(nim-fay' ee-ah)

Common name: Water Lily

Family: Nymphaeaceae, Water Lily

Height x width: 6-12" x 1-18' spread depending on cultivar

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: floating, alternate, simple, base deeply cut into 2 lobes; on stems from submerged rhizomes either tuberous or stoloniferous

Flowers: floating or held above foliage and water surface; mostly white, yellow, blue, red and variations through summer with each bloom lasting 3-4 days for hardy types and 6-8 days for tropicals, open in either day (diurnal) or night (nocturnal); may be cup or star-shaped; may be fragrant especially the tropicals which are also nice cut

Hardiness: zones 3-9 for hardy cultivars, zone 10 for tropicals

Soil: organic loam

Light: sun, some tolerate part shade ('Dauben' tolerates most shade)

Pests and Problems: leafspots, aphids, leaf mining midge, waterlily leaf cutter, waterlily leaf beetle (none usually serious); waterfowl such as ducks and geese may feed on plants as can large fish, deer and turtles

Landscape habit, uses: water gardens, ponds, water containers (most require more space to spread, 'Ellisiana' and 'Paul Hariot' are suitable for containers of at least 10 gallons of water)

Other interest: genus name from the Greek nymphe meaning water-nymph, refering to its habitat

Other culture:

plant in baskets placed on pond base with 6-18" of still water covering, some cultivars tolerating deeper

use slow-release fertilizer in basket providing low fertility

water pH should be 6.0-7.0

hardy types should survive if sufficient water above plants to keep from freezing, otherwise and for tropicals lift and store indoors in moist sand and cool

tropicals should have a water temperature of 65-70ºF summer and 50ºF winter

temperate species may need dividing every 3rd or 4th year, tropicals more often.

Propagation: division, rhizome cuttings, removal of young plantlets of viviparous types (those that produce attached plantlets), some types by seed


Most selections are found in commerce as hybrids, with the following two species sometimes seen in U.S. commerce.

colorata--zone 10, native to Tanzania, light blue flowers to 4" across opening in day

odorata-- Fragrant Water Lily, Pond Lily; zones 3-10, native to eastern U.S., white flowers opening in day, fragrant


Of the over 100 cultivars currently found in U.S. commerce, the following are the most frequently seen. Group refers to: tropical day-blooming (TD), tropical night-blooming (TN), hardy (H, day blooming).
Cultivar group flowers foliage
'Afterglow' TD pink, orange, yellow combined green
'Albert Greenberg' TD rosy yellow strongly speckled
'Attraction' H red dotted white, pink sepals, large large
'Blue Beauty' TD deep blue, gold center, black sepals large, long lobed, wavy 
'Charlene Strawn' H yellow, scented, held high green
'Chromatella' H primrose yellow green
'Comanche' H orange to copper, small, held high purple when young
'Dauben' TD periwinkle blue green speckled
'Director Geo. T. Moore' TD deep violet, gold centers, large small, blotched
'Ellisiana' H claret, small, profuse, early green
'Evelyn Randig' TD magenta-rose, large, fragrant, erect dark green, purple stripes
'General Pershing' TD deep pink, large,fragrant, 1' high large, pink tinted purple
'Gladstone' H snow white, large, thick petals dark red, rounded
'Gloire de Temple-sur-lot' H pink aging white, double large
'Golden West' TD light orange to apricot light green, large, mottled
'Hollandia' H pink, large, double, fragrant green
'James Brydon' H metallic red, large, scented, double large, tinted purple
'Leopardess' TD cobalt blue, scented dark green, brown spots
'Mrs. Geo. H. Pring' TD white, star-shaped, scented large, blotched brown
'Panama Pacific' TD deep plum, gold stamens bronze, red veins
'Paul Hariot' H yellow to bronze red, small, scented mottled
'Pink Beauty' H pink fragrant green
'Pink Perfection' TD rose pink strongly mottled
'Pink Sensation' H pink, star-shaped, held high rounded, large
'Red Flare' TN vivid red, star-shaped, fragrant mahogany
'Rose Arey' H rose pink, large, star-shaped, fragrant tinted red
'Sioux' H yellow to peach to orange-red bronze
'Splendida' H ruby red, orange stamens dull green
'Sunrise' H bright yellow, scented elliptic, brown marked
'Virginalis' H white tinted pink, semi-double tinted purple
'Yellow Dazzler' TD lemon yellow, star-shaped, held high large

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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