How to divide and repot a waterlily

Care for your waterlilies 1   2   3   4   5   6  

You can repot a waterlily in Spring when actively growing.

Signs a waterlily needs repotting:

1. Leaves standing upright above the pond water last Summer

2. More leaves and less flowering each year

3. Smaller leaves than previously seen

Method to divide and repot a waterlily:

1. Lift the basket out of the pond when you see growth in Spring. If you cannot lift it see Pruning a waterlily below.

2. Use hard rhizome only - discard any soft and mushy portions.
Cut the rhizome so that each piece is approx 4 inches/10cm long & has a growing tip and thin white feeding roots to stimulate new growth.
Cut back the thick, long white anchor roots to 6" from the rhizome.
Trim away any damaged or dead leaves on long stems but leave the young or unfurled leaves close to the rhizome.

3. Fill a mesh basket about two-thirds full of aquatic soil or clay garden soil. Wet soil works best.
Make a mound in the middle of the pot with a handful of soil.

4. Push an XL feed ball into the soil.

5. Place the rhizome on the mound and spread the roots out over the top of the soil so they are not under the rhizome in a squashed lump.

6. Add soil to cover the roots and around the rhizome. Do not bury the rhizome.
The point of the crown should have no soil on it or it will have difficulty sprouting new leaves.

7. Water the pot thoroughly from above.

8. Put the new waterlily plant on the shallow shelf with no more than 4-6" of water over the basket top until new growth appears. You should see new growth in 7-10 days depending on the month you replant.

9. Lower the basket when leaves reach the surface to about half its final depth and leave it there for the rest of the season.

Pointers about waterlilies:

  • Hardy water lilies are perennial aquatic plants and will survive the winter provided the rhizome does not freeze
  • They must have at least 6" of water over the top of the basket by the end of Autumn.
  • Waterlilies thrive by sending root growth out through the mesh holes to surf the water for nutrients.
  • Their root spread is often as large as their surface spread - this is not wrong and a successful waterlily will need this root expanse to thrive.


If you cannot lift the waterlily out of the water you can deal with excessive growth in situ (see below):

Pruning a waterlily in the pond:

If your waterlily is too large and has become too heavy with roots that stretch out across the pond base then do not give yourself a hernia by trying to lift it out to repot it.

Instead, prune the crown of the plant in the same way that you would a shrub in the garden.

1. The display of rhizomes (like the branches in the case of a shrub) should be evenly spaced around the crown. Each growing point should be heading in a different direction.

2. If the plant rhizomes are congested - cut out 1 in 3 of the close rhizomes with a sharp knife to allow each to have its own space. If they are crossing then remove the weakest and allow just one to continue.

3. When you have finished, the network of waterlily rhizomes should look like the open branches of a newly pruned shrub.

4. You can trim back the pieces of rhizome you have just removed and repot for future use.

See 'How to repot a waterlily' above.