water lillies

Water Gardening – How To Grow Water Lilies

Summertime is flowering time for water lilies, and what could be prettier than our own blue water lily Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea?

You can buy ready-to-dunk plants from nurseries specialising in aquatic plants (they will have pretty hybrids as well) or bum a piece of rhizome from a garden friend with a well stocked lily pond, in which case a plant could simply be retrieved from the water, cleaned up of old leaves and stems, and then a piece of the rhizome or tuber cut off with a sharp breadknife.

How to plant your lilies

Use a shallow and wide container and add a layer of coarse gravel chips at the bottom. Fill the pot with some heavy clay soil and add in a generous handful of bonemeal). Plant the rhizome at an angle in the container, with a node sticking up above soil level. Cover the soil’s surface with a layer of gravel to stop the soil from washing out. Gently lower the planted container into the water.

Water Lilies: How long to grow and flower?

It can take two weeks to start growing, and blooming can be 2 – 4 weeks later. In ideal conditions, water lilies should produce the lovely blooms from September to March. Why no flowers? Sometimes water lilies don’t produce flowers.

These are some of the possible reasons:

  • Water level too shallow: It should be between 30cm and 1m deep.
  • Incorrect pH levels: These should be between 6.2 – 7.4. If in doubt, test your water with a pH meter.
  • Overcrowding: This can be detrimental to a plant’s performance.
  • Too little light: Water lilies prefer full sun for a least six hours per day.
  • Hungry plants: Push a slow-release aquatic fertiliser tablet into the container.

Special note: If water lily buds are attacked by aphids don’t spray – simply submerge the plants in the water with a piece of heavy mesh for a few days to drown the pests.

The Gardener