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Water Lillies • Ian

Water lilies are beautiful and with a pond, a large pot and a little bit of care, they can bring some real glamour to any tropical garden.


Every gardener with a pond loves water lilies - who can resist such spectacular and colourful flowers?
Water lilies are beautiful and with a pond, a large pot and a little bit of care, they can bring some real glamour to any tropical garden. They provide a wonderful habitat for many living creatures such as birds, frogs, fish and dragonflies and are very easy to grow.

Water liliescome in a wide variety of shapes and colours and are divided into two main categories: Hardy and tropical. Hardy water lilies bloom only during the day, while tropical water lilies include some varieties which bloom at night.

Tropical water lilies are very fragrant and the only group to contain blue-flowered plants. Their blooming season is usually from May until mid to late December and a well grown plant will have several flowers open every day of its long blooming season.


Plant your water lily root stock in a large pot of almost pure compost. They are really very hungry plants. No peat moss, bark, or other floating materials should be used. Then cover the soil with about 5 centimetres of gravel (or with heavy pieces of broken slate or shingles) to stop fish digging and uprooting the plant. It also stops the soil discolouring the water.

Planting & care:

Water lily ponds need to be at least 35 to 60 centimetres deep and have a surface area of at least 1 square metre, for a good carbon and oxygen exchange between the air and water. They should be self-regulating and never need cleaning if you have the right balance of plants and fish. To keep the water healthy, it is a good idea to include some oxygenating plants. A good rule of thumb is two oxygenating plants, like grasses or reeds, to one water lily.

Water lilies like full sun, but a combination of full sun and dappled shade for part of the day is best. Blazing sunshine all day will make the evaporation rate from your pond skyrocket and green water is often a problem with full sun and well fertilized plants. Do not use chemicals to control the algae . . . it will likely kill your lilies. Instead, encourage a healthy growth of submerged plants like Anacharis which will help starve out the algae. Some floating hyacinths or water lettuce will also help, but watch that they do not get out of control

To keep the pond looking good, remove yellowing leaves and spent flowers every week. If an individual lily spreads too much, you can remove the outer ring of leaves to reduce the overall size of the plant without affecting flowering. If aphids appear, hose them into the water each morning to provide food for your fish. Caterpillars can be picked off by hand.

There are a number of animals which feed on water lilies, such as ducks and terrapins, and if any of these are present in sufficient numbers, they will destroy the plants. With only three terrapins in my pond, I have had to give up water lilies – they get eaten as quickly as I put them in! Large Japanese Koi can also be destructive.

Fertilize three times during the growing season with fertilizer tablets. Just wrap them up in a cloth and bury them under the soil. Do not put them straight into the pond because they will poison the fish. You should stop fertilizing the lilies in mid-October, because by starving the plants at the end of the season they are more likely to form some small, very hard and durable tubers which survive the dormancy period much better than the large fleshy root of the main plant.


In their natural habitat tropical water lilies are perennials - they will go dormant as the weather becomes colder and days grow shorter, and begin to grow again in April. In our subtropical climate however, they are often considered annuals and replaced every spring. The determining factor is temperature. If the water temperature of your pond goes below 10° C (50° F) for a number of days during the winter it may result in the death of the tubers.

To over-winter tropical water lilies, you can move them to a small tub or temporary pond indoors. In this case, do not disturb the roots - allow the plants to continue growing until they become dormant and leave them in the pond until new leaves come up again in spring. Once the plants are growing again, they can be divided if necessary and repotted in fresh soil for the growing season. This method almost always ensures the survival of the plant if the water temperature never goes below 12-13° C (55° F).

Hardy water lilies have no problem over-wintering and will come up every year like an old friend letting you know spring is here.


Marc Vijverberg

Marc Vijverberg and Gurli Jakobsen

638 180 284
659 880 444

Guardamar del Segura

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