Big, bright and beautiful, tropical waterlilies steal the show in just about any pond they call home. They’re easy to care for – requiring little more than occasional fertilization and pruning – and their big leaves offer great cover for fish.This broad plant category includes waterlilies in just about every color imaginable. What all these varieties share is their preference for “tropical” climates – meaning they only survive the winter in the southernmost parts of the United States. What they lack in longevity, however, they make up for in looks and ease of maintenance.
Think a tropical waterlily might make a good addition to your pond? You’re probably right. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing and caring for these show-stopping plants:
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9 Reasons to Choose a Tropical Waterlily
1. They have unusual colors.
You won’t find too many blue or purple pond plants – and you’ll find almost even fewer hardy waterlilies in those colors. Tropical waterlilies, however, come in just about every color imaginable, from hot pink to bright purple to enchanting blue.
2. They have unique shapes.
Tropical waterlilies often have big starbursts of petals that stand atop 6- to 12-inch stems, making them tower over their hardy counterparts.
3. Even the leaves are cool.
The flowers aren’t the only eye-catching part of a tropical waterlily. Their lilypads often have serrated edges and range in color from yellow-tinged burgundy to a mottled chartreuse and purple.Â These leaves can grow huge, with some measuring more than a foot across.
4. Some bloom at night.
Do you work during the day? Then a night-blooming tropical waterlily might be the best flower for your pond. Night-blooming tropicals open in the late afternoon – exactly when hardy varieties are closing for the day – and stay open until a few hours after dawn. Having a mix of day- and night-bloomers lets you have flowers almost 24 hours a day!
5. They usually grow much larger than hardy waterlilies.
Tropical waterlily flowers can grow HUGE. If you have some blooming in your pond, your guests will be sure to notice.
6. They produce tons of flowers.
Tropical waterlilies sometimes have three to five flowers blooming at once on warm days.
7. They smell nice.
Few pond plants have much of an aroma to them. Tropical waterlilies are the exception. You might notice a pleasant, sweet fragrance when you stroll within a few feet of them.
8. They last late into the fall.
While hardy waterlilies have to retire in cool weather in order to prepare for their winter hibernation, tropical waterlilies go strong until the late fall cold finally wipes them out.
9. They’re perfect for the indecisive water gardener.
Because you have to replace your tropical waterlily every year, you don’t have to stress over choosing the right one. Just pick what feels right in the moment.
Like hardy waterlilies, tropical waterlilies make the biggest and brightest flowers when placed in full sun. They do best submerged in about 16 inches of water, but they’ll usually perform OK in anywhere from 8 to 30 inches. Donâ€™t worry if the lilyâ€™s leaves and flowers are completely submerged when you place the plant in your pond; the stems will grow, and those leaves and flowers will quickly find their way to the water’s surface.
You have three options when it comes to putting your Splash tropical waterlily in your pond: keeping it in the pot it comes in, replanting it in a fabric plant pot or planting it directly in the pond.
If you keep it in the pot in which you bought it, simply remove the hanger that’s holding up the plant tag and set the potted plant in your pond. Some people choose to cover the top of their lily pot with a little bit of gravel to help contain the soil. You can also camouflage the pot by cutting away the top rim and surrounding it with small rocks, creating a kind of DIY plant pocket.
Moving your waterlily to a fabric planter will give your plant a little more space to spread its roots. If you choose to go this route, simply place the lily – soil and all – into the planter and fill in the remaining space with aquatic planting media (other types of soil could make your pond dirty and won’t hold as many nutrients). Add gravel to the top if desired, then slowly lower the planter into the pond at an angle to keep as much of the soil in the pot as possible.
Planting your lily is almost as easy as keeping it in the pot if you have gravel on the bottom of the pond. First, remove the waterlily from the pot and brush away all but a little bit of the dirt from the tuber. Then simply tuck the tuber in between the rocks and gravel at the bottom of the pond, covering it enough to keep it in place. That’s it! Note you only have this option if you have rocks and gravel in the bottom of your pond. If you don’t, you have to keep your lily in the pot.
Regardless of how you choose to display your waterlily, you might see a little bit of the soil in which it was planted make its way into your pond. This is normal and will clear up on its own if you have a skimmer.
Fertilizing Your Tropical Waterlily
Fertilize your tropical waterlily about once per month throughout its lifespan. (If you bought your lily from Splash, you can wait until one month after your purchase to fertilize your plant for the first time). We use two tabs of fertilizer in each of our one-gallon waterlily pots. Simply press the tabs into the soil near the base of the plant.
Pruning Your Tropical Waterlily
Each flower on a waterlily will repeat its bloom cycle â€“ opening at one time of day and closing at another â€“ for three to five days before dying. Youâ€™ll know a bloom has run its course when it sinks under the water. Once that happens, that flower will not bloom again, and you can prune it. Simply follow the flower back to the base of the plant and pinch it off, stem and all.
Your Tropical Waterlily’s Bloom Season
With plenty of sunlight and fertilizer, most lilies will produce tons of new flowers from May until October, although tropical waterlilies will sometimes last later into the fall than their hardy counterparts.
Your tropical waterlily will not survive the winter outside unless you live in one of the southernmost parts of the United States. Remove your tropical waterlily from the pond when it looks like it has runs its course for the season. Some people overwinter their tropical waterlilies inside, but the vast majority treat them as annuals and dispose of them at the end of the season.
Popular Tropical Waterlily Varieties
DB = Day-Bloomer
NB = Night-Bloomer