NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR NOVEMBER 5, 2005
HARDY WATER LILIES
... BY GEORGE EDGAR
Some of you may read the title and
think “I don’t have a pond so this does not apply to me”. A water
garden does not take a big pond. This past summer I had two water lilies
and a water lotus plant in whiskey barrels on my driveway in full sun.
The lilies bloomed all summer long and the lotus had a number of blooms.
Before I had a pond I overwintered
a lily in a 5 gallon bucket in my
basement. Next summer have your water garden in a container and then
treat it as an annual or overwinter it in your basement.
To flower and
flourish, a water lily needs care like any other perennial.
Proper sunlight, the right kind of soil, the right kind of
fertilizer at the right time, proper water depth, and pruning will
determine the success of the plant.
begin putting up their first floating leaves in early April. The first
ones may be smaller or darker in color than later ones.
As the season unfolds, the leaves get larger. Each leaf lives
three to four weeks then turns yellow and dies.
Prompt removal of yellowing leaves at the soil level encourages
new leaves to appear and keeps your pond clean. In May, the first
flowers reach the surface. Each bloom lasts for about four days, opening
and closing daily. As a flower is spent, it will slowly sink into the
pond and should be pinched out like the dead leaves, to promote more
flowering and to keep your pond clean. Debris in the bottom of the pond
from spent leaves and flowers encourages string algae. Hardy water lilies flower from May until September with the
peak season in June through August.
water lilies, it is very important to use a clay loam soil, free of
clumps and organic matter that may float. Avoid any
herbicide-contaminated soil. Commercial potting soil should not be used
because it contains vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss, which can float
out of the pot and cloud the water. Hard clay soil from the garden or
soil specifically for water plants can be used.
lilies like a larger pot, rather than one that is too small. One source
recommended using a planting container that is as large as your pond or
container can accommodate. Larger soil volume means bigger flowers and leaves. New
lilies usually are sold in small containers and should be transplanted
into a larger container. I use a round container that is about 16 inches
in diameter and about 6 ˝ inches deep. This size will fit into a
whiskey barrel plastic liner and also about right for my pond. With this
size of container, I usually have to divide my lilies and hardy water
lotus every other year. This is best done in the spring when the plant
shows growth and has a few new leaves.
lilies are grown from tubers that are typically 4 to 8 inches long and
can have several growing points. Fill the pot one-quarter full with
soil. Holding the tuber in one hand, place the tuber along one edge of
the container at a 45-degree angle with the root pointing downward
toward the opposite side of the container. Fill the soil in around the
tuber until the soil is about 2 inches away from the top of the pot with
the crown sticking out of the soil approximately one-half to 1 inch. It
is very important to cover the top of each pot with at least a 1 inch
layer of pea gravel or decorative gravel to avoid the soil floating away
and to prevent cloudy water from exposed soil.
fertilization will keep your hardy water lily blooming and growing well.
Fertilizer tablets for water plants are the easiest to use. Push
the tablets clear to the bottom of the pot at planting time in the
spring and then at least once a month from April until the middle of
August. I use three tablets in the spring in my 16 inch containers and
then add two tablets each month. If you have a very large plant you may
want to fertilize every two to three weeks. Do not fertilize after
August 15th so the plant can begin to go dormant for the
water lily so that it receives at least five or more hours of direct
sunlight. The afternoon sun
is best. Some varieties will flower at a reduced rate in less sunlight.
More sun means more flowers. Also, locate the water lily so that
the floating leaves are out of the turbulence of the waterfall or
fountain spray. Water
splashing on the top of the leaves will discolor or destroy them.
With the onset
of fall, several things must be done to prepare the pond for winter.
After a hard freeze or when plants die back, cut the spent foliage and
place the plants in the deepest part of the water garden where they will
over winter until next spring. A pond that is in the ground must be a
minimum of 18 inches deep for plants to over winter. My fiberglass pond
is 24 inches deep and freezes over every winter. However, the bottom of
the pond that contains the plants does not freeze and so they survive.
If the pond is
too shallow for over wintering your plants, you can install a pond
heater. A good option is to use a small floating stock tank heater. This
is mandatory if fish are kept in the pond all winter. The hole in the
ice lets gas escape and allows air to come in. If you don’t use a pond
heater, these plants should be pulled and stored in a cool area that is
between 35 and 50 degrees F. Do not let them dry out. One year I over
wintered my hardy water
lilies by taking them out of the pot, removing all the soil, and storing
the roots in a 5 gallon bucket of water in the basement.
Water Gardening” by Troy Pabst, Anne Streich, and Steven Rodie.
Nebraska Cooperative Extension Publication EC02-1252, Published by
University of Nebraska, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources:
Gardens Catalog-2004”. Published by Springdale Water Gardens, 340 Old
Quarry Lane, PO Box 546, Greenville, Virginia 24440-0546:2004.
Horticultural Society Complete Guide to Water Gardening” by Peter
Robinson. Published by DK Publishing, Inc., 95 Madison Avenue, New York,
New York 10016:1997
About Water Gardening” by Greg and Sue Speichert. Published by
Meredith Corporation, Ortho Books, 1716 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA
50309-3023:2001. (Good articles on propagation of water plants.)