Water Lilies: Types and Varieties

The water lily is justifiably the most popular of water plants. It has brilliant blooms and at the same time its leaves cover the water surface to provide both shelter to fishes and welcome shade that prevents excessive algae growth. In addition, water lilies – all species and hybrids of Nymphaea – are available in a variety of sizes to suit the size and depth of any pond, from the pygmy types that need just a shallow covering of water to the more vigorous types that would swamp a small pond completely and need deep water to prevent the leaves from standing proud of the surface.

Water lilies should be grown in containers. They will give sufficient anchorage and nutrition while stopping the plant from outgrowing the pond. They will also allow easy access to the plant for maintenance, treatment for disease or pest attack, and feeding. Containers allow a certain flexibility of position and can be adjusted to give the right depth of water over the crown of the plant; this is achieved by inserting bricks or other inert material under the container to raise it.

water lilies There are two main groups of water lilies: the hardy and the tropical. In temperate zones the hardy ones are fine for outdoor ponds; the tropical lilies are only suited to indoor and outdoor ponds where the water temperature is maintained at 21°C (70°F) throughout the year.

The best soil to grow water lilies in is a heavy loam well fortified with bonemeal (approximately 0.1 litres per 4.5 litres of soil). Animal manures are not recommended as the water becomes over rich with nutrients that will encourage algae growth. Should the loam be poor quality and low in nitrogen mix some dried blood into the soil. The roots should be well anchored by ramming the soil well down in the container, leaving some room for a layer of shingle or gravel over the soil to prevent fish from stirring up the fine particles and making the water cloudy.

Water lilies need sun, plain soil and the right depth of water. Given these they will reward the gardener with a prolific show of flowers from early summer onwards.

Pygmy water lilies

Pygmy varieties are suitable for small ponds with water to a depth of 23cm (9in). They spread to 1800cm2 (2ft2).


‘Caroliniana’ Delicate perfumed medium-sized blooms of skin-pink.

‘Laydekeri Lilacea’ Rose-coloured scented cup-shaped blooms that deepen to red as they age. The leaves are dark green.

Odorata ‘W.B. Shaw’ Very fragrant pink flowers with narrow petals carried above the water surface.


‘Ellisiana’ Deep red flowers that darken to purple at the centre.

‘Laydekeri purpurata’The blooms are bright rosy crimson with shading on the petals. Very free flowering.


Candida small cup-shaped flowers with a red stigma.

Odorata minor – Small and scented blooms of pure white; the green leaves are red underneath. ‘Pygmaea Alba’ – The smallest lily, with flowers barely 2.5cm (1 in) across. It requires just 5cm (2in) of water over the crown and needs protection during hard frost.

‘Maurice Laydekeri’ Red flowers flecked with white.

Pygmaea rubra Delicate rose blooms that age to dark red.


‘Aurora’ The blooms start yellow and change to orange and then deepen to red. The leaves are mottled brown and green.

‘Comanche’ Deep apricot flowers turning to copper with orange centres. Young foliage is purple changing to green mottled with brown. The blooms are held well above the water surface.

‘Graziella’ Orange blooms. Very free flowering. Blooms 5-7.5cm (2-3in).

‘Helvola’ The smallest yellow water lily with pale yellow star-shaped flowers and golden centres. Young foliage is purple changing to green mottled with brown. The blooms are held well above the water surface.

‘Indiana’ Pink-orange blooms that turn to copper-red. Green leaves marked with purple.

Odorata sulphureae – Small spiky soft yellow flowers held above the water surface. Small spotted leaves. ‘ Paul Hariot’ Yellow flowers that age through orange to red. Free flowering. Leaves marked in brown and green. Blooms 13-15cm (5-6in) across.

Small water lilies

These need 15-45cm (6-18in) of water depth and spread to 60cm (2ft) across when fully mature.


‘Andreana’ Large orange-red blooms. Free flowering with green leaves mottled with brown.

‘Froebeli’ Prolific wine-red flowers. A very reliable variety.

‘Gloriosa’ Bright red blooms. The growth rate and leaf area of this plant are minimal which, with its prolific flowering, makes it ideal for the smaller pond.

‘James Brydon’ Prolific bright red blooms. It will stand more shade than most water lilies and has a compact spread that makes it ideal for both


‘Al batross’ Large white flowers with golden centres and erect petals.

Young leaves are purple and turn to apple green as they mature.

Caroliniana nivea Large prolific blooms for its small size. White and fragrant.

‘Hermine’ Star-shaped flowers that stand out of the water. Pointed petals; very free flowering.

‘Lactae’ Delicate pink blooms that fade to white as they age. ‘Loose’ The flowers are held 30cm (12in) above the water surface.

Scented and star-shaped, often 15cm (6in) wide.


‘Firecrest’ Bright pink blooms with orange stamens with red tips.

Odorata ‘Turicensis’ Medium-sized flowers of a soft deep pink. Fragrant with long and rounded petals.

Odorata rosea – Soft deep pink flowers of medium size, but the plant needs to spread in fairly shallow water and is often treated as a marginal.

‘Pink Opal’ Scented flowers of a pinky-red; the petals are broad and give a spectacular show.

