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 How to Care for Water Lilies and Other Pond Plants

29th Oct 2021

How to Care for Water Lilies and Other Pond Plants

Water lilies are a stunning pond plant. Available in a multitude of different colours including pinks, purples, blues, whites, and yellows, these flowers are great for brightening up your pond or water feature. Also sometimes called Nymphaeaceae, water lilies can be grown in large ponds, where they’re allowed to spread out and go a little wild or kept contained within smaller features.

These aquatic plants help oxygenate water, which is great news for fish. They also add an extra layer of intrigue to a pond and provide food for a myriad of critters.

If you’re interested in bringing a water lily plant into your garden, you’ll likely be wanting to know a little about how to care for it. In today’s article, we explore some tips on caring for water lilies. We also cover a selection of other common pond plants that you might like to add in or around your water feature.

About Water Lilies 

Water lilies have been a popular plant throughout the centuries. Monet created hundreds of paintings with water lilies as the subject. Water lilies are a notable symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. With around 36 different species to be found across the world, this pond plant is beautiful as an ornamental addition to your feature. The water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh.

Also known as nymphaea, the flowers of this aquatic plant can grow up to 12 inches wide as they open to the sunlight above. Water lilies are great for those who are after water plants for their fish ponds. These plants provide fish with shade and shelter while they’re swimming about.

As a pond plant, water lilies tend to be pretty hardy. They don’t require a whole lot of attention to produce beautiful blooms. The humble water lily can be planted in large recreation ponds, or in smaller Patio Ponds.

Many types of water lilies have flowers that bloom during the day and then close at night, however, there are a few varieties that bloom into the evening.

Why Choose Water Lilies?

Water lilies are stunning plants that have many benefits for a pond’s ecosystem. They provide shelter against the sun and elements for fish, frogs, and other water-dwelling animals, while also reducing the rate of algae growth. These pond plants also provide oxygen to the water feature. Having a good amount of oxygen flow is vital to the health of an ecosystem pond.

A water lily can be a good choice for those looking for a low-maintenance, captivating pond plant. They add greenery to a space, with the extra bonus of often producing beautiful blooms throughout the spring and summer months. These blooms come in a wide variety of colours. You may choose to select varieties within a particular colour hue or select a mixture for a beautifully eclectic display.

Hardy vs. Tropical

When choosing the type of water lilies to bring into your feature, you’ll need to decide whether you’re after a hardy variety, tropical variety, or both. Hardy water lilies aren’t necessarily tougher than tropical ones, it’s simply a name.

Hardy water lilies tend to keep their leaves throughout the year, whereas tropical water lilies lose their leaves during the cooler months. Following on from this, hardy varieties have their growing season from September through to April, whereas tropical types grow from November to June.

Choosing a mixture of both established hardy and tropical varieties means you should have water lily flowers in your pond for most of the year, as when hardy water lilies stop flowering, the tropical varieties will be there to take their place.

Planting Water Lilies

The process of planting water lilies is relatively straightforward. Rather than struggling to plant them while submerged underwater, complete your planting before placing the pots in the water. Water lilies are great in ponds both large and small.

We recommend you plant your water lilies in a pot before transferring them into your pond. This not only simplifies the planting process, but it also stops the pond plant from sprawling out beyond control and taking over a pond. When planted directly into a pond’s soil, water lilies have a bit of a tendency of spreading out prolifically, which can stop the water feature from receiving the sun it requires.

What You'll Need

When it comes to planting your water lilies, you’ll need a few tools and items to make the task easier. This includes a pot or water lily basket, fish-safe potting mix, and clippers. Ideally, these pond plants should be planted within a basket specifically made for water lilies, as their roots may fill up a regular pot very quickly.

Where to Plant

Obviously you’ll be looking to plant your water lilies within a water feature, but the specifics of where you position them matters too. Water lilies like the sunlight, so you should aim to plant them in a spot that receives around 6 hours of sunshine a day.

While water lilies naturally love the water, they don’t much care for it splashing about them and getting on their leaves (this is because they breathe through this part of their leaves). As such, try to place these aquatic plants away from fountains and features that could cause water to end up all over their leaves.

When to Plant

For best results, plant your water lilies during the spring and summer months. These aquatic plants love the warmth, so planting them when the weather is peachy is best. Don’t plant them when it’s cold, as water lilies become dormant during the cold season.

How to Plant

When it comes to learning how to plant these water plants in a pond, there are a few simple steps to follow for optimal results. For most varieties, you’ll want to place your water lilies around 40cm under the water’s surface. This depth can change depending on the type of water lilies you choose to plant, so check what’s best for your specific variety before planting.

To start, trim up any old roots and plant your water lilies out of the water using a fish-safe potting mix. Water lilies like a heavy soil or clay mix, and growing them in a planter allows for you to easily choose this type of soil. These plants are perfect for growing in Aquascape Aquatic Planters. Place a layer of pebbles or gravel onto the top of the soil to keep it from floating out when it is placed in the water. Once planted, you can place your new growing lilies under the water of your pond.

Caring for Water Lilies

Water lilies tend to be relatively low maintenance once they become established. This is handy, as the roots of this plant live under the water, where it can be tricky to get to. That being said, there are a few things you can do for your water lilies to keep them looking happy and healthy.

Pruning

Prune your water lily to remove any dead leaves or flowers as they appear. If left unmanaged, this dead foliage can cause increased algae growth within your pond. Algae feeds on excess nutrients left in a pond, so scooping out extra pieces of debris can help keep algae to a minimum.

Fertilising

Like most plants, water lilies can benefit from fertilising. When fertilising these aquatic plants, use a variety that has been created for pond plants such as the Aquascape Aquatic Plant Tablets . A slow-release tablet fertiliser is the ideal option for water lilies, and can be applied during the spring and summer months.

