Planting Water Lilies in Your Garden Pond

Planting Water Lilies in Your Garden Pond

Due to their elegance and the beauty of their flowers, water lilies are among the most popular pond plants. They are considered the queens of pond plants, but they are not difficult to care for. If you want to plant water lilies, it depends on the water depth and the location which varieties you should buy. Water lilies are now available in numerous varieties, including smaller ones for shallower water and smaller garden ponds. You can find water lilies in many beautiful flower colors, some of which have fragrant blooms.

The Right Location for Your Garden Pond

Water lilies will delight you with their beautiful flowers only if you have the right location for your pond. Water lilies love the sun and need at least six hours of sunshine per day. This does not mean that your pond has to be in direct sunlight at noon, as it can pose a serious threat to fish and promote algae growth. Water lilies do not like fountains or jets. The pond water should be as calm as possible. Even streams are not suitable for water lilies. If your pond is large enough, you don’t have to completely forego a stream or fountain, but you should place the water lilies at a sufficient distance from them.

Water Depth and Planting Depth – What’s the Difference?

If you want to plant water lilies in your garden pond, you should differentiate between water depth and planting depth. Water depth is the distance from the water surface to the bottom of the pond. Your garden pond should be designed with deep water zones, shallow water zones, and shoreline zones. Each zone has a different water depth.

Planting depth, on the other hand, is the distance from the substrate surface in the planting basket to the water surface. If your pond has a water depth of 100 centimeters and you plant the water lily in a 30 centimeter high planting basket, the planting depth will be 70 centimeters.

Selecting the Right Varieties

There are now more than 100 water lily varieties available with numerous flower shapes and colors, with or without fragrance. The variety you choose depends on the size of your pond, water depth, and planting depth. If the water is too deep, the water lilies will produce leaves but will not bloom. They will languish because the leaves have difficulty reaching the surface. In a pond with insufficient water depth, the leaves grow above the water surface.

When planting water lilies in your garden pond for the first time, you should choose hardy varieties. They are easy to care for and do not need to be moved to a frost-free basin in winter. When buying water lilies, pay attention to their water temperature requirements. Exotic water lilies that prefer warm temperatures and cannot survive the winter in a garden pond are also available.

Growth of Water Lilies

Do not underestimate the growth of water lilies. Many varieties grow quickly and can quickly take over your garden pond. When cleaning the pond in the autumn, you need to trim the water lilies. Some varieties, such as Pötzlingsberg, are only suitable for large ponds, as they can cover an area of 100 square meters in just a few years. Water lilies need enough space to unfold their floating leaves on the water surface. This is the only way they can delight you with their beautiful blooms. Floating leaves also develop when space is limited, but in such cases, water lilies do not bloom.

Selecting Water Lilies Depending on Pond Size

If you have a small or mini pond, only a few varieties are suitable. You should choose dwarf water lilies that require a water depth of 20 to 50 centimeters. Some varieties need only one square meter of space. For small ponds, the ‘Little Sue’ variety, for example, is suitable.

For medium-sized and slightly larger garden ponds, select water lilies suitable for a water depth of 40 to 80 centimeters. Such varieties often require an area of two to three square meters.

If your pond is large and correspondingly deep, choose varieties that require a minimum water depth of 70 to 150 centimeters. These water lilies also need a correspondingly large water surface. ‘Charles de Meurville’ is a variety that is also suitable for large ponds.

Blossom Time and Flower Color

Water lilies bloom at different times, depending on the location and weather conditions. Some varieties only bloom from July to August, while others bloom from May to October with their magnificent blossoms. The flowers of many varieties only open in sunny weather, but there are also varieties that bloom in the rain. Water lilies can have flowers of white, pink, yellow, violet, orange, or red. Some varieties even change their flower color during the blooming period.

The Right Time for Planting Water Lilies

You should plant water lilies in spring, from April to May. During this time, they have the opportunity to acclimatize to the conditions in your garden pond and develop their flowers. Water temperatures in April and May are favorable for water lilies. Exotic varieties, on the other hand, should only be planted when the water temperature is at least 20 degrees Celsius. You need to relocate these water lilies to a frost-free basin before winter.

Using Planting Baskets

You should plant water lilies in a planting basket. They should not be planted directly on the bottom of the pond, as they would then spread throughout the entire pond, and their growth would be difficult to contain. In a planting basket, you can remove them from the water during pond cleaning and trim them. Regardless of pond cleaning, remove dead plant parts such as leaves and faded flowers during the pond season to prevent algae formation. It’s best to use planting baskets made of non-decomposable plastic for your water lilies. Often, you can purchase water lilies in planting baskets with suitable substrate enriched with a slow-release fertilizer.

The type of planting basket you should use for your water lilies depends on the variety:

  • Planting baskets with a volume of 2 to 10 liters for mini ponds
  • Planting baskets with a volume of 5 to 10 liters for medium-sized ponds
  • Planting baskets with a volume of 15 to 30 liters for large ponds
  • Use a narrow, deep planting basket for varieties with tuber-like thickened rootstocks
  • Use a wide, shallow planting basket for varieties with rhizomatous roots.

The Suitable Substrate for Water Lilies

Water lilies require loose and nutrient-poor substrate to develop their roots properly. The substrate should consist of two-thirds sand and one-third clay or loam. Garden soil is not suitable for water lilies because the roots do not tolerate the organic components and will rot. Mix horn shavings or slow-release fertilizer balls into the substrate.

Planting Your Water Lilies

Now you can plant your water lilies. Prepare the water lilies by cutting off bent leaves and shoots with a sharp knife. Also, remove older, brown roots. Trim the younger, light-colored roots to a length of 10 centimeters. Fill the planting basket two-thirds full with substrate. Plant varieties with tuber-like thickened rootstocks vertically in the substrate. Cover the shoots with substrate up to the base, and fill the gaps between the roots with substrate by slightly lifting the water lilies. This prevents the formation of air chambers. Plant varieties with rhizomatous roots flat on the substrate. Fill with

the remaining substrate. The eyes of the shoots should still protrude from the soil. Weigh down the substrate with a layer of coarse gravel to make the planting baskets heavy enough to stay on the bottom. This also prevents fish from digging in the substrate. Place the water lilies first in the shallow water zone so that the plants can acclimatize to the water depth. Gradually move the water lilies to their final location.


Water lilies delight with their elegance and beauty. They prefer calm water and require at least six hours of sunlight per day to bloom. When making a purchase, pay attention to size and the required water depth. Some varieties can spread quickly. When planting water lilies, use planting baskets and nutrient-poor substrate. The best time for planting is spring. Choose hardy varieties, as they are most suitable for beginners.”

Florian Egert

I am Florian Egert, the owner of I live with my wife and two children in Germany in a small village in the countryside.

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