Q: Can I overwinter my tropical water lilies?
Jill – Kingsport, TN
A: Unlike other aquatic plants that will happily overwinter in the deeper regions of your pond, tropical water lilies need special care.
Here are six steps to follow when putting your blooming beauties to bed for the season.
1. Slow the Growth: First, when the air temperatures start to cool (like right about now …), slow down or stop fertilizing the lilies to slow the plant’s growth. This allows the plant to naturally slow its metabolic processes and more easily transition into winter. If you abruptly stop fertilizing and remove the plant from the pond, you could shock the lily and damage it.
2. Deadhead and Remove Foliage: Next, using your Coralife® Aqua Gloves™ and Pond Scissors and Pliers, snip off all lily pads and blooms from the lily tuber once your pond’s water temperatures start to dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides looking unsightly, the spent flowers and foliage will start to wilt and should be removed to reduce waste material.
3. Remove and Rinse: Once you’ve cleaned up the plant, gently remove the lily tuber from pond and rinse it off in a bucket or with your garden hose. Trim off any straggling foliage with your pond scissors.
4a. Bury Tuber in Moist Sand: To keep the tuber moist and healthy during the winter, fill a sealable container with moist (but not too wet!) sand and bury it, covering it lightly with sand. Moist sand will hold moisture to keep tuber from completely drying—but if the sand is too wet, the tuber may rot.
4b. Submerge Tuber, Place Under Grow Light: Another overwintering option is to fill a container with distilled water and place the tuber under a grow light in a room that’s a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The lily will continue to grow slowly through the winter months.
5. Safely Store and Inspect Often: If you choose the sand-storage option, store the container in a cool, dark place like a basement—but make sure it’s not too warm or too cold. If it’s too warm, the tuber may start to grow or rot; if it’s too cold, the tuber may freeze. Check on the tuber often to make sure the sand is still moist and the tuber is not rotting.
6. Replant in the Spring: Once pond water temperatures return to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring, haul your container to the pond, pull out the tuber and replant it in the pond. Don’t forget to add a dose of fertilizer to jump-start the growing season!
Pond Talk: What do you do with your tropical water lilies in the wintertime?