How to care for your waterlilies each season:

Waterlilies need care in all seasons to allow them to flower well


March/April growth:

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

Whilst the waterlilies are small it is a good time for us to despatch them out as they will travel better with less growth on them. See images below.

Different varieties and colours begin to grow at different rates. Nymphaea alba has leaves of 2″ semi opened but the Attraction image above is showing red leaves closely furled and 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


When waterlilies are planted in mesh baskets they can use up all their nutrient supply quickly – especially in a new pond. By their second season if the leaves turn light green or yellow or if the flowers become smaller then this is a sign that they need additional feeding.

Special waterlily fertilizers come in pelleted tablet form and these can be pushed into the soil around the roots in Spring and again in high Summer and will not upset the nutrient balance of your pond.


  • Waterlily flowers will last for a few days each before dropping below the water surface but the plant will produce more buds to give a succession of flowers throughout the season.
  • Leaves will decay during the Summer and be continually replaced. Remove dying leaves and flowers to keep the water healthy.
  • The plant will produce an excess of leaf growth and no flower if the leaves are continually rotting because the growth is under splashing water from a fountain or waterfall.
  • Re-feed with fertilizer tabs in mid summer to extend the flowering period.


  • By Autumn the leaves, stems and any remaining flowers will all go brown/black and start to decay and you should remove these from the water to stop them sinking to the bottom and creating a layer of composting sludge.
  • Cut any growth still attached to the plant as low as possible in the water and use a net to collect the debris.
  • Waterlilies die back to their basket in the deep water zone in Autumn – 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 and 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 lily next Spring when it becomes active again.


You will not see any water lily growth in Winter but leave the basket down in the deep water area as this will protect the plant rhizome from frost and ice.

Leaf growth will start again from the deep water when the sun gets brighter and the water warms in Spring. You will start to see regrowth around April/May.