Use water lilies to colour up an existing water feature or create miniature water garden; perfect for small spaces like the patio or balcony. It a great way to bring a touch of the tropics to your garden!
There is one type of water lily called ‘hardy’s’, which grow well everywhere but are particularly good in the southern states. Most hardy varieties will flower from October through to April and it’s usually the hardy water lily that flowers close to the surface of the water. Hardy water lilies go dormant in winter and may be left in the water or stored.
Tropical water lilies take a little more care but are well worth the effort as their flowers are larger and more prolific. Tropical water lilies only thrive in subtropical to tropical conditions. The white and blue native waterlilies thrive in northern parts of Australia and have larger leaves and flowers.
Tropical water lilies such as the purple ‘Tina’ love basking in the sun and many have a fragrance. The flowers sit up taller and more proud than the hardy varieties and they start flowering later and continue their display well into autumn. Tropical water lilies are usually blue and purple. If you live in Subtropical - Warm Temperate zones, you could actually plant both types and get a longer display of flowers.
Night-flowering tropical’s, have white or cerise flowers in almost electric tones. Tropical water lilies require a water temperature above 21 degrees centigrade and they start flowering when the air temperature gets to approximately 30 degrees.
‘Snowflake’ is a tiny white water lily indigenous to Port Douglas and the east coast which is available at your local water lily supplier. Water lilies do well in water about 30 to 60 centimetres deep. Miniature varieties even do well in shallow conditions. Adding a few native fish to the pond may reduce mosquito larvae (native cloud fish are good as they are too small to eat frogs eggs) Allow about 50% coverage of floating pond weed, this will allow enough sunshine into the water lilies for good flower production. Pull off the rest through the season and mulch the garden with it!
Pot up a water lily for a water bowl
Choose your water bowl first. Ceramic bowls which are approximately 45cm high and 1m wide are the perfect size. Then choose a water lily or two to suit your climate zone.
Pot up your water lilies into individual plastic pots, the size of the pot depends on the water lily variety you're growing, but a good general indication is to plant a large variety into a squat pot 20 to 25 centimetres in diameter. Water lilies need a good quality garden mix, or rich, dark topsoil. Before potting, cut the water lily roots back a little to encourage strong, new growth. Also remove dead leaves and dead flowers that might remain from last season, and then place it into the pot and plant to one side, so there is plenty of room for the roots to grow.
Fill in around the roots with more mix, ensure the crown of the lily is above the soil surface, and top with a 2-3 centimetre layer of heavy decorative pebbles, gravel or rocks, to hold the soil in place. Slowly submerge the pot to ensure the soil doesn’t muddy the water.
Don’t forget to add a special water lily tablet - a fertiliser specially formulated to reduce algal growth
• Tropical water lilies need a water temp above 21ºC to thrive and flowering begins when the air temp reaches around 30ºC.
• For cooler climates one of the best hardy varieties is 'Colorado'.
Thank you to:
Liz Gledhill’s Garden
Hortulus Landscape Design and Management
Peppers Bale, Port Douglas
Port Douglas Tourism
Waverley Garden and Nursery