Repotting

Over time, your water lilies will likely begin reproducing through rhizomes and need to be repotted for more space. Try to keep just one plant to each pot to allow for plenty of root spreading. These aquatic plants can be pretty prolific and may take over much of your pond surface if left to their own devices. While it may be tempting to let them grow wild, it’s best to ensure there are still parts of your pond that have a bare surface. This allows the pond to receive a little sunlight.

Water Lilies in the Winter

During the winter months, some water lilies – mainly tropical varieties - will lose their leaves and start looking a little dead, which can cause concern in pond owners. If you notice this happening to your lilies as the weather cools down, don’t stress, they’re probably just dormant! Leave them planted and they should come back with gusto in the spring. If you wish to have water lilies in your pond for a longer portion of the year, plant a selection of different varieties

Other Aquatic Plants

There are many different aquatic plants that you can choose to incorporate into your water feature or pond. These plants are not only wonderful for bringing life and colour to a pond, they also help oxygenate the water which is good news for fish. Some of the below pond plants can be grown directly within the water, while others are suited for planting around the edge of a water feature.

Water lettuce(Pistia stratiotes)

Floating on the water’s surface and looking a little similar to water lilies (but without the flowers), water lettuce is a unique aquatic plant to consider incorporating into your feature. This plant has fuzzy leaves that are reminiscent of salad lettuce – thus the name. Unlike water lilies, this water dweller isn’t grown in pots, instead, its roots simply dangle in the water below its leaves. While beautiful, water lettuce is considered a weed in all states except for South Australia and Victoria.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

This edible herb is popular in many dishes, but did you know it can also be grown in the water? Plant it along the water’s edge, or within the water itself. It’s a good idea to plant peppermint in pots, rather than directly in your pond’s soil, as this plant has a tendency to spread out and take over. Peppermint is a low-maintenance pond plant, ideal for those who want to add more hardy plants to their water feature.

Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

Creeping Jenny is perfect for adding a little greenery to spots around your pond. This perennial can be grown in rock crevices, or placed in the ground to create pretty, sprawled out coverage. Also called moneywort, this light green creeper plant is very hardy and easy to grow. If you don’t want your plant to spread too far, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on it, and prune accordingly.

Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)

This versatile aquatic plant can be planted either with just its roots under the water or submerged further under the surface. With tall, thin leaves that end in a pointed tip that can often be found bending in the breeze, it’s a beautiful choice for adding greenery levels to your outdoor pond. The sweet flag may also produce long yellow or green spadices amongst the leaves. Sweet flag plants are low-maintenance, and ideally suited for those after a hardy, perennial pond plant. Plant them in full sun and watch as they grow prolifically.

Shield Pennywort (Hydrocotyle verticillata)

A truly unique plant, the shield pennywort can be grown in or around a pond to provide sprawling coverage for the space. This plant provides coverage for frogs and tadpoles and can have its roots placed either underwater or on land. Its leaves are light green, circular and flat, emerging from a long, thin stem. The shield pennywort should be planted in positions that receive either full sun or partial shade. Keep in mind that the shield pennywort is a declared pest in Western Australia.

Austral Brooklime (Gratiola peruviana)

A cute little perennial, the austral brooklime grows well in areas of shallow water or mud. This pond plant doesn’t grow very tall, generally topping out anywhere between 10 and 30 centimetres, making it perfect for adding to spots where you’d like a bit of low coverage. The bright green foliage with a brown trim is paired with pale pink flowers during the summertime. This plant is native to Australia and likes to be planted in a spot where it can receive plenty of overhead sunlight.

Swamp Lily (Crinum pedunculatum)

A captivating plant, the swamp lily is perfect for planting along the border of your pond. This hardy Australian native grows in a range of different soil types, including those with poor drainage. Sometimes referred to as a river lily, it can be grown in areas that receive overhead shade or spots with full sun. During the summer months, it begins to bloom, producing interesting white or pink flowers from a centre stem. Fun fact: in the right conditions, this plant can reach as tall as 3 metres!

Knotted Club-rush (Ficinia nodosa)

The knotted club-rush is an Australian native that can be positioned near water features as part of a filtration bed. This lovely little plant grows up to around 50cm tall and makes a great home for frogs. As an Australian native, the knotted club-rush is hardy and can handle poor quality soils, drought conditions, and frosts. The knotted club-rush plant is sometimes referred to as knobby club-rush or ficinia nodosa.

Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Sometimes called elephant ear due to their unique shape, these pond plants are available in a variety of different sizes and colours. From block greens to block purples, to patterned varieties that share a mixture of both traits, these plants make for a striking feature pond plant. Taro plants love to be grown in a shady position, making them ideal for planting around the edges of a pond that receives overhead shade from larger trees.

Water Hyssop (Bacopa monnieri)

Another fantastic native pond plant is the water hyssop. This plant can be grown along the water’s edge or directly within the water itself. Water hyssops like to be planted in either full or partial sun. In the spring, it erupts with beautiful little white flowers. A fast grower, the water hyssop loves to spread out and will need to be cut back semi-regularly to keep it from going too wild. This plant likes water, and its surrounding soil should be kept moist for best results.

Interested in purchasing water lilies or other pond plants for your water feature? Suncoast Water Gardens and Oz Watergardens both have a list of retailers to help you locate aquatic plants near you.

Many Aquascape Australia retailers also stock a wide range of water lilies and aquatic plants. We have a full list of our retailers on our site, so you can find plants and other pond supplies nearby. 

*Excludes shipping to NZ. No dangerous goods shipping to NZ without contacting us first