find online or in specialty stores.
One of the tiniest miniatures is the white pygmy water lily (Nymphaea tetragona ‘Alba’). The hardy plants reach 18 to 24 inches across and sport tiny white flowers that float alongside teensie white flowers. Another beautiful white-flowered variety with much bigger, tulip-shaped flowers but a small growth habit is ‘Hermine’.
The peach-pink-flowered ‘Berit Strawn’ (Nymphaea ‘Berit Strawn’) has larger flowers (3 to 4 inches) and pads of deep green with some reddish mottling. The tiny plant is perfect for container growing, is very hardy, and will bloom nonstop from early summer to fall. Plants will spread between 24 and 30 inches.

‘Hermine’ is a stunning, white-flowered miniature water lily.

One of the smallest red-flowered miniatures is ‘Perry Baby Red’ (Nymphaea ‘Perry Baby Red’). Its rosy red flowers compliment dark green pads. Plants spread 12 to 36 inches.
An old classic mini water lily is the hardy ‘Indiana’ (Nymphaea ‘Indiana’). Its tricolored, 2- to 3-inch flowers are in shades of rose-red, yellow, and orange. The diminutive plants have a spread of 12 to 28 inches and small green pads with reddish spots.
One of the best yellow-flowered water lilies is the cheerful ‘Yellow Pygmy’ (Nymphaea ‘Helvola’). Flowers are only a couple of inches across, but they are bright and pretty. Plants reach 18 to 36 inches across.

There are lots of great sources for miniature water lilies. Lilypons and Texas Water Lilies are good sources that offer quality selections.

Planting Waterlilies

Water lily ‘Helvola’ in full bloom. (Photo by Jessie Keith)

Water lilies grow from fleshy tubers that must be grounded in smaller pots sunk below the surface of your water container. Choose a wide, shallow plastic pot that will fit in the bottom of your container while providing plenty of head space. Planting depth can be 5 to 24 inches from the water surface. Pots should be placed where they can get 6 hours of sun per day or more.
Line the pots with porous but tight-knit plastic burlap. The base soil should consist of a 3:1 mixture of heavy loam and Fafard Premium Natural & Organic Compost. The compost and soil must be well combined before planting. Finally, add a small amount of a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer to the mix. Over fertilization can cause algal bloom.
Sink the tuber into the soil, so the top of the plant meets the soil line. Once it is planted, line the top 2 inches of the pot with pea gravel to help keep the soil and plant in place. Place the pot on the bottom on the container and stabilize a flat, 1 to 2 inch thick rock along one side of the pot, so it sits at an angle; this helps with gas exchange for healthy root growth. Gently fill the pot with clean tap water to a depth a couple of inches below the lip of the pot.

Maintaining Potted Waterlilies

Clean, fresh water is important to the health of potted water lilies.

Keeping the water clean in your water lily pot is important. Remove any debris that falls in the water, and cut old leaves from your water lilies. Refresh the water regularly as it recedes. Small- to medium-sized water pots don’t need aeration filters.
Water-filled containers cannot be allowed to freeze in winter, even if your water lily is hardy. Freezing and thawing can also cause containers to crack. The best course of action is to drain the container before the first freeze of the season, remove the lily pot (being sure to cut back the leaves), and store it in a water-filled bucket in a cool place. Water lily tubers should be divided every two to three years.
Water lily pots are colorful, impressive, and will brighten any summer garden spot. If you want the tranquil beauty of a pond without all the work and hassle, plant one this season.

About Jessie Keith

Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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This site may contain content (including images and articles) as well as advice, opinions and statements presented by third parties. Sun Gro does not review these materials for accuracy or reliability and does not endorse the advice, opinions, or statements that may be contained in them. Sun Gro also does not review the materials to determine if they infringe the copyright or other rights of others. These materials are available only for informational purposes and are presented “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. Reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement or other information is at your own risk. In no event shall Sun Gro Horticulture Distribution, Inc. or any of its affiliates be liable to you for any inaccuracy, error, omission, fact, infringement and the like, resulting from your use of these materials, regardless of cause, or for any damages resulting there from.

