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Water lilies, the iconic flowers of water gardens, contribute to good pond health. By covering the water surface, they shade the water and keep it cooler, which helps control algae that thrives in heat. Water lilies also shelter fish from birds of prey filter out excess nutrients to further inhibit algae growth.
Growing from stout rhizomes from the pond bottom, water lilies’ signature leaves develop on long stems and float at the surface. When temperatures warm up in summer, water lilies’ showy flowers open in the morning and close at night.
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Water Lily Colors
Water lilies are available in a rainbow of color options. Many of the hardy varieties have soft, pastel flowers; tropical varieties come in jewel tones of bright blues, purples, oranges, and yellow. Many varieties have a lovely fragrance, too. Though the majority of the species bloom strictly in the daytime, some bloom at night and close in the early morning. Other variations occur in leaf color: Most tropical varieties have a deep, emerald green, but a few are a rich burgundy color.
Growing Water Lilies
Whether you have a natural or artificial pond, plant water lilies in containers to limit their size. (They will grow to fit the container they are in.) A container prevents the plant from growing through the pond liner or from growing too large and taking over your pond.
Any type of container will work. Plant your lily tubers so that a bit sticks out from the heavy clay-loam soil amended with a slow-release fertilizer formulated for pond plants. To prevent soil from washing away or clouding the water, cover it with fine pea gravel.
If your plant has leaves already developing, begin by placing the container so that the leaves are 6-8 inches deep. After several days, the leaves should reach the surface, then lower the plant to 12-16 inches—the final depth. During the growing season, fertilize the plants every month or two for the best blossoms. Water lilies may need fairly regular grooming of leaves as they begin to yellow and die.
If you are growing hardy varieties, you can leave them in the pond as long as the water does not freeze. Just lower the plants to the bottom of the pond. Come spring, as soon as any threats of late freezes are over, bring the lily pots back up to growing height. As a part of regular water lily maintenance, divide the plants every two to four years to ensure the most vigorous plants. This should be done just before plants break dormancy, usually when you are bringing them back up to growing height.