This flower is one of the most popular varieties created by noted horticulturalist Kirk Strawn, but it wouldn’t exist if Strawn’s friend – Clyde Ikins – hadn’t intervened.
According to waterlily lore, Ikins spotted the flower while checking out his friend’s latest hybridization efforts. Strawn told Ikins he planned to throw out the flower because he didn’t like it, but Ikins convinced him to keep it.
Strawn not only followed his friend’s advice but named the almost-eradicated flower in his honor.
How to Care for Your Hardy Waterlily
- VIDEO: Hardy Lily Care Basics
- Where to Plant Your Hardy Waterlily
- Should I Keep My Lily in a Pot?
- In-Season Care
- How to Divide Your Lily
- Winter Waterlily Care
VIDEO: Hardy Lily Care Basics
How Deep Should I Plant My Waterlily?
Waterlilies make the biggest and brightest flowers when placed in full sun. They do best submerged in about 16 inches of water (the second shelf of your pond if it was built by Splash), but they’ll usually perform OK in anywhere from 8 to 30 inches.
Don’t worry if the lily’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.
Should I Keep My Waterlily in Its Pot?
You have three options when it comes to putting your Splash 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.
Keeping the Store Pot
If you keep your lily 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 to a Fabric Planter
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
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 add rocks or keep your lily in the pot.
Planting your lily is even easier if your pond has plant pockets like the ones we build into our Splash Ecosystem Ponds. A plant pocket is an indentation in the liner, usually on the second shelf of the pond, where you can simply tuck in your lily. A plant pocket helps keep your lily growing where you want it.
Dealing with Dirt
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.
If you like to keep your pond spotless and don’t want to wait for the dirt to settle, place a Fine Filter Pad (available at Splash) in your skimmer to catch the extra tiny particles of dirt. Simply place the pad anywhere in the skimmer where the water will pass through, then remove the pad as soon as the water is clear.
Add a flocculant like Rapid Clear for even faster results.
In-Season Waterlily Care
Each flower on a hardy waterlily will repeat its bloom cycle – opening in the morning and closing in the afternoon – for three to five days before dying.
With plenty of sunlight and fertilizer, most lilies will produce tons of new flowers from May until October in southcentral Pennsylvania (Zone 6) and similar climates.
How to Fertilize a Waterlily
For maximum blooms, fertilize your lilies about once per month from May until September. (If you bought your lily from Splash, you can wait until one month after your purchase to fertilize your plant for the first time).
How to Prune a Waterlily
You’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.
How to Divide Your Waterlily
Waterlilies don’t perform well when overcrowded in a pot. To get the most out of your plant – or to prevent an unpotted lily from taking over your pond – divide it every couple years.
You’ll know a potted waterlily is ready to be divided when it starts to produce smaller leaves and fewer flowers, or if you see the roots start to bust out of or overflow from the pot.
If your lily is potted …
To divide your lily, take the pot out of the pond and dump out the contents. Removing your lily is easiest to do in the spring, before it has started to grow much for the season.
Gently rinse the tuber in water outside of the pond. You’ll notice several areas from which the lily’s leaves are growing. Each of these clusters could be divided into its own plant.
Use a soil knife (we like this one from A.M. Leonard) to cut each new plant,. Make your cuts a few inches away from the crowns.
Pot your divided lily in high-quality aquatic soil and fertilize it. The plant will likely take a couple months to start growing and flowering.
If your lily is planted directly in the pond …
If your lily is planted directly in the bottom of the pond, simply reach down and cut away excess growth to keep the lily at your preferred size.
Winter Waterlily Care
Trim off the lily’s leaves and flowers as they start to die off for the season, eventually pruning the whole plant down to its base.
Some people like to “sink” their waterlilies in the deepest part of the pond in the winter, but we have found that most hardy waterlilies manage just fine without being moved.
Note that only hardy waterlily varieties will survive the winter in your pond. Frost will kill tropical plants, so make sure you know your waterlilies’ tolerance for cold.