How To Grow Tropical Pond Lilies

Tropical pond lilies or water lilies are one of the fragrant wonders of the summer water garden but there are a few things you have to be aware of when growing these beauties.

Bloom Timing

To begin with, there are day blooming and night blooming varieties. The day bloomers will be finishing up when you get home from work so unless you’re going to be working from home you might be inclined to look for night blooming varieties. They’ll start to open up for you as the sun starts to go over the horizon. Think about it – the sun goes over the yardarm, the fragrant lilies open up, you come home from work and there is a drink sitting on the arm of your favourite chair.


As a rule of thumb, they are considered annual plants in cold climates. They certainly won’t winter outdoors and you have to keep them continually growing to keep them alive which means a heated water tank with grow lights right above the water surface. With the costs of running water heaters and grow lights, you’re breaking even at best.


Tropical pond lilies hold their blooms above the water line on long stems. They do not sit on the water surface. As such, they are much easier to see and enjoy.
There is a much wider range of colors in tropical lilies – including stunningly gorgeous blue water lilies and purples. These are gorgeous plants! If you have to spend the money on annual tropical lilies, you want to explore growing blue ones.
blue water lily

Size of Plants

  • Small varieties will spread three to four feet and are perfect for container or deck ponds. I regularly put dwarf varieties into my lye bucket patio pond.
  • Medium varieties will spread to eight to twelve feet. These are large plants.
  • And the large varieties will hit sixteen to twenty five feet. These are plants for large ponds

Tropical pond lily flowers can grow upwards of one foot across with larger varieties and they produce more blooms per plant than the hardier varieties (mind you, they’re an annual). If you can bear to cut them, they do make good cut flowers. Use them for that “special” occasion.


Tropical pond lilies are very greedy feeders.
You have to feed them well if you want them to attain the large sizes that will enhance your pond.
If you choose not to feed them, I’d suggest you not bother growing them as you’ll be disappointed.

Growing Tips

  • As long as the water temperatures are 72F or 20C, they will continue to bloom. As soon as the water temperatures drop below this, they’ll stop blooming. So, this means they’ll bloom later into the fall than the hardy types (the hardy ones start going dormant when the sunlight decreases). But as soon as it gets cool, Tropical pond lilies are done.
  • Plant your tropical water lilies the same way as the hardy pond lilies, just ensure you have at least a half bushel basket sized pot for all but the dwarf varieties. Remember, this is a large plant and wants both root space and water surface (sunshine) space.
  • Tropical lilies really do want full hot sun for best performance. I did try to grow one once in light shade and it was a waste of a year’s growth and money.

When to Put Outdoors

Do not plant your tropical water lily until the water temperatures have reached the 72F/20C mark.

If you plant too early and the water is too cold, the root will likely go dormant and simply sit there. You’ll lose flowers and you might lose the root. Use a water thermometer to check and don’t try to cheat and plunk them in early.

You can find the rest of the water garden / backyard pond articles here.

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