6 Water Lily Facts That Will Make You Love Them Even More

These majestic water-dwellers have colorful flowers and pretty leaves, but there's so much more to them than you may know.

The quiet beauty of a pond or lake is instantly enhanced by a water lily's rounded leaves and starry flowers floating placidly on the surface. These unique aquatic plants can bloom in a range of colors anytime from late spring through fall in most regions of the country. Their leaves can be cup-shaped, star-shaped, and smooth or jagged. And while water lilies may be most visible on the surface of still freshwater, they are rooted in the mud below, where they overwinter and regrow the following year. Here are a few more interesting facts about these amazing flowers that will likely surprise you.

infographic facts about water lilies

BHG / Mira Norian

1. There Are Many Water Lily Colors

When you imagine a water lily, you probably think of the classic white bloom bursting from a deep green lily pad. But water lilies actually grow in a rainbow of colors, including pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and blue. Tropical varieties take on jewel tones (purple, orange, bright blue, and yellow), whereas hardier varieties lean toward a pastel palette. Sometimes the blossoms on hardy varieties change shades as they age. Even the leaf colors vary from deep green to rich burgundy. Water lilies aren't just a one-trick pretty pony. They have more tricks up their sleeves.

2. Water Lilies Help Their Environment

Although they're primarily known for their stunning appearance, water lilies are actually important players in the aquatic ecosystem. These plants are found in shallow and still fresh water, as in ponds, lakes, and the edges of slow-moving streams. Because they rest on the water's surface, the flowers and pads provide shade, keeping the water cooler and preventing algae that thrive in heat from growing in excess. Water lilies also shelter fish from predatory birds and the heat of the sun.

3. The Water Lily Is July's Birth Flower

Attention July birthdays: Water lily is your flower. (Along with larkspur.) It's no wonder these bright blooms are linked to July because they're mainly a summer flower. Water lilies bloom from May through September, putting July smack in the middle of the prime season. In frost-free regions, water lilies bloom year-round. But you have to be lucky to catch a bloom, as each individual flower lasts for about four days before sinking under the water to decompose. The beauty is short-lived, but that makes it even more special.

pink water lily in pond with lily pads
Dean Schoeppner

4. The Water Lily Has Numerous Varieties

Each variety of these stunners (there are over 50 species) is unique, whether it's the shape, size, color, fragrance, or blooming pattern. Water lilies inhabit ponds, lakes, and streams all over the world. The largest variety is fittingly called the giant water lily. Other names for this huge flower are the Amazon water lily and the royal water lily. This massive, magnificent flower can grow to a diameter of 3 to 6 feet and can support 66 pounds of weight. That means a young child could perch on a giant pad, no problem.

5. The Water Lily Is an Important Spiritual Symbol

Water lilies mean many things in different areas of the world, but they have special significance in Buddhism and Hinduism. For these religions, the water lily symbolizes resurrection, because these flowers close up at night and reopen in the morning, similar to a spiritual rebirth. Buddhists also believe that the water lily represents enlightenment because a beautiful bloom emerges from the dark mud.

variety of colorful water lilies in pond with lily pads
Bob Stefko

6. The Water Lily Is a Star in the Art World

The impressionist painter Claude Monet often used water lilies as a subject. In fact, he painted more than 250 pieces that featured this aquatic plant, and several of them are among his most famous works of art.

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