Waterlilies - care tips

Care for your waterlilies 1   2   3   4   5   6  

How to care for your waterlilies each season:

Care tips for waterlilies in your pond across all the seasons. These care tips will help you get the best flowers on your waterlilies

When will my waterlilies start to grow in Spring?

March/April growth:

At 12" or deeper the water will still be very cold and waterlilies do not reach the water surface until May/June but they will be starting to shoot below the water surface.

  • Whilst the waterlilies are small it is a good time for us to dispatch them.
  • They travel well with less growth on them.
  • Place them straight down into deeper water on receipt as the leaf will be furled(or curled round on itself)
  • Submerge the small amount of leaf growth completely (as per ticket included).
  • They will grow up to the water surface as the water warms.
  • Different varieties and colours begin to grow at different rates.
  • In photos above:
  • Nymphaea alba has leaves of 2" semi opened but Nymphaea Attraction image above is showing red leaves closely furled and still closed for the journey to the water surface that is still to take place.
  • A stem of 2-3ft could grow between the basket and the water surface by May.
  • The miniature waterlily Helvola has a leaf approx 1/2" across at this time that will slowly respond to the changing temperature of the water. Everything about the Pygmaea waterlilies is small - leaf size, growth at this time of year, pond shelf depth and final cover size on the water surface.
  • The Aponogeton distachyos image has most growth because it is the surface cover plant that leafs and flowers on the water surface before the waterlily.

To see photos of other pond plants in Spring please see the Your pond plants in Spring: Tips and Advice page.

Divide congested waterlilies in Spring:

Feed all lily baskets in Spring:

  • When waterlilies are planted in mesh baskets they can use up all their nutrient supply quickly.
  • If the leaves turn light green or yellow, if there are no flowers or if they are smaller than usual then this is a sign they need additional feeding.
  • XL feed balls for Pond waterlilies in 3 litre baskets and 1x Feed balls for Aquatic plants for waterlilies in 1 litre baskets.
  • These can be pushed into the soil around the roots in Spring and again in high Summer
  • These will not upset the nutrient balance of your pond.

Summer tips:

  • Waterlily flowers will each last for a few days before dropping below the water surface but the plant will produce more buds to give a succession of flowers throughout the season.
  • Give a waterlily another feed in Summer to boost flowering and growth.
  • Leaves will decay during the Summer and be continually replaced.
  • Remove dying leaves and flowers from the pond whenever you see them to keep the water healthy.
  • The plant will produce excess leaf growth and no flower if the leaves are continually rotting because the leaf is under splashing water from a fountain or waterfall.
  • Check for any pond pests that could be eating your waterlily leaves - see our separate page for images of the culprits!
  • Photograph any congested water lilies so you know which one to divide next Spring.

Should I cut back my waterlilies in Autumn?

  • By Autumn the leaves, stems and any remaining flowers will all go brown/black and start to decay.
  • Remove these from the water to stop them sinking to the bottom and creating a layer of composting sludge.
  • Cut back any growth still attached to the plant under the water as near the basket top as possible.
  • Use a net to collect the plant debris and remove to the compost heap.


  • Waterlilies die back to their basket in the deep water zone in Autumn - place well below the ice level.
  • If your waterlily was placed in the pond this year when the leaves were already grown then it may need moving lower for protection in Winter - to about half the ultimate depth on the ticket.
  • If your waterlily was strong in growth last year and you think it may outgrow its space next year then lower it into deeper water. Then the leaf growth will have further to grow next Spring and this will help control its width.
  • If you have no greater depth available you may need to repot or cut back the water lily next Spring when it becomes active again.

What do waterlilies look like in Winter?

  • You will not see any water lily growth in Winter but leave the basket down at the correct depth of water as per its ticket.
  • This will protect the plant rhizome from frost and ice.
  • Leaf growth will start again from the deeper water when the sun gets brighter and the water warms in Spring.
  • You will start to see regrowth around April/May and then you should feed.

Follow these care tips for waterlilies and you should have strong growth with good leaf surface cover and flowers.