The Propagation of Water Lilies


Water lilies are aquatic plants with large floating leaves. They are the source of the lily pads that pepper childhood tales and imaginations. Water lilies produce a fragrant large bloom that is only open in the latter part of the day and closes at night. The flowers can be 1 to 3 inches across with large leathery leaves that have red veins across the center. Water lilies are easy to divide and propagate by separating rhizomes.


  • The rhizomes of water lilies are storage structures that are much like roots. They are submerged in the bottom sludge of the pond or water way; long stems bring the leaves and flowers to the surface. Most plants with rhizomes are easy to divide and actually require division for optimum health.

    The parent plant flourishes after division because it has more room to grow and less competition. The divided pieces survive as long as they have some rhizomes and root attached.


  • The rhizomes have several eyes or growth points on the storage root. Every division of the main plant needs a few eyes. Spring is the best time to make your divisions.

    When you cut the rhizome to make new plants, use a very sharp, sterile knife to prevent the introduction of pathogens, and so the cuts scar over cleanly. Cut as many pieces as you wish from the main plant as long as each includes healthy rhizome tissue, roots and at least two eyes or growth nodes.

Planting Divided Pieces

  • Keep the cut pieces in water until they are planted; do not let them dry out. Plant the water lily rhizomes in a special basket made for aquatic plants filled with aquatic compost. Plant the rhizome sections with the roots down into the compost mixture.

    Set the basket into a shallow part of the pond or keep it in a tub of water with the top at the surface until the plant starts to take off. Once the stalk has begun to grow. the plant can be lowered into deeper water.

Propagation by Seed

  • Growing water lilies by seed is a bit tricky. Sow the seed in small pots filled with peat. Set the pots into a trough of water in a warm area to keep the medium evenly moist.

    After the seeds germinate, move the plants to a sunny location and provide consistent water. As the plants get taller, raise the water level so the plants are always submerged with the top growth floating at the water level. In six to eight weeks the water lilies will be ready to move to their pond or permanent aquatic environment.

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