Pool with lilies at Levens Hall, Cumbria
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

How To Grow Water Lilies

Follow our hints and tips for success growing water lilies


  • Make sure you have the right sized lily for the size of your pond as they vary in size from dwarf varieties suitable for a half barrel to enormous species which could easily fill a lake. Also make sure they are hardy and not the tropical varieties as they need quite specialised conditions. Plants sold in garden centres are almost certain to be suitable for a British pond.
  • Try and achieve two thirds coverage of your pond as this cuts down on the amount of algal growth in summer and provides shade for your fish.
  • Plant from late spring to late summer so they can become established before winter.
  • Plant in a special aquatic basket lined with hessian; this is to prevent the compost leaking silt into the pond.
  • Use aquatic compost as it is loam based and contains nothing which may contaminate the pond and adversely affect fish and invertebrates.
  • Add a slow release aquatic fertiliser to the planting compost as water lilies are quite greedy feeders.
  • Water well before placing in the water.
  • Plant with the growing tips level with the soil surface; cut off any damaged leaves.
  • Cover the surface with a layer of pea gravel; this stops fish stirring up the soil surface.
  • They need still water and full sun, so don’t plant anywhere near a pump or running water.
  • When you buy the lily from the nursery make sure the tanks are weed free as you don’t want a potential weed problem in your pond.
  • Submerge the basket so that the smallest leaves float on the surface; stand on bricks if necessary. Take away the bricks as the plant grows.

Dark pink water lily


  • Cut off the spent flowers below the water surface to prevent them rotting and releasing noxious gases into the pond.
  • Once the basket becomes congested take the plant out and divide by cutting the root into smaller segments; each one with a young shoot. Dividing maintains the plant’s vigour as congested plants gradually produce fewer and fewer flowers.

White water lily


  • They are generally problem-free but occasionally water lily beetle can make oval holes in the leaves. They will have to be picked off by hand as you cannot spray pond plants with insecticides or fungicides due to their potential to harm fish and invertebrates.
  • Water lily leaf spot results in grey/brown or reddish circles on the leaves; the only remedy is to take off the leaves.

Yellow water lily


  • ‘Escarboucle’ is a stunning rich red with blooms up to 30cm (12”) across but does need a large pond.
  • Pygmaea ‘Helvola’ only grows to 45cm (18”) across so is ideal for a half barrel.
  • For a medium sized pond there is ‘Bateau’ a lovely red about 90cm (3’) across and ‘Indiana’ which starts out orange and fades to a soft apricot, this only grows to about 60cm (2’) across.
  • If you have a large wildlife pond consider growing the British native Nymphaea alba, an exquisite pure white.

For more information on how to enhance your garden just get in touch with our team in the Outdoor Plant department here in store.