Monet loved these summer flowers, and you will too.

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Water lilies, plants in the genus Nymphaea, are aquatic blooms that grow in ponds and water gardens. Their green lily pads spread out across the surfaces of freshwater environs and, when warm weather arrives each year, they bloom out in spiky, brightly colored petals. They have floating leaves and floating blossoms—those are the showy bits, the parts that will have you oohing and aahing over your blooming water garden once they emerge. While these perennials appear on the surface of waters in tropical and temperate regions, their roots do need soil to survive. They’re eye-catching, sun-loving plants, and they might just become your new favorite perennials to grow. Read on to learn more about water lilies, the easiest species for beginners to plant, and how to care for them in your own pond or water garden.

About Water Lilies

Water lilies bloom in warm weather during the late spring and summer months, and they fall dormant in autumn and winter. Some species are hardy, others are tropical. Some bloom during the day, others at night. Many kinds are fragrant as well. The New Southern Living Garden Book describes water lilies this way, “These aquatic perennials grow with their roots in submerged soil and their long-stalked leaves floating on the surface. Floating leaves are rounded, with deep notches at one side where the leafstalk is attached. Showy flowers either float on surface or stand above it on stiff stalks.”

How to Grow Water Lilies

In the South, the hardy kinds are the easiest to grow, which makes them the best choices for beginners who want to try their green thumbs at planting Nymphaea species. If you live in an area with mild winters (i.e. the Lower and Coastal South), you can plant water lilies from February to October. If you live in a region with colder winters (i.e. the Middle and Upper South), plant from April to July. They thrive in full sun. To get your water lilies started from tubers, The New Southern Living Garden Book recommends, “Set[ting] 6-inch-long pieces of rhizome on soil at pool bottom or in boxes and placing rhizome in a nearly horizontal position with its bud end up.” Get out your measuring stick, and ensure that the top of the soil is at least 8 inches below the surface of the water (and no more that 12 inches below the surface). Wait for the tubers to send shoots up to the surface, and watch as the leaves and blooms appear on the water. You should also keep an eye on your lilies as the blooming season progresses, and remove the flowers and foliage once they’re spent.

Hardy Selections of Water Lilies

Because the hardiest water lilies are the easiest to grow, look to species such as Nymphaea odorata and selections including ‘Peaches and Cream’, ‘Pink Beauty’, ‘Sunny Pink’, and ‘Attraction’ for vibrant blooms that will be at home in the Southern climates.

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Do you have water lilies growing in your water garden or in a pond on your property? Would you like to plant some this season?

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