To me a water garden isn’t a water garden without Water Lilies.

There are so many choices…Tropical, Hardy, day bloomers, night bloomers, pinks, purples, blues, yellows… that one is never enough.


Water lilies & aquatic plants are easy to grow as long as you follow a few basic steps for potting and repotting.


Soil Medium for Water Lily

The most asked lily question I receive from my customers is…what should I plant my Lily in?

Commercial potting soils are unsuitable because they contain bark, percolate, etc. that will muck up the water & can float out of the pot.

There are good commercial pond planting media available, some even have added beneficial bacteria, but the easiest & least expensive planting media for lilies is Kitty litter.

Yes, that’s right, kitty litter.


Kitty Litter as Planting Mix?

Kitty litter is essentially clay which will hold the nutrients & beneficial bacteria & will not float out of the pot.

You can also use a heavy loam top soil or a mixture of both. 

Make sure the kitty litter is non scented & non clumping.


Plastic, cloth or clay pots at least ten inches across are best to use to accommodate the fast growing water lily. Remember the smaller the pot the smaller the lily.


I prefer the cloth pot as it will conform to the bottom of your pond & will not tip over.


How to Plant Your Water Lily

Fill the pot with your planting media leaving a “hole” for the tuber.

Plant hardy lilies against the side of the container at a 45-degree angle with the crown out of the soil a bit and pointed towards the center.


Tropical lilies are planted in the center of the pot, be sure to leave the crown exposed.

Add soil around the tuber & roots, then top off the soil layer with a half-inch of sand.

If you have fish you can use gravel in place of sand to hold the soil in place, again, being careful to keep the gravel away from the growing crown.


Fertilizing Your Water Lily

Lilies are very heavy feeders so it is important to fertilize them starting in the spring & through out the growing season.


Pond plant fertilizers come in liquids, tabs, granules & time release stakes.The stakes are the easiest to use, just make a hole near the edge of the pot in the soil & push stake in.


Most time release stakes last a year but in Florida we recommend you change out the stakes in the late summer too. If you prefer a monthly fertilizer, the tabs would be your best choice.


Personally, I don’t care for the liquid version unless you have quite a few plants. Granules work well when you are planting new or transplanting a lot of plants since they can be mixed into the soil.


Planting Depth in Your Pond

Planting depth is an important factor to growth.

You should place your lilies in the pond from 12” to 24” deep for the best growth & the most blooms.

Some lilies can go as deep as 30” or more, like the Big Blue Gigantia, but remember the deeper you plant them the more energy they will take to get to the surface creating smaller leaves & less blooms.


When planting new tubers or small lilies you should start the plant with about 6 inches of water above the crown, lowering to 12 inches after a couple of weeks.


Transplanting and Dividing Water Lilies

The lilies in your pond should be transplanted each spring.

If you have them in a large pot it is ok to re-use the same pot using fresh planting media & fertilizer.

Hardy water lilies should be divided every two or three years depending on the plant container size. 

Don’t forget the wider the pot the larger the plant.


Best Practices for Your Water Lily

Whatever you do, don’t place the Lily close to rushing, moving water. Calm, still areas of the pond where they are not subject to splash is best for your Lily.


Water lilies crave sunshine.


Make sure that they receive at least 5-6 hours of full direct sunlight daily. Some varieties, however, will bloom with as little as 3-4 hours of full sun & the Dauben will actually tolerate some shade.


Follow these easy steps & you will be rewarded with big beautiful blooms all season long.


(Pictured above left: Colorado hardy lily / Pictured bottom right: Woods white nigt tropical lily)


Lisa Burns is a water garden expert at Backyard Getaway. Please ask your water gardening questions in the comment area below! Let us know if you found this information useful!


Views: 4357

Tags: aquatic, lilies, planting medium, plants, ponds, repotting, water


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Comment by Shirley Bovshow on August 19, 2011 at 1:53pm
Thanks Lisa!
Comment by Backyard Getaway (Lisa Burns) on August 19, 2011 at 1:40pm
Love your pond!  You can use the kitty litter for a variety of aquatic plants. Kitty litte is essentially clay. Be sure to make sure it's pure, non clumping non scented. Also one more tip...when adding the newly potted lily to your pond tip the pot slightly allowing water to slowly enter the pot, this will help to keep the planting media from coming out of the pot.
Comment by Shirley Bovshow on August 19, 2011 at 1:34pm

Excellent information Lisa!


Kitty Litter as planting media? That is a new one for me. I may try it sometime.


Here's a photo of Shirley Bovshow's pond.




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