flower types

Water Lily: A Graceful and Fragrant Plant

Water Lily

Water lily (Nymphaea) is a genus of aquatic flowering plants that belong to the water lily family (Nymphaeaceae). They are native to the temperate and tropical regions of the world, and have been cultivated and admired for their beauty and fragrance since ancient times. They are also known for their symbolic and cultural significance in various religions and traditions. They are easy to grow and care for, and can add a touch of elegance and tranquility to your pond or garden. In this article, we will learn more about the water lily plant, its characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks.

What is Water Lily?

Water Lily

Water lily is a common name for about 60 species of aquatic plants that have large, round, floating leaves and showy, fragrant flowers. The genus is divided into two main groups: the hardy water lilies and the tropical water lilies. The hardy water lilies can tolerate colder temperatures and bloom during the day, while the tropical water lilies need warmer water and can bloom during the day or night. The flowers can be white, pink, red, yellow, blue, purple, or bi-colored, and have a flat, star-like, or cup-like shape. They are pollinated by insects, such as bees and beetles, or by wind. The fruits are fleshy berries that contain many seeds, which can be dispersed by water or animals.

There are many varieties and cultivars of water lily, some of which have different colors, sizes, or shapes. For example, the ‘Colorado’ water lily has salmon-pink flowers and mottled leaves, the ‘Queen of the Night’ water lily has dark purple flowers and green leaves, and the ‘Giant Victoria’ water lily has white flowers and leaves that can reach up to 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter. Some cultivars have also been developed for their dwarf size, double petals, or unusual fragrance.

Water LilyCharacteristics
Scientific nameNymphaea
Common nameWater lily
Plant typeAquatic perennial
Mature size15 to 180 cm (6 to 72 in) tall and wide
Sun exposureFull sun to partial shade
Water depth15 to 90 cm (6 to 36 in)
Bloom timeSpring to fall
Flower colorWhite, pink, red, yellow, blue, purple, or bi-colored
Flower shapeFlat, star-like, or cup-like
Foliage colorGreen, variegated, or purple
Foliage shapeRound, floating, and leathery
Hardiness zones3 to 11 (USDA)
Native areaWorldwide

How to Grow Water Lily

Water lily is a low-maintenance and adaptable plant that can grow in almost any pond or water feature. It can tolerate a range of water quality and pH levels, and can survive drought, frost, and pests. It can also self-seed and spread by rhizomes, making it a good choice for naturalizing or filling large areas. However, it can also become invasive or aggressive in some situations, so it is important to control its growth and prevent its escape.

To grow water lily, you can either start from seeds, tubers, or divisions. Seeds can be sown indoors in late winter or early spring, or outdoors in late spring or early summer. Tubers can be planted in spring or summer, and rooted in moist soil or water. Divisions can be done in spring or fall, by cutting the rhizomes into pieces and replanting them. You can also buy water lily plants from nurseries or garden centers, and transplant them to your desired location.

Water lily prefers a sunny spot with still or slow-moving water, but it can also tolerate some shade and current. It needs a water depth of 15 to 90 cm (6 to 36 in), depending on the variety. It is best to plant water lily in containers, such as pots, baskets, or fabric bags, and submerge them in the water. The containers should have a diameter of 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in), and be filled with aquatic soil or heavy loam. The containers should also have holes or slits to allow water and oxygen to circulate.

Water lily does not need much water or fertilizer, as it can thrive in natural conditions. However, it may benefit from some water during extremely hot and dry weather, and some aquatic fertilizer in the spring and summer to boost its growth and flowering. It can also be deadheaded to prolong its blooming period and prevent self-seeding, and pruned to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged leaves and flowers.

How to Use Water Lily?

Water Lily

Water lily is a multipurpose plant that can be used for various purposes. It is mainly grown as an ornamental plant, especially for ponds, water gardens, or aquatic planters. It can also be grown in containers, hanging baskets, or window boxes, or as a cut or dried flower. It can create a graceful and fragrant display with its flowers and foliage, and provide a contrast to other plants with different shapes or textures.

The African daisy, a vibrant and versatile plant, shares many characteristics with water lilies in its contribution to wildlife support. Just like water lilies, African daisies serve as valuable resources for numerous aquatic and land-dwelling creatures. They offer both sustenance and refuge to a diverse array of animals, including fish, frogs, turtles, and various water organisms. The broad leaves provide excellent coverage, allowing these creatures to find shelter while also foraging on the roots and stems of the plant. Additionally, African daisies can attract avian species such as ducks, geese, and swans, enticing them with their seeds and foliage. These birds might even utilize the plant as material for nesting purposes. Much like water lilies, African daisies actively contribute to water purification and enhanced oxygen levels. They achieve this by absorbing nutrients and pollutants from the water and releasing oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, thus improving the overall aquatic environment.

Water lily is also a medicinal plant, as it has been used for various ailments in traditional medicine. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic, and sedative properties, and can be used to treat skin problems, such as acne, eczema, or burns, respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, or cough, urinary problems, such as cystitis, kidney stones, or bladder infections, and nervous problems, such as insomnia, anxiety, or depression. It can also be used to regulate menstruation, reduce blood pressure, and enhance sexual performance. The leaves, flowers, roots, and seeds can be made into a tea, a decoction, a tincture, or a poultice, and applied externally or internally as needed. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before using water lily for medicinal purposes, as it may have some side effects or interactions with other drugs.

