Beginner Gardeners | Gardening 101 | Slideshow | Spring Planted Bulbs

Water Lily FAQ’s and Answers


Water lilies top the list of aquatic plants grown in ponds and water features. They are winter hardy in a range of climates, including cold climates. Their showy and bold blooms add a burst of color to garden water features. They attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and dragonflies to the garden. If you are fortunate enough to have a pond to plant them in we have tips for how to grow them. Even if you don’t have a pond water lilies can be grown in large containers.  Therefore, really anyone can have a water lily growing in their garden space.

Common Questions When Growing Water Lilies

What hardiness zones do water lilies grow in?

Before diving into the world of water lilies it’s best to determine what water lilies need to grow. They are hardy in zones 4-8 when planted in deep water features. As long as they are planted at least 30″ deep they can survive in the pond through the winter months. If the pond or water feature is shallow they can still be grown. However, before winter the bulb will need to be removed and stored to protect it from freezing over winter.

What temperature should water lilies be planted in?

The water temperature should be at least 65 degrees in order for the water lily to sprout. Therefore, if they are planted too early in a colder climate they may be delayed in sprouting. It is best to monitor the water temperatures with a digital pond thermometer to help gauge the best time for planting water lilies.

Why grow water lilies from a kit?

Holland Bulb Farms sells their water lilies in a kit, not just for ease of planting but also to protect the bulb from ducks, swans, and underground threats. In addition, since water lilies multiply readily the growing container they are planted in helps to regulate how much and how far they spread. Growing water lilies in a growing basket also makes it easier to remove from the pond if you are located in a cold climate or have a shallow pond that they will freeze in over winter.

Do water lilies need soil and water?

Water lilies will need some soil around the bulb and roots in order to grow. The kits that water lilies from Holland Bulb Farms come in have soil in the growing basket.

Do water lilies need sun to grow?

Yes, water lilies require a full sun location to produce large leaves and blooms. If the location you want to plant the water lilies in does not receive full sun try using aquarium lights to produce extra light for the plant.

Do water lilies need to be fertilized?

Yes, water lilies need to be fertilized monthly during the growing season. They are heavy feeders and require extra nutrients to produce blooms and healthy foliage. The water lily grow kit comes with one fertilizer tablet that is placed in the soil. However, additional aquatic plant food tablets should be purchased to continue fertilizing the water lilies throughout the season.

How deep should water lilies be planted?

When initially planting your water lily kit drop the kit just 6″ below the water. This will help to acclimate the water lily to its new growing environment. When leaves have formed the water lily can gradually be lowered 18-24″ deep in the water feature.

Can fish grow in a pond with water lilies?

Yes, absolutely! The large leaves of water lilies provide shade for fish and other aquatic animals in your pond.

Winter Care for Water Lilies

Hardy water lilies go dormant during the winter months. Therefore, in the fall the leaves should be cleaned up and cut back. The water lily will need to be at least 24-30″ below the water in order for it to survive in cold freezing temperatures.

If the pond or water feature is not deep enough, remove the entire water lily from the pond. The bulb can be stored in a plastic pot or box in a location that is cool and dry.

Planting Water Lilies

Water lily drop and grow kits make these bulbs extremely easy to plant! They can be grown in large ponds, as well as small containers.

Growing Water Lily Kits in a Pond

The kit will most likely be ready to just drop and grow. However, it is a good idea to inspect the kit to make sure the bulb, fertilizer and soil is all in the grow basket.

The crown of the bulb where the growth will come out should be above the soil surface level of the growing kit.

The fertilizer tablet should be placed near the bottom of the bulb and basket where the majority of the roots are going to grow. Water lilies like heavy clay soil to grow in, which will be included in the kit.

Once the bulb is situated properly in the growing medium, and growing basket, be sure the top of the kit is sealed. Drop the entire kit into the water starting 6″ below the surface. When leaves have formed the water lily can be lowered to 18-24″ below the water level.

Growing Water Lilies in Pots

The great thing about water lilies is that they grow well in containers. The container will have to hold water and not be porous or have drain holes. Use a container that is at least 24″ tall to grow a water lily kit.

How to grow water lilies in pots?

Fill the container to the top with water. The kit will have a grow basket, soil in the bottom, a water lily bulb, and a fertilizer tablet. Drop the entire kit into the water. Be sure the water is warm enough 65 degrees or more is required for these bulbs to sprout.

Water Lilies for Everyone

Initially, I didn’t put too much into learning about water lilies when I first started gardening. I don’t have a pond or large water feature, and therefore, I didn’t think it was possible for me to grow these delightful aquatic flowers. However, knowing that they can be grown in a large water-tight container gives me the inspiration to try growing a water lily in my small city garden lot.

If you do have a pond or water feature another type of lily that grows well in water and wet conditions are canna lilies. The bulbs should be started in pots first so the plants have foliage before adding them to a pond. However, once they are started canna lilies are another lovely flower for your pond. Learn more about growing canna lilies here.



Need Gardening Help?

If you need any help with gardening or if you have plant-related questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Jenny San Filippo. She can provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed with your next project!

Contact Jenny

Shop For Bulbs

Holland Bulb Farms Logo

Fundraise With Bulbs

If you’re looking to run a fundraiser in the fall, spring or during the holiday season, Flower Power Fundraising is an excellent option! Sell a wide assortment of bulbs and earn 50% profit on all of your sales! It’s fun and easy!

Learn More