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How do I winterize my tropical lilies? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Q: How do I winterize my tropical lilies?

Marilyn – Morton, IL

A:  Vivid and fragrant, tropical water lilies are the floating jewels of a pond. If you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 9 or lower, you’ll need to take extra special care of these warm-weather-loving beauties over the cold season. To overwinter tropical water lilies, you have two choices: send them into dormancy or keep them growing.

Going Dormant for Winter

If you decide to send your water lilies into dormancy for the winter, stop fertilizing them in the fall to slow their growth and help them prepare their tubers for winter. After the first frost, pull out your Aqua Gloves™ and follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, remove the lily and planting basket from the pond. Using your hands, dig around in the soil just below the plant’s crown to feel for the tubers. They normally range in size from an acorn to golf ball, but they can be smaller or larger.
  2. Take out the tubers and rinse each one very well with a strong stream of water. Use your pond scissors to trim off remnants of roots or stems. If small tubers are growing on a larger tuber, remove them and store them—they could turn into new lilies plants next year!
  3. Store the tubers in a plastic bag or glass jar that’s filled with damp (not wet!) peat moss, sphagnum moss or sand. Consider dusting them with a fungicide before sealing them up. Keep the container in a room that stays warmer than 50° F.
  4. Once a month through the winter, check on your tubers to be sure they’re still damp. Spritz them with water if they get dry.
  5. When water temperatures climb back to 60° F in the spring, replant the tubers in a planting basket filled with fresh, fertile soil. Position them just below the surface with the pointy side up and round side down.

Keep Them Growing

If you decide to keep your water lilies growing over the winter, set up a space in your home for a grow light and an aquarium or lined indoor pond. After the first frost, take the lilies and their planting baskets inside and follow these tips:

  1. First, trim off the largest leaves and any dead, dry or damaged leaves with your pond scissors.
  2. Place the planting baskets and plants inside in an aquarium or lined pond filled with water.
  3. Keep the water temperature above 60° F, and use a grow light to keep the lilies growing slowly over the winter.
  4. Once the weather outside warms and your pond’s water temperature climbs back to 60° F, transplant your lilies or add some fertilizer to their existing soil and submerge them.

Overwintering tropical water lilies isn’t hard, but it does require some space and planning. Good luck!

Pond Talk: What tips can you share for overwintering tropical water lilies?

Keep Your Hands & Arms Dry - Coralife® Aqua Gloves™

Planting Aquatic Plants – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Picture of a Mayla Water Lily

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: I would like to order plants for my water garden this year, but I don’t know where to begin. What plants should I get and how do I plant them? – Kayla of Florida

A: The simplest and easiest way to select the right variety of aquatic plants is to purchase one of our plant packages. Our plant packages come in multiple sizes with an assortment of beautiful aquatic plants (shipped bare root) that are recommended for great coverage. What kinds of aquatic plants are there? What should I get for my water feature? These are very legitimate questions. There are many different categories of aquatic plants with many species in each category:

Floating – Floating plants such as water hyacinth & water lettuce are best used to absorb excess nutrients that cause excessive algae growth. They also provide shade and cover for the fish.

Submerged – Submerged plants are fantastic oxygenators. They are also used to absorb nutrients, so there is no need to fertilize them.

Bog – You can add a nice touch to your water feature using bog plants. Bog plants are planted around the edges of the pond in shallow water areas. They also act as a visual anchor to the surrounding feature. Bog plants are perennials, meaning that they will grow back every year based on your zone.

Hardy Water Lilies – Hardy water lilies are perennials. They will bloom all summer long on the water surface. Hardy water lilies have smooth waxy leaves that are rounded at the edge.

Tropical Water Lilies – Tropical water lilies have very fragrant blossoms and will have several blooms at a time. These lilies come in daytime and nighttime blooming varieties. Tropical water lilies will be jagged or pointed around the edge of the leaves.

Hardy Water Lotuses – Hardy water lotuses have very large blooms and leaves that can stand out of the water from two to five feet depending on the variety. A hardy water lotus may take up to two years to become fully established.

So why are aquatic plants so important? In a water feature, plants are absolutely vital in balancing the ecosystem, and they offer an aesthetic touch to your landscape. If you ever wonder what causes algae to grow or why your pond isn’t clear, there are really only four factors to consider:

  • Not enough filtration
  • Too many fish
  • Not enough aquatic plants
  • Not using DefensePAC® (natural bacteria)

The recommendation for aquatic plant coverage is 60% of your overall water feature surface. This will provide enough absorption of nutrients to help combat algae before it has a chance to grow.

Now that I know aquatic plants are important, how do I plant them? That’s a great question. Here is the rundown:

Floating Floating plants do not need to be planted. Simply toss plants onto the surface of the water or place inside a Waterfall Filter unit for added filtration and to prevent vigorous spreading. This will also help to hide the Waterfall Filter.

Submerged Submerged plants may free-float throughout your water feature. If your water feature is equipped with a skimmer, you may want to wrap a weight around the base of the plant before tossing it in to prevent the skimmer from pulling in the plant.

Bog Simply create pockets and crevices 6-8″ in depth between the gravel and boulders. Remove the marginal plant from its pot, move gravel aside, place the plant and then spread the gravel around the base of the plant for support.

Hardy & Tropical Water Lilies Prepare lily pockets by making indentations within your first or second shelf (12″ to 18″ in depth). Place the lily tuber in the lily pocket and fill
with aquatic planting media (remember to not cover the crown, a.k.a. growing tip of the lily). Finally, spread loose gravel around the
base of the lily to prevent the soil from being stirred up.

Hardy Water Lotuses Hardy water lotuses are usually potted in wide, shallow containers because of their aggressive behavior. Hard water lotuses should be planted in a round container at least 18″ in diameter with 6″ of depth. It must be round, because square pots can cause lotuses to die when the tuber gets crunched into a corner during heavy growth seasons. Gently place the tuber into at least 3″ of soil. Fill the rest of the container up to the brim with with gravel and place 10-12″ deep within the pond depending on variety.


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