How to Control Water Lily?

Water Lily

Water lily is a plant that can be both a friend and a foe, depending on where and how it grows. It can be a graceful and fragrant plant in some situations, but it can also be a nuisance and a threat in others. It can be invasive or aggressive in places where it is not native or wanted, such as lakes, rivers, canals, or reservoirs. It can spread rapidly and densely, and block the sunlight, oxygen, and water flow. It can also displace or compete with other aquatic plants and animals, and reduce the biodiversity and productivity of the ecosystem. It can also be difficult to eradicate, as it can regenerate from any part of the plant that is left behind.

Therefore, it is important to control water lily if it becomes a problem in your area. There are several methods that can be used to do so, such as:

  • Manual removal: This involves pulling, cutting, or raking the plant by hand or with tools, and disposing of it properly. This can be effective for small infestations, but it can also be labor-intensive and time-consuming. It is also essential to remove all parts of the plant, including the roots and rhizomes, and to repeat the process regularly until no more growth is observed.
  • Chemical control: This involves applying herbicides to the plant, either by spraying, wiping, or injecting. This can be effective for large infestations, but it can also be costly and harmful to the environment and other plants and animals. It is also important to choose the right herbicide for the situation, and to follow the instructions and precautions carefully.
  • Biological control: This involves introducing natural enemies of the plant, such as insects, fungi, or animals, that can feed on or damage the plant. This can be effective for long-term control, but it can also be risky and unpredictable. It is also important to ensure that the introduced agents are specific to the target plant, and that they do not cause any unwanted impacts on the ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Water Lily

Here are some of the most common questions and answers about water lily:

What are some water lily companion plants?

Water lily is a plant that can get along well with many other aquatic plants, as it can create a diverse and balanced ecosystem. Some of the plants that can complement water lily’s appearance and function are:

  • Lotus: Lotus (Nelumbo) is a genus of aquatic plants that have large, round, floating leaves and showy, fragrant flowers. They are similar to water lilies, but have more upright and cone-shaped flowers. They can be white, pink, red, yellow, or blue, and have a sacred and symbolic meaning in many cultures. They can grow in deeper water than water lilies, and can add height and drama to the pond.
  • Pickerel weed: Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) is a species of aquatic plant that has heart-shaped, glossy leaves and spikes of blue or purple flowers. It is native to North and South America, and can grow in shallow water or moist soil. It can attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and provide shelter and food for fish and frogs. It can also help to filter the water and prevent algae growth.
  • Water hyacinth: Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a species of floating aquatic plant that has oval, leathery leaves and clusters of lavender or pink flowers. It is native to South America, but has been introduced to other regions as an ornamental or a biofuel plant. It can grow rapidly and cover large areas of water, creating a colorful and fragrant display. However, it can also be invasive and harmful, as it can block the sunlight, oxygen, and water flow, and reduce the biodiversity and productivity of the ecosystem.
  • Water lettuce: Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a species of floating aquatic plant that has rosettes of soft, velvety leaves that resemble lettuce. It is native to Africa, Asia, and Australia, but has been introduced to other regions as an ornamental or a medicinal plant. It can grow in still or slow-moving water, and provide shade and shelter for fish and other water creatures. It can also help to purify the water and reduce evaporation. However, it can also be invasive and problematic, as it can multiply quickly and crowd out other plants and animals.

What not to plant with water lily?

Water lily is a plant that can be invasive or aggressive in some situations, so it is important to avoid planting it with plants that are weak, slow-growing, or sensitive. Some of the plants that can be harmed by water lily’s presence are:

  • Submerged plants: Submerged plants are plants that grow entirely or partially under water, such as hornwort, elodea, or vallisneria. They can provide oxygen, food, and shelter for aquatic animals, and help to balance the water chemistry and clarity. However, they can also be shaded and suffocated by water lily’s leaves and flowers, and lose their vitality and function.
  • Marginal plants: Marginal plants are plants that grow along the edges of the water, such as iris, cattail, or marsh marigold. They can add color and texture to the pond, and attract birds and insects. However, they can also be overrun and outcompeted by water lily’s rhizomes and roots, and lose their space and nutrients.
  • Small or delicate plants: Small or delicate plants are plants that have a dwarf size, a fine texture, or a fragile structure, such as duckweed, fairy moss, or water poppy. They can create a delicate and charming effect in the pond, and provide food and cover for small animals. However, they can also be overwhelmed and smothered by water lily’s large and leathery leaves and flowers, and lose their visibility and viability.

What does a water lily plant look like?

Water lily is a plant that has a distinctive appearance, with its round, floating leaves and showy, fragrant flowers. Here are some of the features that can help you identify a water lily plant:

  • Leaves: Water lily has leaves that are green, variegated, or purple, depending on the variety. The leaves are round, floating, and leathery, and have a slit or a notch at the center. They can range from 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in) in diameter, and have a smooth or wavy edge. They can also have veins or spots on the surface, and hairs or air pockets on the underside.
  • Flowers: Water lily has flowers that are white, pink, red, yellow, blue, purple, or bi-colored, depending on the variety. The flowers are flat, star-like, or cup-like, and have five or more petals. They can range from 5 to 30 cm (2 to 12 in) in diameter, and have a pleasant or strong fragrance. They are pollinated by insects, such as bees and beetles, or by wind. They can bloom during the day or night, depending on the group.
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