Located in Perth's Swan Valley - 130 Haddrill road, baskerville, Western Australia


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by Tracy Hoffman June 09, 2019 5 min read

Water lilies are a magnificent addition to any pond and grow in a wide variety of climates. Water lilies are surprisingly easy to grow with the main ingredients for success being sunshine and regular feeding. Water lilies (Genus Nymphaea) fall into two categories, either Hardy (those originating from cooler climates) or Tropical (those originating from tropical or semi-tropical climates). Hardy water lilies are not necessarily hardier than tropical water lilies, it is just a name given to them because they can survive harsh European winters. Hardy water lilies and Tropical water lilies grow equally well in temperate climates such as in the Perth region. Even with the occasional frosts experienced in country areas, Tropical water lilies seem to thrive We have customers growing tropical water lilies in inland hard frost areas such as Toodyay and York. 

Most water lilies require full morning sun of at least 5 -6 hours and regular fertilizing for flowering. In Perth nearly all lilies lose their leaves over the winter months (see our star performer Colorado for a variety that keeps its leaves and even flowers over the winter months), they have not died, just gone dormant ready to return in the warmer months. Planting a variety of both Hardies and Tropicals in your pond will give you flowers for a greater part of the year. Please note the growing seasons quoted below are intended as a guide, and refer to the Perth region. The actual growing season may vary depending upon weather variations from year to year and your location.

Hardy water lilies

The Hardy water lily has a growing season from September/October through to April.  We recommend 2 to 4 fertilizer tablets be pushed deep into the soil around each lily in August. Continue to fertilize with 2 tablets per plant every 2 months through to the end of February. The best time to re-pot your hardy water lily is in July/August.

Tropical water lilies

Tropical water lilies have a growing season from November/December through to June. The best time to commence fertilizing and if necessary re-pot your tropical water lily is in October/November. We recommend 2 to 4 fertilizer tablets be pushed deep into the soil around each lily in November. Continue to fertilize with 2 fertilizer tablets per plant every 2 months through to the end of April.

Tips for successfully growing water lilies

  • While the ideal growing depth for Water Lilies is 30 - 50cm, Water lilies can be successfully grown in ponds from 25cm deep through to 1 metre deep. Some can handle even deeper water, while miniature hardies can be grown in as little as 10-15cm of water.
  • Keep water lilies away from waterfalls, fountains and water features. Water lilies do not like to have their leaves splashed continuously. Gently moving water is not a problem for most lilies, therefore it is still possible to have water features in your pond in conjunction with lilies, just place the lily away from the feature.
  • Tannin in your pond water will impact water lily growth, reducing the uptake of nutrient and stunting your water lily. Some hardy varieties are particularly effected by tannins from gum trees and may even die if the tannin levels become too great. Regularly remove gum leaf debris from your pond. Ponzyme Plus is an excellent product for reducing Tannins.
  • Grow your water lily in a water lily basket. Water lilies become pot bound in a matter of weeks in a regular plant pot, rarely flowering and producing small leaves. If you have a large pond and you want to put your lilies in standard pots then ensure the pots are of a good size (at least 50cm diameter).
  • Use a basic potting mix, ensuring it is fish safe and has no added wetting agents. We have our own special water lily mix available for sale at The Lily Farm. 
  • Water Lilies should be repotted every 2 years to ensure only 1 plant remains in each pot. Too many plants competing with each other will result in small leaves and no flowers.
  • When potting your Water Lily, trim excess roots and any soft/rotting sections of root from the plant. Place the Water Lily in the centre of the pot with the crown of the plant (growing tip) above the soil. Ensure a layer of gravel or small rocks is applied on top of the potting mix to prevent the mix from coming out of the pot and to help anchor the water lily into the basket.
  • Water the Lily prior to gently lowering the pot into the pond.
  • Some varieties of water lilies rarely flower, these may be fine for the collector but are very disappointing for most pond owners. Sometimes it is better to replace these lilies in your pond with more productive varieties.
  • Lilies won't grow in shady positions. Some varieties are more shade tolerant than others (mostly the yellows and apricots), however, even these will perform better in a sunny position.
  • Fish are an important part of a pond system they eat insect pests and string algae and are essential in maintaining lily health.

Hardy Water Lilies that have just been planted into new pots.

See our Youtube Video - How to Prepare a Hardy Water Lily for Planting



Algaecide products and your water lily

The use of any Algaecide product in your pond may be detrimental to your water lily. These products often claim they do not harm pond plants and that they are all natural, however, these products are unable to distinguish the difference between algae and other water plants.  Algaecides often weaken water lilies over a period of time, reducing flowering, causing leaves to rot prematurely and even killing the water lily outright. Tropical water lilies seem to be particularly sensitive to algaecide products. Please see our fact sheet on algae in your pond to help you address algae problems in your pond without resorting to algaecide products.


Aphids and your water lily

Aphids are attracted to water lilies and are a particularly annoying problem in the summer months. The use of any chemicals to kill aphids will also result in death of your fish.  We recommend the application of a small amount of olive/vegetable oil to the water lily leaf. Once applied the aphids quickly die, they can then be gently sprayed off with water and removed from the pond with a fine net.

Caddisfly and your water lily

Caddisfly is a moth like insect that lays eggs in the pond. The larvae use pond debris and water lily stems to build cases in which they move around the pond, mostly at night. Generally the first sign of Caddisfly infestation in your pond is the appearance of lily stems, leaves and flower buds that appear to be cut cleanly off the lily plant. If you head out to your pond at night with a torch you can often see the Caddisfly larvae moving around the pond, they appear as moving sticks on the base of the pond and on lily stems. Once the Caddisfly larvae reach this size they are usually too large for Goldfish to eat.  The best way to control Caddisfly is by keeping a good number of fish in your pond. If you have a small pond with small fish you may need to manually pull the Caddisfly larvae from the pond.



Water Temperature

When water temperature is too high (above your body temperature - ie the water feels warm to touch) water lily leaves die prematurely and the whole plant is at risk of dying. A small fountain pump placed away from the lily can help reduce water temperature.

Fish & Tadpoles and your water lily

Large Koi often eat water lilies, they will eat roots, leaves and flowers often resulting in death of the plant. Tadpoles may also eat water lily leaves, large numbers of tadpoles continuously eating the leaves can result in the lily failing to thrive and eventually dying.

and remember Water Lilies lose their leaves over winter - don't throw them out because you think they have died!