How to Care for Lily Pads

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Lily pads are the leaves of the water lily plant. These large, flat leaves float on the water surface, often adorned with a pink, yellow or white flower. They provide shade to ornamental ponds, which prevents algae growth and provides cover for pond fish. Hardy lilies grow the typical lily pad, with its notched circular shape. These lilies remain in the pond year-round, though they go dormant in winter. With proper care, they remain healthy and attractive for many years.

Difficulty: Easy


Things You’ll Need:

  • Pond basket
  • Potting soil
  • Pebbles
  • Fertilizer pellets
  • Sand
  1. Plant the lily rhizome in a pond basket, which allows water to flow through the bottom and sides. Fill the basket with a rich, heavy soil and plant the rhizome — a section of the root — 1 inch beneath the soil surface.

  2. Place a thin layer of pebbles on top of the soil. The pebbles hold the soil in place and prevent fish from digging up the lily rhizome.

  3. Put the pot in the pond so that the top of the soil sits 12 to 18 inches beneath the surface of the water.

  4. Place the pot on top of bricks or rocks if the pond is deeper than the recommended pot depth.

  5. Fertilize the lily pads once monthly from spring until August. Apply 4 oz. of 20-10-5 aquatic fertilizer pellets to the soil or follow the application rates recommended on the fertilizer packet.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tropical water lilies do not overwinter well and are usually treated as annuals. They can be overwintered indoors if provided with plenty of light and warm temperatures.

  • Some varieties of lily pads are considered invasive. Purchase plants from reputable nurseries and do not collect plants from natural areas.

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