Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Water Lilies

Since I recently talked about my love for Hughes Water Garden Center, I thought I would show the water lilies and water plants grown at The Lents Farmer.

There are so many beautiful water lilies, some of which can be grown in tubs in a sunny spot.  It's really worth considering and it's fun!

I've had four water lilies for about six years and there are three that are new for 2013.

The tubs sit on the end of my driveway and get full sun almost all day.  There are always a few flowers blooming each day. In the evening, the black walnut tree starts to shade them as the sun sets and the flowers will begin to close for the night.

Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Nymphaea 'Mayla' - How gorgeous is this! Perfection!

The lilies are all grown in plastic containers. I prefer plastic as it can handle freezing in winter without breaking/cracking. Unfortunately, beautiful and expensive Vietnamese ceramic water dishes would crack over a Portland winter and since they are generally too heavy to move and there is nowhere to store them, plastic it is! 
Nymphaea 'Hazorea Dagan White'- Just a hint of pink in there.
Nymphaea 'Hazorea Dagan White' - Lovely speckled foliage on this one.
All the lilies, goldfish and rosy minnows have overwintered successfully in these plastic tubs. In winter, the top several inches of water will freeze, but I have not had them freeze solid. Having the lily crowns actually freeze would be bad...
Nymphaea 'Burgundy Princess' - This plant is young, the flowers will get more intense with age.
In the spring, when the water is a little warmer, I try to clean out any "gunk" on the bottom of the ponds and remove any tree leaves from last fall. I have a big wire mesh strainer for this. I don't go nuts, just get the big chunks. I'll check on the water lilies too and remove any rotted leaf parts. I don't change all the water ever, Portland's water comes out of the hose too cold and will kill the fish. I do top off the tubs in summer when the water line gets low due to evaporation.   

Nymphaea 'Texas Dawn' - This one was divided and re-potted in 2013 giving me three plants.
Nymphaea 'Texas Dawn'
I fertilize lilies with Pondtabbs. I have a giant flat-head screwdriver that was found buried in the yard, that I use to dibble a hole in the lily pot muck, then insert the Pondtabb and cover. I do suggest a helper for this, as it can be messy, stinky and sometimes leachy. 

My fertilizer schedule is probably not the best, but starting around April or May, I give them two tabs per month per plant (most of the pots are 1-2 gallons of soil) when the temps are cool and they begin growing, then give the same dose but every three weeks or so when the temps are 70-80s. The emergent plants get a few tabs here and there when I think about it, which isn't often.
Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'

Nymphaea 'Solfatare'

Nymphaea 'Perry's Almost Black'
Nymphaea 'Sioux'
There is also Pickerel Rush, Juncus carmens (Carmen's Japanese Rush), Juncus effusus 'Lemon Swirl', and Thalia dealbata (Powdery Alligator-Flag) growing in containers filled with garden soil and topped off with several inches of water.

The two large 100 gallon Rubbermaid horse troughs each have two water lilies, a few "feeder" goldfish and a small, but ever growing, school of rosy minnows. The two 40 gallon round tubs have a mixture of baby rosy minnows and small fantail goldfish.  I have only bought inexpensive "feeder" fish due to raccoon invasion and fear of winter freezes.

There are small fish (baby rosy minnows) and "George" the Siamese Fighting Fish who is summer vacationing in the Thalia, that keep the mosquitoes at bay, but I have to watch the water level on the Pickerel Rush and Juncus or it's a mosquito farm in no time.
Pontederia dilatata (Royal Pickerel)
The Thalia is just to the right of the blue chair and the Pickerel Rush to the left.


  1. I feel lucky to have seen these all in person as they are gorgeous! You've definitely inspired me to find room for a second, sunny, stock tank pond.

  2. I echo Loree, it was great to see them in person, as now I feel like I have a better grasp on how they fit in with the rest of the garden. Oh, to have room for some!

    1. I'm not sure mine necessarily "fit" into the rest of the garden, I just took advantage of a driveway in full sun that I don't use and I tried to fill in around some of the water dishes with potted plants a little to make it seem intentional. To me, it was more about having and enjoying the lilies and less about how fugly their container was.

  3. Your water lilies are wonderful! I don't know how I could possibly fit a reasonably sized tank anywhere in my yard, so I'm just going to have to live vicariously through yours. But I should tell you that all your African daisies, Rudbeckias and Echinaceas inspired me to add a few more of those to my menagerie. I will shoe-horn them in somewhere and hope for the best!