Tips on growing waterlilies (Nymphaea)

Tips for growing waterlilies

Discover some tips for growing waterlilies, from the experts at Waterside Nursery.

A garden pond isn’t complete without a waterlily – nothing can compare with their dramatic leaves and beautiful flowers. They are attractive to bees, hoverflies and butterflies when in flower, too.


Discover five waterlilies to grow.

At the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, we caught up with Waterside Nursery, who gave us their tips for growing them. Here are their expert tips on growing waterlilies.

A garden pond isn't complete without a waterlily - nothing can compare with their dramatic leaves and beautiful flowers.

Check the size

There are four sizes of waterlily: large, medium, dwarf and miniature. As a general rule, the spread of the plant is similar to the depth that it needs to be planted at: 90cm for large varieties, 60cm for medium, 30cm for dwarf and 25cm for miniature. 


Plant according to size

The large and medium types are suitable for most garden ponds; the large ones will provide instant impact, while the medium ones may take a few years to reach their full potential. Dwarf types (such as ‘Walter Pagels’, right) and miniatures are best for ponds in pots or very small ponds.


Grow in a sunny spot in still water

Waterlilies need to be grown in a sunny spot. They don’t like having their leaves splashed so don’t put them under a spray, fountain or waterfall.


Plant at the right depth

Planting at the right depth is the key to success. Read the advice on the label – you can drown waterlilies if you plant them too deep.


Feed regularly

Large varieties such as Nymphaea ‘Gladstoniana’, left, are especially heavy feeders. Feed plants with aquatic food tablets during the growing season. If the leaves turn light green or yellow, or the flowers become smaller, it’s a sign that they’re not getting enough food.


Remove dead foliage

Remove any dead foliage or flowers in summer. In autumn, the leaves will start to go brown, at which point they should be removed. The plant will go dormant in winter before resprouting in spring. 


Not sure how to look after your pond? Watch our video on maintaining a garden pond.


If growing waterlilies in a container, you will need to grow an oxygenating plant beneath the surface.