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Do you have tips for growing water lilies?

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Ponds are becoming increasingly popular in the landscape. The sound of running water is peaceful and the sight of rushing water is refreshing and relaxing. It is helpful to have a place in the yard to enjoy nature and be away from the stress and cares of life. One of the key components of a pond is the plant material that grows there. Plants provide many benefits to a pond. Aquatic plants have the ability to live in standing water. They add interest, provide shade and protection for fish and help keep the water clean and aerated. Many water plants also bloom and add color.

The most popular blooming, aquatic plants are water lilies. They have large, round leaves with beautiful flowers that add yellow, white, pink, red and lavender colors to the pond. There are two types of water lilies ­ a hardy variety and a tropical variety. The hardy variety can over-winter in most Utah ponds. The tropical variety either grows as an annual or must be protected from our harsh environment during winter. Hardy water lilies prefer a sunny location in the pond. They also prefer a calm location and should be placed away from waterfalls and splashing water. They grow from rhizomes (modified stems) and thrive when placed 18 to 24 inches below the water surface. Blooms begin to emerge about mid-May and blossom throughout the summer until the first freeze. Tropical water lilies are not hardy for our location. If left in the pond, they will die with the first hard freeze. They prefer shallow water that is 6 to 10 inches deep, and do better in a warmer pond and location. Tropical lilies come in both day and night blooming varieties, and their flowers are available in a few more color combinations than the hardy lilies. Water lilies can be purchased already growing in a pot or as a rhizome that needs to be planted. With patience, growing your own can be a rewarding experience. Consider these tips.

• Plant water lilies in a large pot before placing them in the pond. Use a plastic pot or one that will not deteriorate in water. The pot should have holes in the bottom and the sides to allow water to move through the pot.

• Fill the pot with a silt-loam or clay-type soil. Leave 2 to 3 inches of space at the top. Some nurseries sell specific soil to use in aquatic plant pots. Do not use a potting soil mix or a light soil for water plants. These contain materials that will float out of the pot and make a mess in the pond.

• Place the rhizome at a 45 degree angle in the soil. Planting it close to one side of the pot is usually recommended. The rhizome will have an eye or offshoot that is the growing point of the lily. It should be placed at the top of the soil and not covered up. Put two to four fertilizer pellets in the soil at the time of planting to ensure a good start for the lilies.

• Once the rhizome is planted, cover the soil with pea gravel or a few large rocks. This helps keep the soil in the pot and around the lily. Again, be aware of where the offshoot is placed.

• Once the lily is planted, it is ready to be placed in the pond. Water the pot well before setting it in the pond.

• Place rocks or other pots on the floor of the pond to raise or lower lilies so they are at the right distance from the surface of the water. Since hardy lilies are planted a little deeper, they may take slightly longer to reach the surface and start blooming. To speed this process, start them in a slightly more shallow section of the pond. As they begin to grow, set them down deeper. Once the lilies reach the surface with their leaves, the beautiful blossoms are not far behind.

There are many varieties of lilies, and each has a different color and leaf shape. Consult your local nursery to find out what is available. You may also want to visit the pond section of the nursery just to enjoy the sounds and sights.

Visit http//extension.usu.edu for more information on Utah State University Extension.

Posted on 7 Aug 2003

Jerry Goodspeed
County Director, Horticulture Agent, Weber County

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