Different Types of Water Lilies to Suit Your Pond

There are so many different varieties of lilies to choose from that it’s enough to make your head spin. Often, lilies are considered the quintessential element of a pond. But how do you decide which lily is best for your pond when there are so many varieties available? Can you tell the difference between a tropical lily and a hardy water lily? If you have no clue as to what types of garden lilies are generally preferred by pond owners, read on.

Benefits of Water Lilies in General

Lilies are an excellent addition to a pond because they naturally help with gas transfer and water purification. They also offer shade and protection to fish, and they provide visual interest. They can also help combat algae. Lilies also prevent excessive water evaporation. They often have flowers that bloom all season long.

When choosing which lily to go with, consider where you live, the size of your pond, and what aesthetic you are looking for.

Hardy Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies are perennials; they’ll come back year after year. They need to grow in a location that receives at least 6 hours of full sun. Hardy water lilies keep the temperature of the water low in summer, which is great news for the aquatic and plant life that exist in your pond. Their flowers will most often open between 9am and mid-afternoon when the sunlight is strongest.

They come in many varieties and colors, ranging from yellow and white to red and pink. The Comanche variety changes flower color, from apricot to a dark coppery bronze streaked with red. Leaves and flower sizes are routine between 3 and 12 inches in diameter.

These varieties are great for northern climates that experience winter. Hardy water lilies will usually survive winter as long as their roots don’t freeze completely. If they are planted with at least 16 inches of water above their root system, they should be fine. Otherwise, you can put them in cold storage where the temperature remains above 41° F. Be sure to keep the plants moist.

Tropical Water Lilies

Tropical water lilies have more variety of colors as compared to hardy water lilies and hold their flowers well above the water’s surface. The color spectrum ranges from blue, purple and even green and their fruit attracts birds, which will make your pond a thriving meeting point for various creatures of the air.

Most are extremely fragrant, some even bloom at night. They should not be planted until the threat of frost is gone and the water temperature is around 70°F. Cold waters will shock them. They need warm, still waters to thrive. Their leaves and blooms are larger, ranging between 7 and 18 inches in diameter.

If you choose to use a tropical variety of water lily in a climate that experiences winter, there are a couple of overwintering methods you can use:

  • Store in an aquarium. Just before a killing frost, remove the lilies, cut back the leaves and dig out the tubers. Note that the tubers may have divided and some can be quite small. Tubers form during a growth season typically below the soil or just above. They keep growing until separated from the main plant, and the separated tubers can be used to create a new plant. Plant in an aquatic soil in 4 in. pots and place in the aquarium. Fill with water and have a light source. You’ll want the water temperature to remain between 70-80°F.
  • Storing method. Place tubers in damp, not wet, sand and store in an area that remains between 50-55°F. Pot in early spring, using a process similar to the aquarium method. You’ll want to use an aquarium heater to maintain warmth.
  • Treat tropical water lilies as an annual. Let the frost kill the plant. After the threat of frost is over each year, purchase and plant new lilies.
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