Growing Water Lilies:
Planting Water Lily Seeds & Organic Water Lily Care

Growing water lilies is an important step towards creating a floating garden. When planted into still water they will provide color and often scent along with useful shade that helps reduce algae.

Some water lily varieties are also extremely hardy and may even survive freezing water conditions in winter.

Growing Water Lilies: Plant Snapshot

growing water lilies
  • Water Lily (Nymphaea)
  • Annual or perennial? Perennial
  • Recommended varieties (by color):
    • Blue: ‘Blue Spider’, ‘Blue Beauty’
    • Peach: ‘Aurora’, ‘Georgia Peach’
    • Pink: ‘Pink Sensation’, ‘American Star’, ‘Mayla’
    • Purple: ‘King of Siam’, ‘Purple Zinzibar’, ‘Panama Pacific’
    • Red: ‘Almost Black’, ‘Laydekeri Fire’, ‘Escarboucle Aflame’
    • Yellow: ‘Inner Light’, ‘Texas Dawn’, ‘Carla’s Sunshine’
    • White: ‘Gladstone’, ‘Gonnere’, ‘Marliacea Albida’
  • Recommended USDA Hardiness zones: 3 to 12 depending on variety
  • Mature Height: 6 inches (12 cm)
  • Mature Spread: 1 to 5 feet (30 to 150 cm)
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Blooming season: Late spring, early, mid and late summer, early fall
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Planting Water Lily Seeds, Transplanting and/or Root Division

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

The following resources offer effective, healthy and/or well-rounded options. Click the links to go there now...

Tropical water lily varieties set masses of seeds. To capture these before they float off on the water surface, you need to cover the ripening seedpods with muslin bags.

Once the seeds are collected (or purchased), put sieved compost onto trays and spread the seed over it evenly. Sprinkle a half inch (1 cm) of compost on top and stand the tray in a water tight container. Cover with between 1 and 2 inches (1 to 3 cm) of water.

Once seedlings are big enough to handle, they can be repotted into 3 inch (7.5 cm) pots placed in 3 to 4 inches (4 to 10 cm) of water. After healthy tubers are established, they can be planted in their final position. The point that the plant touches the soil must be at least 6 inches (15cm) under water.

Always plant water lilies in full sun. Shady conditions encourage foliage but may result in no flowers.

Water lilies can be divided in late spring. Look for leaf growth that’s just beginning and lift the plant from the water. Use a sharp, clean knife to cut the rhizome into sections that each have 2 or 3 buds growing and cut out any straggly or damaged roots. Pot these sections and position in shallow water. Check to make sure that new growth continues.

During the growing season, add organic slow-release water lily fertilizer to the water every six weeks.

Snapshot: Planting Water Lilies Plants

  • Germination soil temperature: 55 - 75 degrees F (13 to 23 C) depending on variety
  • Distance between plants: plant in containers of 12 – 14 inches width (30 – 35cm)
  • Planting depth: 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45cm) under water
  • Days to germination: 20 to 40 days
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 7 to 8
  • Root division information (perennials only):
    • Root system type (clumping, spreading, rhizome or tuber): rhizomes
    • Roots division frequency: Every 3 to 4 years
    • In which season should dividing occur? Late spring
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Water Lily Care

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

For effectice, healthy and/or well-rounded options, click the following links...

Water lily flowers have a short life of 3 or 4 days. It’s important that faded flowers and leaves are removed regularly. Otherwise they will rot and drop into the water encouraging algae and plant diseases.

Spray plants with water in hot, dry weather. This flushes away pests such as aphids that settle in the foliage.

Hardy water lilies will survive freezing winter conditions. Tropical varieties need to be overwintered in damp sand... store in a cold frame or potting shed at temperatures of 41-45 F (5 – 7 C).

Snapshot: Water Lilies Plants Care

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Growing Water Lilies: Harvesting/Cutting Time

For cut flowers, choose water lilies that are in their first day of flowering. Those with very short stems make effective table displays if floated in bowls. Flowers should last up to four days.

Cut flowers with a sharp pair of shears and drop them into ice cold water. Place in the refrigerator until needed for your display.

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Growing Water Lilies: Pests & Diseases

If you notice leaves beginning to turn yellow and buds rotting, this could be a sign of crown rot. To prevent this from spreading, it’s important to remove the whole plant from the water and destroy it.

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Water Lilies Plants (see Organic Garden Pest Control for information about how to prevent and address pests and diseases)...


  • Aphids
  • Beetles
  • Leaf-mining midges


  • Crown rot
  • Nymphaea leaf spot
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