Helvola, Yellow Pygmy, Pygmy Water Lily ‘Helvola’


Unknown – Tell us


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Bloom Color:



Gold (yellow-orange)

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall





Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

Seed Collecting:

Unknown – Tell us

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Water Requirements:

Very high moisture needs; suitable for bogs and water gardens

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Ames, Iowa

Villas, New Jersey

Staten Island, New York

Pickens, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

San Antonio, Texas

Utopia, Texas

Stanwood, Washington

show all

Nymphaea x ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ Hardy Waterlily1

Edward F. Gilman2


This dwarf waterlily is a hardy hybrid that floats its round foliage and produces a slightly fragrant, multi-petaled, yellow flower just above the water (Fig. 1). It is a prolific flowering waterlily that can be used in many backyard water gardens. It needs only about 3 square feet of water surface area to spread its leaves. This makes it nicely suited for a small tub on a deck or sunny patio. Each mottled leaf lasts about 6 weeks before turning yellow. This is normal and should not be cause for concern. Flower showiness is legendary, and each flower lasts several days, but flowers close in late afternoon and at night. Although ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ requires full sun for best flowering, this one will produce some flowers with only 4 or 5 hours of direct sun.

Figure 1.

‘Pygmaea Helvola’ hardy waterlily

General Information

Scientific name: Nymphaea x ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ Pronunciation: nim-FEE-uh Common name(s): ‘Pygmaea Helvola’ hardy waterlily Family: Nymphaeaceae Plant type: aquatic plant USDA hardiness zones: 3 through 10 (Fig. 2) Planting month for zone 7: year round Planting month for zone 8: year round Planting month for zone 9: year round Planting month for zone 10: year round Origin: not native to North America Uses: cut flowers; attracts butterflies Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant Figure 2.

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: .5 to 1 feet Spread: 2 to 4 feet Plant habit: not applicable Plant density: open Growth rate: fast Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem Leaf type: simple Leaf margin: entire Leaf shape: orbiculate Leaf venation: palmate Leaf type and persistence: evergreen Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches Leaf color: variegated Fall color: no fall color change Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: yellow Flower characteristic: pleasant fragrance; summer flowering; fall flowering; spring flowering


Fruit shape: unknown Fruit length: unknown Fruit cover: unknown Fruit color: unknown Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable Current year stem/twig color: not applicable Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun Soil tolerances: acidic; grows submerged in water Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: not applicable Winter interest: no special winter interest Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more Invasive potential: not known to be invasive Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Waterlilies grow in standing water about 18 inches deep and spread by means of rhizomes. They can be prevented from spreading by planting in a container without drainage holes and submerging the container into the water garden. This helps prevent the plant from invading the entire water garden.

Waterlilies should be planted in a container filled with garden soil or potting mix. A shallow and wide container is better than a tall, narrow container. The garden soil can be mixed with one-fifth well-decomposed cow manure. Incorporate fertilizer at an equivalent rate of about one-quarter cup 10-10-10 per gallon of soil or media to help stimulate growth. Before filling the container, place a small plastic bag filled with sand at the bottom to keep it from floating in the pond. Plant the rhizome at the edge of the container so it can grow horizontally across the top. Place a 1- or 2-inch layer of sand or gravel over the top of the media after the rhizome is planted in the pot to keep media and soil in the container. Lower the container into 6 inches of water until growth begins. Then it can be set so the bottom is no more than 18 inches below the surface. If the water is too deep, place a brick or concrete block under the container. Do not construct containers from treated lumber since growth could be severely inhibited.

The only maintenance required is a monthly application of a slow-release fertilizer. Tablets manufactured by various companies can be placed several inches below the sand or gravel layer at the top of the container. Follow the manufacturers’ directions to determine appropriate number of tablets.


This document is FPS442, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola”


Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola”

Flower color: Bright yellow

Flower diameter: 3 to 5 cm.

Water depth: 40 to 50 cm

Leaves: Dark green round leaves up to 10 cm.

Notes: Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” is a very beautiful flowering dwarf species. It can also be placed very well in a bowl on the terrace.

The delivery os plants and rhizomes starts from april to the end of september.

Maintenance water Lily Plant/Rhizome Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” :

We send water lilies without dirt, packed in water-retaining materials. After the arrival of your plant or rhizome, you should put it in a bowl of water during the first day. This is necessary for strengthening the plant/rhizome.

The next day, you can plant your Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” . You can use a pond basket of at least 19 x 19 cm for this. For small sorts. You fill your pond basket with water lily dirt and lightly press it (never put your water lily in potting soil or sharp sand). Then, you make a hole or groove in which you can place the rhizome of the plant. You nearly put the rhizome horizontally in the groove so that the growing point sticks out above the dirt. You can then cover the rhizome with some dirt. Do not place heavy stones on the rhizome for it may get damaged. You can also cover your pond basket with jute on the inside, this prevents the dirt from flowing away.

Your water lily Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” will need the first weeks for gaining strength. After the first weeks, leaves will get to the surface of the water.

Most water lilies prefer a sunny location. Some sorts also flourish on a semi-shaded location, you can see this in the description of the chosen water lily. If you would like to make your water lily grow faster, you can place it on the desired depths step by step after purchase. This way it gets more sunlight at the start, resulting in a powerful plant.

