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Water Lilies, Nymphaea or Lotus Flowers for Ponds and Water Gardens

Water lilies are plants that can and should adorn every water garden. Water lilies grow strong roots in the mud (or in  a garden pond in the pot) of natural or large artificial ponds. They have long extending leaf stalks and large distinctly shaped leaves which float on the water and provide wonderful shade and protection to koi and goldfish in your pond against herons and other fish predators. The water lily flower (also called Lotus Flower) grows above the water level. Some water lilies flower at night only, most in the day; some are scented other just simply gorgeous to look at and admire for their shape form and colour.

The water lily genus Nymphaea includes all the water lilies in the world. They grow in every country and continent except New Zealand.

Water lily colour is generally the most important factor in our choice of which water lily type to use to use and for this reason lists are normally colour denominated. Other relevant water lily features are size, scent and water depth. In general water lilies are classed as deep water plants but not all water lily varieties need such deep water ... see table below.

Nymphaea capensis is the blue water lily which started its existence in South Africa. and has since been used as parent in many fine tropical water lily hybrids.

The hardy hybrid groups descend mainly from North West Europe and USA parents such as

  • Nymphaea alba odorata

  • Nymphaea tuberosa.

Yellows and apricot colours owe their existence to the semi-tropical Nymphaea mexicana and other wild species.

Water lilies grow somewhat like an iris. They develop tuberous rootstocks and these grow by around 6 inches (15cm) or more ever year spreading across the bottom of the pond so long as there is substrate

Allow for this when planting in a large pot or tub by placing the tuber right back against the edge with growing point inwards. Hardy plants should be planted at an angle; tropical water lilies should be planted upright.

Nymphaea react to depth of water, i.e. from crown to water surface.

Some plants are strong growing and their surface cover is proportionately more. Obviously the less vigorous varieties cover less. The following divisions are used as a guide only as many will prove satisfactory in various depths of water other than that indicated. 

Nymphaea water lily varieties ... 10 cm = 4 inches, 1 sq metre = 10 sq feet

Name Depth of water in cm Spread in sq m

1 sq m = 10 sq ft

Colour Description
Alba 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

1.50 to 2.00 White An indigenous lily with green foliage that can grow in water up to 3 meters deep. Blooms are 10-15 cm across.
Gladstoniana 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

1.50 to 2.50 White Pure white, very large cup-shaped blooms with golden stamens. Dark green foliage. Very suitable for pools or lakes.
Marliacea Albida 30 to 75 or

1 to  2.3 ft

1.00 to 1.25 White Prolific fragrant white flowers stand just above the water surface. Green foliage.
odorata minor 20 to 30 or

9 to 14 inch

0.40 to 0.60 White Star-shaped fragrant blooms. Pale green leaves with red undersides.
odorata 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

0.75 to 1.00 White Tuberous rooted variety with medium sized fragrant blooms and pale green foliage.
pygmaea Alba 15 to 30 or

6 to 14 inch

0.40 to 0.60 White Probably a form of N. tetragona. Miniature white flowers. Can be propagated from seed.
tuberosa Richardsonii 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

0.75 to 1.25 White Vigorous free flowering variety with pure white globular flowers and green sepals.
Collosea 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

1.25 to 2.00 White Very large flesh coloured blooms from spring until autumn.
Amabilis 60 to 90 or

2 to 3 ft

0.75 to 1.50 Pink Salmon pink stellate flowers. Dark green foliage.
Fabiola 50 to 80 or

18 to 28 inch

0.75 to 1.25 Pink Large open blooms. Rich pink colour tinged with white. Broad rounded petals with mahogany stamens and deep green foliage.
Laydekeri Lilacea 25 to 50 0.75 to 1.00 Pink Soft rose to carmine fragrant blooms.
Laydekeri Rosea 30 to 60 0r

12 to 20 inch

0.75 to 1.00 Pink Deep rose, cup shaped flowers float flat upon the water throughout summer.
Madame Wilfron Gonnere 60 to 90 0.75 to 1.50 Pink Large double rose-pink flowers.
Attraction 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

0.75 to 1.25 Red Large deep red blooms approximately 15-20 cm across. Frequently flowers pink until well established
Charlene de Meurville 30 to 100 or

1 - 3 ft

1.00 to 1. 50 Red A very prolific variety with large wine coloured blooms up to 25 cm across.
Conqueror 30 to 80 or

12 to 28 inch

1.00 to 1.50 Red Brilliant red flowers darkening towards the centre and flecked with white.
Escarboucle 80 to 120 or

26 to 48 inch

1.00 to 1.75 Red Extremely large crimson blooms. A very prolific lily best suited to deep water.
Maurice Laydekeri 30 to 50 or

12 to 20 inch

0.75 to 1.25 Red Is of poor constitution and rarely seen in cultivation. The flowers are a deep rose-red flecked with white.
Charlene Strawn 30 to 80 or

12 to 28 inch

0.50 to 1.30 Yellow Hardy lily that holds its flower well above the surface of the water. Excellent bloomer and a prolific grower.
Colonel A. J. Welch 50 to 150 0.75 to 1.75 Yellow Canary yellow flowers stand above the water. The foliage is very prolific.
Graziella 30 to 60 0r

12 to 20 inch

0.50 to 0.75 Yellow The reddish-yellow blooms become lighter with age. The foliage is heavily mottled with purple.
Paula Harriot 30 to 60 0r

12 to 20 inch

0.75 to 1.00 Yellow Apricot yellow changing to orange-pink. Maroon spotted foliage
Comanche 30 to 60 0r

12 to 20 inch

0.75 to 1.00 Orange Flowers turn to bronze and are held clear of the water.
Indiana 12 to 50 or 5 to 20 inch 0.50 to 0.75 Orange The blooms open orange-red and gradually mature to copper-red. Foliage is heavily spotted with purple.


information extracted from garden pond plants website



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