Planting water lilies banner
dew drops on lily pads

Planting water lilies may seem like a daunting task, but if you take it step by step and use the right variety, you too can have a green thumb.  There is nothing more beautiful than a delicate water lily bloom floating across the calm water on a silent pond. Check out this short video, or keep reading.

Gazing out over the water the blooms are like stars gleaming in the night sky.  How does nature create something so beautiful?  When I try putting water lilies in my backyard water garden I got lily pads, but no blooms.  What was I doing wrong? 

Part of the problem was, the part of my pond where the lilies are planted is in the shade for part of the day.  If you want your lilies to bloom, they prefer full sun. Another reason why I may not be getting blooms is the fact that I never fertilized them before they were planted.  Two rookie mistakes that I could have avoided.

Tougher Than You Think

That’s the great thing about water lilies, although they look fragile and delicate, they are extremely tough and very hardy.  Water lilies can be grown in every USDA zone across the US.

Some varieties go dormant in the winter and can be left in the water, while other tropical varieties need to be taken care of during the winter months.  The tropical varieties require a minimum water temperature of 70 degrees F.

pink lily bloom

Although the tropical varieties may need more care, let me assure you they are worth the effort.  The blooms from these plants are truly incredible.

Water lilies grow best at a depth of 16 to 24 inches.

The easiest way to go about planting lilies is to use a container or pot.  This makes them easy to remove if you live in a climate where your pond freezes solid during the winter months.  If your pond does not freeze solid, you may still wish to move your plants to a lower depth in your pond during the cold season.

Another reason we recommend using a container for your planting is to protect them from any fish you may have. You can get cheap planter baskets right from Amazon. If planting in a koi pond be aware that koi can be very destructive when it comes to pond plantings.

Planting Step By Step

  1. A water lily is a tuber so it requires a shallow, wide pot.  The pot should be approximately 12-18 inches wide, and 6 – 10 inches deep.  If your container has drain holes in and around it, line it with burlap, or landscape fabric to keep the soil in place.
  2. If soil does escape from the pot it could cloud the water in your pond.  Use a dense soil unlike potting soil that is light and fluffy. Soils that contain peat, perlite, or vermiculite all have the tendency to float out of your container.
  3. Use an aquatic fertilizer that is designed for pond plants and mix it into your soil.  Be sure to use the recommended amount. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Also, if you over fertilize your plants you will also encourage algae growth and could turn your pond green.
  4. Cut off any old dead leaves and any thick roots.  Leave only the small hair like thin roots and the budding leaves.  Place the lily up against the side of the container with the bud pointed at a 45-degree angle towards the center of the planter.
  5. Cover the tuber with soil and then place pea gravel over the soil.  The gravel will help to contain the soil once it is lowered into the water.  Place the container into the water with care. Be sure there is no air trapped in the container after it is submerged by lowing it in at an angle.

Let Nature Take Its Course

Your pot should not be planted any lower than 18 inches to begin.  If your pond is deeper than that and it doesn’t have planting shelves, then you will need to put the pot up on something to reach that depth.  The leaves will float to the surface.

water lily starting to bloom

Planting these winter hardy water lilies will make it look like you do have a green thumb after all.  By following these simple steps, you will have a water garden filled with lily pads and magnificent blooms.


If you are ready to get your hands dirty and plant some of these wonderful plants in your water garden pond be sure to get winter hardy variety if you live in a cooler climate. The pre-grown water lilies are ready to enchant your water feature.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave them below.  We love to hear from you, that’s what we are here for.

About the author


I love being outdoors and hands on DIY. If you share my passion, you are in the right place. If I can help one person surprise themselves with the success of a project, then this website is a success.

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  1. This is my third summer with the same water lily in a water container. The pads are plenty but it has never bloomed. I fertilize and treat the water for alge. What am I doing wrong? I want it to bloom so badly! Thank you!

    1. I have had similar luck when my lilies are not planted in full sun. Sounds like you are doing everything right. Just be sure they are in the sun most of the day.

      1. I have had the same issue when a lily is not planted in full sun. I sounds like you are doing everything right. Be sure it is in full sun most of the day.

    2. I have had the same issue when a lily is not planted in full sun. I sounds like you are doing everything right. Be sure it is in full sun most of the day.

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