Dwarf and little like Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” sorts can also be placed in a bowl or pot on the terrace. This way, you can also place water lilies in a small garden or on a balcony.

Once your water lily Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” has started growing, older leaves will die off as well. You can recognize this from the leaves that start colouring from yellow to brown. Leaves that have coloured enough and start falling to pieces can be removed with scissors/water lily pliers. It is definitely not a good idea to pull of the leaves, as this may damage the rhizome. Flowers that have dried out will withdraw themselves underwater. The same rule applies to the dried-out flowers underwater, you can cut off the flowers, but you should not pull them off.

Once your water lily Nymphaea “Pygmaea Helvola” has become rooted, you can start fertilising it; you can use water lily fertiliser cartridges for this. Only use water lily fertiliser, because this does not damage your further life and your pond. You can press the fertiliser cartridges about 4 to 5 cm into the dirt around the rhizomewith your finger. Make sure the fertiliser is covered beneath a layer of dirt, this prevents it from floating. Fertilising your water lily results in improved bloom and growth. You fertilise your water lily for the first time once the leaves have started growing. You stop fertilising around half of August, so the water lily has time to harden off for the upcoming winter. The amount of fertiliser that should be used each time depends on the format of the pond basket. You can find the correct amount on the fertiliser’s product description.

During the end of summer, you will see that your water lily has started its resting phase. The liliesstart to grow less quickly and increasingly less leaves and flowers will come up. You will see all leaves die off. No further care is needed during the winter period.

If you have any questions after this description, we would be happy to answer them. You can contact us by phone +31 (0)344-643082 or by using the contact form.

Nymphaea Pygmaea Helvola-barerooted-large sized rhizomes for Pygmaea Helvola

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Why Use Small, Or Even Tiny Water Lilies?

You might not have enough garden space, or maybe installing a pond is more of a project than you want to tackle. Perhaps you have a small water feature and thought you would like to add some sort of aquatic flowering plants to it. Maybe you’re new to growing aquatic plants.

Dwarf and miniature water lilies are perfect for all these situations. If you do not have a “water feature” or a pond then these little gems could make the perfect addition to a small patio container pond or a table top water bowl.

In a few words, dwarf water lilies make the joy of growing pond plants even more accessible to more gardeners.

Nymphaea “Helvola”

Helvola is a small yellow hardy water lily and probably the most popular type of dwarf water lily. Commonly available, this variety will bloom all summer in zones 3-11. This is a great choice for growing in containers, even with other aquatic plants (if you have enough room).

Yellow Pygmy Dwarf Water Lily (Nymphaea Pygmaea ‘Helvola’)

Nymphaea “Perry’s Baby Red” has brilliant red double flowers, also a good choice for a container pond.

Hardy Vs. Tropical Water Lilies

Dwarf and miniature water lilies come in both types. The two main differences between tropical and hardy water lilies are:

  1. The flowers of hardy water lilies float on the surface of the water, tropicals will stick an inch or two out of the water.
  2. Tropical water lilies like warm Winters, and will thrive in zones 9-11. If it typically freezes where you live more nights than you would like to bring a tropical water lily indoors, then hardy water lilies are the right choice for you. Hardy types thrive in zones 4-11.

Nymphea “Snow Princess” is a dwarf tropical with pure white blooms. Nymphaea “Laydekeri Lilacea” is a dwarf pink tropical water lily, great for container gardens

How To Plant A Dwarf Water Lily

Are There Any Dwarf Lotus Plants?

Yes there are! Nelumbo “Momo Botan” seems to be the most commonly available type. It has pink, double flowers. “Momo Botan” is also a hardy variety, growing from zones 4-11.

There is even a “micro lotus”. Unfortunately it does not seem to be widely available at this time, so if you can find one online you can consider yourself pretty lucky.

In 2009 an extremely rare pigmy Rwandan water lily was stolen from the famous Kew Gardens near London.

The extremely valuable specimen grows in mud rather than water. A Scotland Yard spokesperson said that the thieves stole the irreplaceable tiny water lily in an area not covered by security cameras.

Sources For Dwarf Water Lilies And Lotus Plants

You can sometimes find live plants if you have a water garden nursery near you, otherwise, both seeds and live plants and tubers are available from a variety of online retailers.

If you receive a lotus tuber (root) or a bare-root water lily from an online retailer, be sure to plant it as soon as you can on the day it arrives through the mail. Bare-root plants and tubers are typically how they are shipped. A few popular online retailers are Lily Blooms, Pond Megastore, and Amazon.

How To Grow A Lotus

Lotus Vs. Water Lilies, What’s The Difference?

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