Aquatic Plant Care

How to Care for Water Lilies & Other Aquatic Plants

We recommend planting aquatic plants in Fabric Pond Pots or no-hole plastic containers (see the Plant Supplies section of the shopping cart) to minimize maintenance. Use a heavy clay loam (not potting soil) or a packaged soil specific for aquatic plants. Using the wrong type of soil can cause numerous problems. Most aquatics require at least 5 hours of direct sunlight for optimum growth. Do not cover the growing point of water lilies with soil or gravel.

Placing Plants in the Pond

Tropical Water Lilies
Day and night blooming- tropical water lilies should be planted in pots at least 10" in diameter (a smaller container will result in a smaller plant). A 10 to 14 inch fabric pot (or 10 x 6 to 12 x 7.3/4 inch plastic pot) should suffice for each lily. Fill the pot 1/2 full with a loam garden soil and add 2-4 fertilizer tablets, then continue to fill the pot to about 2 inches from the top. The tuber should be set upright with the roots buried gently in the soil. Make sure the tip of the tuber is not buried. Next, add an inch or two of pea gravel or sand in order to prevent the soil from escaping from the container. Remember to keep the gravel away from the crown of the tuber. The plant can now be lowered into the water to a depth of approximately 6 inches over the crown of the water lily. As the plant grows, it can be lowered to a depth of 12 inches. tropical water lilies cannot tolerate cold temperatures and should not be planted until the water temperature reaches at least 70 degrees. Planting too early can cause dormancy and restrict the potential growth of the plant. Tropicals bloom from late spring through early fall, depending on the weather. Fertilizer tablets should be added every 3-4 weeks.




Hardy Water Lilies
Hardy water lilies are planted in much the same way as the tropicals using a loam garden soil and 2-3 fertilizer tablets. Hardy lilies grow horizontally across the container so a wide pot is necessary for planting (a 14 or 16inch fabric pot is the best container). The rhizome should be planted at one edge of the container with the rhizome planted at an angle of about 45 degrees with the crown exposed. Top with an inch or two of pea gravel or sand. The plant can be lowered to a depth of 6 inches to begin with, and then lowered to a depth of 12 - 18 inches as the plant grows. Hardy lilies should be planted in early spring and should be fertilized every 4-6 weeks. They bloom from June through September depending on the weather, and become dormant during the colder months. As spring approaches, growth will begin again.



Dividing and Repotting Hardy Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies should be divided every two or three years depending on the plant container size. For the average to large size water lily, a five to seven gallon container is ideal. The best container will be shallow and wide. Small water lilies can be potted in a three to five gallon container.


Begin by removing the soil from the water lily using a water hose to expose the rhizomes. Select the best looking piece with good growth showing and cut to about three inches long, discard the remainder of the plant. Trim away excess roots and any damaged foliage from the selected piece.If the water lily is to remain unpotted for any length of time, keep it in the shade with damp paper towels or newspaper covering the plant.


Prepare the container by filling about three fourths full of aquatic planting soil (clay-based topsoil or packaged aquatic soil) and add ten grams of a good fertilizer such as 10-20-10 for every gallon of soil.



Mound some soil against one side of the container and place the rhizome at a 45 degree angle with the cut edge against the pot and the growing point at the level the top of the soil will be. Add more soil to within a couple of inches of the top of the container. Firm the soil in place and add about one inch of pea gravel to cover the soil keeping it from covering the growing point of the plant. Gently add some water to the container and then slowly lower the plant into the pond.


If you place the plant just a few inches under the water for the first few weeks, you will get faster growth. After this, place the plant at the proper growing depth (12 to 18 inches of water over the top of the plant). Fertilize the water lily every month with the same amount of fertilizer during the growing season.






Lotus come in several sizes from dwarf types that will grow in a two or three gallon container to the standards which are better off in a twenty to thirty gallon container. Fill the container with the same soil that you would use for a water lily Place the tuber with the cut portion against the edge of the potting container. Place a stone on the tuber to hold it in place and add more soil but do not cover the growing point. Cover only with a couple of inches of water until the plant is growing well and then it can be lowered to several inches of water over the pot. Standard lotus that are planted in too small of a container will not bloom well. It is best to withhold fertilizing lotus until the first aerial leaves form, then feed heavily for the remainder of the growing season.

Lotus are hardy and should come back year after year.


Lily-like Aquatics
These plants grow similar to water lilies. They are rooted in a pot several inches under the water but the foliage grows to the surface and floats. Pot the same way as tropical water lilies except most are much smaller and only need a small pot. Use one fertilizer tablet every 4 - 6 weeks. Lower the container to 6 to 12 inches of water over the top of the pot. Some of these are hardy and will winter over, others are tropical and are treated as annuals.


Shallow Water Plants
Marginal plants should be planted in individual containers of approximately 10 to 14 inch fabric pots. Plant as you would the lilies in a loam garden soil, but when adding fertilizer tablets, use 1 tablet for each gallon of soil. These plants should be fertilized about every 6-8 weeks. Marginal plants should be lowered to a depth of only 2-3 inches. They grow out of the water and are usually found at the water's edge.


These plants require no planting. Simply place them in the water and they will grow. Many floating plants desire tropical temperatures and cannot tolerate a frost.


Underwater Plants
Underwater plants aid in maintaining clean and pure water. These plants help prevent algae growth. These plants can be potted in one gallon containers with pea gravel to hold them in place or they can be weighted and dropped to the bottom . Completely submerge these plants to a depth of at least 12 inches.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map


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