Nymphaea (Water Lily)

nymphaea alba

A family of perennial flowering aquatic plants that thrive in shallow, clear, fresh water. Water depths from 6in (15cm) to 3ft (90cm), depending on variety.

Family: Nymphaeaceae
Botanical Name: Nymphaea
Common Names: bobbins, can dock, flutterdock, platter dock

Foliage: Deciduous, large green, floating, rounded leaves.

Flowers: Showy, cup or bowl-shaped flowers. Often fragrant. Available in a range of colours. Single, double or semi-double forms are available. Usually followed by berry-like fruits.

Flowering Period: Summer.

Soil: Best in a fibrous loam. Any pH.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Site in a west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Aquatic, with floating flowers and leaves.

Type: Rhizomatous (submerged) perennials.

Hardiness: Most varieties are fully hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Nymphaea

Thrives in a fibrous loamy soil, in shallow still water, in full sun. Plant in spring, in clear still water between 4in (10cm) to 3ft (1m) deep, depending on variety.

Plant in permeable aquatic baskets in a loamy soil (special aquatic compost is available at garden centres for this purpose). Plant the crowns just below soil surface and cover with a fine grade of pea shingle.

Site the planting basket where it will be covered to a depth of around 6 to 10in (15-25 cm) of water. As the plant grows up, gradually lower the baskets to about twice the initial planting depth. This can be done by initially resting the baskets on house bricks or flat stones and removing these one at a time as the plants grow.

Taking Care of Nymphaea

Feed during the growing season with a slow-release proprietary aquatic fertiliser. Do not overfeed. Never use a fertiliser designed for general garden use, as this will contaminate the water.

Pruning Nymphaea

Deadhead faded blooms and remove yellowing leaves. Keep water clear where young plants are growing.

Remove dead leaves in autumn, to prevent them rotting and fouling the water.

Pests and Diseases

Prone to attack by water-lily beetle, water lily aphid and leaf-mining midge.

Can be affected by crown/stem rot and leaf spot.

Propagating Nymphaea

Increase established plants by division in late spring.

Popular Varieties of Nymphaea

A wide range of hardy varieties and hybrids are available in a choice of colours but you will need to visit a specialist aquatic nursery for the best choice.

Nymphaea alba (white water lily) has white flowers. Pool depth up to 3ft (90cm). Available from Van Meuwen.

Nymphaea 'Firecrest' has attractive deep green leaves and large pink blooms. Pool depth up to 2ft (60cm).

Nymphaea pygmaea a miniature water-lily with dark green leaves and small flowers, often double. Pool depth up to 1ft (30cm). Can be grown in a shallow pond or half barrel. Cultivar 'Alba' has white flowers.

Nymphaea 'Marliacea Chromatella' with large (6in (15cm)) yellow flowers and dark green leaves flecked with maroon and bronze.