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Hardy water lilies

Since there does seem to be some interest in this forum in ponds and pond
plants, I thought I would post a little of my research on Hardy water

Hardy Water Lilies, (Nymphaea sp)

Hardy lilies are perennials and frost tolerant. These lilies are produced
from rhizomes and grow horizontally. They are sweetly fragrant and bloom on,
or just above the water's surface. Each blossom lasts 3 to 5 days and opens
in the morning and closes late afternoon. They should be fed every two to
four weeks from May1 through September 1. You will be able to enjoy these
lilies year after year and they are available in pink, red, white, yellow,
peach/orange, and a changeable, (starts one color and later changes to

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical lilies are exotic! They evoke romance and glamour. They are very
fragrant and are exquisite as cut flowers. Tropicals are treated as annuals
and are frost tender. They hold their blossoms high above the water and come
in vibrant colors- blue, lavender, pink, green, purple, red, white, yellow,
and autumn shades. They grow from tubers and produce large leaves, some with
frilly edges, some with striking mottling, all with spectacular blooms. They
require 5-6 hours of direct sunlight and still water 6-18" deep over the
rootstock. Fertilize freely every 2 to 4 weeks from May to September. Day
bloomers open mid to late morning and close mid to late afternoon. Night
bloomers open at dusk and remain open until mid to late morning the next
day. Dark, cloudy days allow them to remain open later in the day. A pool
containing both day and night blooming lilies can be enjoyed any hour of the
day or night!

Planting and care instructions


Day and night bloomers should be planted in pots at least 12" in diameter. A
three to five gallon size should suffice for each lily. Fill the pot half
full with a rich garden soil and add 2 to 4 fertilizer tablets, then
continue to fill the pot with soil to about 2 inches from the top. The
rhizome should be then set upright with the roots buried gently in the soil.
Make sure the top of the rhizome is not buried. Next add an inch or two of
gravel or sand to prevent the soil from escaping into the water. Keep the
gravel away from the rhizome or crown. The plant can be lowered into the
water at a depth of about 6". As the plant grows it can be lowered further
to a depth of 12". Use bricks under the pot to keep the desired height.
Tropicals can not tolerate the cold, and should not be put outside until the
water is at least 70F. Planting too early will cause dormancy and restrict
the potential growth of the plant. the plants bloom from late spring to
early fall depending on the weather.


Hardies are planted the same way, but should be planted in early spring.
They bloom from June to September depending on the weather, and become
dormant during the colder months. As spring approaches, growth will begin


Although a certain amount of algae is normal, too much can be unsightly.
Green water is often a problem in full sun and well fertilized plants. It is
very effective to encourage a healthy growth of oxygenating and surface
plants to help starve out the algae.  Sound familiar aquarium people? :)


Fertilize every two to 4 weeks during the spring and summer season. Prune
old leaves and flowers. Treat for pests as needed.


The symptoms are small pinholes surrounded by a brown halo. This bug problem
can be controlled by simply washing the bugs off with a stream of water from
a garden hose. Most insecticides are not recommended if you have fish.

"Sandwich man" a/k/a Cut worm a/k/a Delta Moth Larvae

The symptoms are small chunks cut from the leaf margin. Look for small
whitish caterpillars sandwiched between two pieces of leaf. This moth
caterpillar is the most common pest to water lilies. It is easily treated
with Dipel. If the leaf is unsightly, simply remove it at the base of the

Container Ponds

You do not have to have a large in ground pond to enjoy these plants. Any
container that will hold water and is large enough for at least one potted
plant will work. People have used plastic child swimming pools, wisky
barrels, tubs, troughs, and all sorts of things. Last week I found plastic
55 gallon storage bins, shaped like a trough or bath tub at Walmart for $14.
I am going to sink a couple of them in the ground, and have a couple more
just sitting above ground. Small container ponds are great on a patio or
balcony and even indoors in a well lit room.

Buying lilies

When looking for lilies, you can often find them now in garden stores.
Common hardy lilies are sold as bare tubers by color and run $5 to $10. But
there is a long list of special hybrids with unique colors, blooms, and lily
pads. These are much more expensive and typically only available from
specialized dealers. I will list a few here: First the two I brought in
earlier this week:

Sioux-changeable, Marliac 1908:  Medium sized lily.  Extremely free
flowering. Blossom opens a pale yellow deepening to a peach, and then to a
copper red. Flower shape is star like with lanceolate petals. Nice

Georgia Peach, Strawn 1990: Medium sized lily Rich peach colored flowers are
held 4-8" above the water. Extremely free flowering. Nicely mottled pads
which fade with age.