‘Rose Arey’ Brilliant rose-pink blooms up to 20cm (8in) across with long pointed petals that are incurved. Free flowering and scented.

‘Rose Magnolia’ Delicate rose-pink blooms held above the water surface.

‘Rose Nymph’ Fragrant deep pink flowers that open 18cm (7in) wide.

‘Somptuosa’ One of the first water lilies to flower. Large semi-double rose-pink blooms that deepen to a deep strawberry pink in the centre.

The leaves are purple to dark green ‘Sanguinea’ Blood-red flowers and leaves mottled brown on an olive green ‘William Falconer’ One of the darkest reds, with a yellow centre and a cup-shaped bloom. The foliage is dark green.

‘Vesuve’ Rich fire-red blooms.


‘Phoebus’ Yellow blooms blushed with red and bright orange centres. The foliage is green and purple.

‘Robinsoniana’ Orange-red flowers with lighter yellow-orange centres. The leaves are green heavily marked with purple.

‘Sioux’ The blooms open a buff-yellow and turn through peach to copper-orange as they age. The foliage is green mottled with brown.

‘Solfatare’ Star-shaped flowers of a warm yellow. The leaves are green marked with a deep brown-red.


‘Darwin’A fragrant lily with red blooms strongly marked with white. The foliage is green. ‘Eucharis’ Deep pink flowers strikingly spotted and splashed with white.

‘Livingstone’ Deep cup-shaped scented blooms of red striped with white. Each flower has a deep brown-red centre making a compact shape.

Water Lilies: Medium Size

These water lilies are suitable for medium-sized ponds. Allow 23-60cm (9-24in) of water over the crowns. The plants have a spread of about 90cm (3ft).


‘Gonnere’ Also known as ‘Crystal White’and’Snowball’, this is a semi-double with a profusion of white petals. The leaves are green.

‘Hal Miller’ Creamy white flowers held above the water surface. Odorata alba White heavily perfumed blooms. The plant prefers shallow water where it can spread.

‘Tuberosa’ Pure white flowers with golden centres. Apple-green foliage.

Marliacea albida – Pure white fragrant flowers with yellow centres. The leaves are green with smooth dark brown edges. Vigorous and free flowering, this is one of the most popular of all water lilies and the most widely planted.


‘Amabilis’ Flat star-shaped blooms of rose-pink, darkening as they age. Often up to 23cm (9in) across.

‘Brackleyi Rosea’ A scented lily of deep pink that fades with age. The free-flowering blooms stand just above the water level. It can occasionally seed itself.

‘Fabiola’ Rosy red flowers with a deep brown-red centre. The foliage is green.

‘Jean de Lamarsalle’ Pale pink blooms.

‘Mme. Wilfron Gonnere’ Double flowers of a rich pink, cup-shaped with the centre flushed rose. The leaves are plain green.

‘Mrs. Richmond’ Large blooms of deep pink, globe-like in shape with the colour becoming darker towards the centre.

Marliacea carnea – Also known as ‘Morning Glory’, this is a very popular plant with large fresh rose-pink blooms. Very free flowering with a vanilla fragrance. A robust plant.

Marliacea rosea – When this plant first flowers the blooms are barely pink but as it becomes established the colour becomes much stronger and deeper towards the centre. Deeper in colour than marliacea carnea.

‘Masaniello’ – Large flowers of rose deepening towards the centre and becoming darker as the plant matures. Free flowering with peony-shaped blooms.

‘Rene Gerard’ – Red blooms streaked with pink becoming darker towards the centre and with pointed petals. The plant is free flowering but with less prolific leaf growth.


‘Attraction’ Large flowers up to 25cm (10 in) across of a garnet red flecked with white along the edges of the petals. Very free flowering, the young plants have pale pink blooms.

Allow plenty of space as it is a vigorous grower.

‘Bory de Saint Vincent’ – Well shaped strong red blooms. The foliage is a plain green.

‘Conqueror’ – Large blooms that are blood red in the centre and have outer petals of a paler red with some white flecking. Often remains open in the evening.

‘Escarboucle’ – A very popular water lily with large flat blooms of rich wine red with pointed petals. Very free flowering and of excellent quality. Well worth growing if you have space.

‘Gloriosa’ – Red-rose blooms that change to deep rose, well scented and a prolific producer of flowers in a long season. Can be grown either in constricted areas or in a large pond.

Marliacea rubra punctata – Red flowers marked with lilac.

‘Newton’ – Bowl-shaped blooms raised above the surface of the water, orange-red in colour with long gold stamens and pointed petals.

‘Rene Gerard’ – Flowers with slender pointed petals of a rich rose streaked with crimson, becoming deeper towards the centre. Free flowering and with restricted leaf growth.


‘Moorei’ – Pale yellow blooms up to 15cm (6in) wide, well proportioned and full petalled. The foliage is green with brown spots.

Odorata sulphurea grandiflora – The petals are narrow and plentiful, of a good pale yellow. The blooms are held above the water surface. The leaves are marked and spotted.

‘Sunrise’ Bright yellow delicately scented flowers with gold stamens held above the water surface. The foliage is dark green with red undersides marked in brown and is borne on hairy stems. Hardy but blooms much better under glass.

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07. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Water Gardening | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Water Lilies: Types and Varieties


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