Planting Water Lilies

Planting Water Lilies

The first thing to consider before buying your water lilies, is the location in which they will be planted. All varieties will thrive in a sunny location and all will grow stronger, faster, and produce more flowers in warmer shallow waters. Hardy water lilies are extremely frost hardy and will survive long cold winters with temperatures down to as much as minus 20 degrees. Water lilies are easy to grow and need little maintenance. Their only requirements are a good feed of aquatic plant food once or twice a year and re-potting every few years, or as required, the later depending on the size of the planting container used and the speed of growth.

Hardy water lilies have 5 basic rhizome types, so different cultivars, depending on rhizome type, are suitable for different locations, ranging from small patio containers to natural clay bottomed lakes and ponds. It is therefore easier to deal with their planting requirements by the types of rhizome listed below.






Odorata and Tuberosa Type:

Water lilies of these types have a very different growing habit to the marliac, pineapple and pygmaea type rhizomes. Because of their growing habit, they are totally unsuitable for containers and should only be introduced to natural ponds where they can spread indefinitely. Odorata and Tuberosa water lilies grow from tuberous rhizomes that spread sideways 1 to 6 inches under the soil. Plants of this type, should always be supplied bare rooted. Odorata simply means fragrant, many of the upright type waterlilies are also fragrant.

Tuberous water lilies are easy to plant as you simply wade in and push the rhizomes into the soil. Position them on a very slight angle with the growing tip about 1 inch under the soil. If you are trying to colonize water lilies in deeper water, out of arms reach, there are one or two methods of planting that don’t require a full diving suit! Both these methods are a bit hit and miss. The first way is to wrap them up with clay or heavy top-soil in hessian or cloth that will eventually rot, and then tie the hessian secure with string to prevent any leaking soil. You now have a parcel of clay with a water lily tuber inside, and the next bit is easy. You simply drop them in from the surface of the water, or lob them in if the desired location is further out, The 2nd way is, to tie the rhizomes to bricks or large stones and use the same planting technique as above. Marliac and pineapple rhizomes can be planted exactly the same way. There is no rule as to how many tubers you can plant, as it ultimately depends on how much water surface area you have, and how quickly you want your lilies to become established. Unfortunately there are no guarantees when planting in this manner. I have planted water lilies this way on numerous occasions with a success rate of 30 to 90%

Marliac, Pineapple and Pygmaea Types

All the rhizomes of this type have a upright growing habit. Pineapple rhizomes are so-named because they look like a nobly pineapple. Pygmaea is the name referred to a small collection of miniature cultivars, all requiring the same planting technique.

The first thing is to choose a container. Large growing cultivars will require the stronger mesh plastic planting containers as they prefer more space to become established, small and miniature cultivars can be planted in containers or planting bags. Again there is no rule to how many rhizomes you can  plant at any one time, but you might want to consider planting just a single lily in a 4 liter container for a small pond, or 10 lilies in a large container to give a quicker established display of color. You will need hessian or cloth liners to prevent soil erosion and also aquatic soil and top aquatic gravel to protect your lily especially from foraging fish who may take a fancy to them. This will also add weight and stability to the basket. The top-gravel will keep the newly planted lily in place and creates a nice clean finished look.

Planting into baskets is easy. First, you line the basket with your hessian or cloth liner. The next step is, to plant your lily in an upright position into it. Water lilies of upright types, should be planted with the rhizomes below the soil level and the shoots above. Most rhizomes are supplied without roots. The roots should begin to sprout just below the shoots and stalks, but must be below the soil level. If you are unsure, push your lily down an inch or two to maybe 1 or 2 inches below the soil, as this will ensure they grow strong and secure.  Make sure you compact the soil in tight around them to prevent your lily from floating out. Trim off any excess hessian with scissors and finally, push some aquatic plant food (quantity depends on size of container) down 1 or 2 inches into the basket. Add about 1 inch of aquatic gravel and this will finish the job. Lower your planted basket or baskets slowly into your pond allowing all the trapped air bubbles to escape.

Bare rooted water lilies can start to be planted out from the beginning of Mid-February until the end of September. Lilies planted in the spring, should produce same seasonal flowers by June or July if given the correct conditions.

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