More Changeables

Andreana, Marliac, 1895 Small lily, Flowers begin yellowish, turning to near
red by the third day. Leaves green with reddish blotches. Great for small
pools and tubs.

Comanche, Marliac 1908, Medium lily, Blossoms opens yellow and turns copper
bronze. Speckled foliage. Flower shape is cup like then star like. Very
pleasant fragrance. Long season. Tolerates partial shade.

Indiana, Latour-Marliac Nursery 1912 Small lily, Very free flowering. Petals
are apricot, then apricot-orange, then deep orange-red. Flower shape is cup
like then wide open. Green leaf. Very slight fragrance.

More Peach

Barbara Dobbins, Strawn, medium lily, Beautiful cup shaped flower rises 6 to
10" above water. Pads are dark green speckled with brown.

Berit Strawn, Strawn, 1990, small lily, Very free flowering. Small light
orange cup shaped flowers. Heavily mottled leaves. Best for small to medium

Pink grapefruit, Davis Creek Nursery 1997, medium to large lily, Large
peachy pink blossoms that stand very high above the water surface. Leaves
are round and speckled.


American Star, Slocum 1985, Medium sized lily, Fairly free flowering. star
shaped, pink flowers. Long, narrow petals. Pleasant fragrance. Profuse

Hollandia (syn Darwin), Marliac 1909, medium to large sized lily, Free
flowering. Large, double, soft pink flowers with round green leaves. Slight
fragrance. Excellent cut flower.

Joanne Pring, Pring 1942, Small sized lily, Free flowering. Flower shape is
cup like. Tiny deep pink flowers, wide petals, tips lighter in color. Dark
green leaves 2-3" in diameter. Slight fragrance. I'd like to put these all
over my patio in barrels!


Attraction, Marliac 1910, Medium to large sized lily, Rich garnet blossoms.
Largest of the red hardy lilies. Flower shape is cup like, then star like.
Very slight fragrance, Free bloomer. A very popular choice. Excellent cut

Burgundy Princess, Strawn, Small sized lily, Red blooms. Dark green, round

Ellisiana, Marliac 1896, Small sized lily, Very free flowering. Brilliant
red petals. Green leaves. Full star flower shape. Quite noticeable
fragrance. Excellent for tub gardens.

Rembrant, Marliac, medium to large sized lily, strong growing hybrid. Garnet
red blooms. White sepals. Dark green foliage.


Moon Dance, Florida Aquatic Nurseries, 2001, medium to large size lily,
Beautiful and abundant white star shaped blossoms with bright yellow centers
that stand high above nicely mottled foliage.

Denver, Strawn, 1995, small to medium size lily, Double creamy white blooms.
Leaves green with maroon blotches

Alba Plenissima, small sized lily, Pretty white flowers with yellow stamens.
Leaves are almost round and deep green

Hermine, Joseph B.L. Marliac, 1910, small sized lily, star shaped white
flowers with yellow centers and olive green heart shaped leaves. Great
choice for tub gardens.


Helvola (syn yellow pigmy), Marliac 1910, miniature size lily (pad 1 to 2"
diameter) Very free flowering. Miniature bright yellow flowers. Flower shape
is cup like, then star like. Mottled foliage. Very slight fragrance.
Tolerate partial shade.

Sulphurea, Marliac, 1879, medium size lily, Fairly free flowering. Lemon
yellow flowers. Leaves slightly marbled. Flower shape is cup like then star
like. Quite sweet fragrance. tolerates partial shade.

Sunrise, Marliac 1888, medium to large size lily, Giant canary yellow
blossoms. Petals are long, narrow, and curve inward slightly. Leaves are
dark green. Flower shape is star like. Very slight fragrance.

Want to learn even more? Much of this information was taken from the Water
Garden Plant Manual, a spiral bound book put out by the wholesaler I buy
from. Many more hardy hybrids are listed, as well as Tropicals, floating
plants, and marginals. This book is available for  $19.00

Happy gardening

Robert Paul Hudson