Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Water Lilies

There have been some changes in the "ponds" at The Lents Farmer.

This summer, I've upgraded all the sizes of the various horse troughs and all the fish and water lilies have been moved.

A before pic - all the small ponds on the left are gone.
Draining 150 gallon stock tanks
Draining a trough, it's always a surprise at the bottom! 'Wanvisa' is at the bottom of this picture.
My Assistant, Yvette was not amused with the new 300 gallon pond...
Moving fish and water lilies is not too hard, it just takes a few days for new water to be ready for fish. It needs enough time to sit so that chemicals like chlorine dissipate and the water temperature equalizes.

I usually plan on 4-5 days from filling to moving fish. Water lilies are more forgiving and can be moved a bit more quickly (24 hours later). This is just what I feel to be safe, others may have a different plan. I also prefer to not use aquarium chemicals or water conditioner.

A new 300 gallon tank in place.
In emptying some of the ponds, I saw how I have not repotted a few of the water lilies for a couple years. When your water has green algae obscuring the bottom, I don't always know what's going on down there!

While moving one stock tank, I had to ask a neighbor to come get dirty and smelly as we tried to lift two lilies that had grown together into a huge mass. It was almost too heavy for us both to lift, but we got it lifted up and over. These two lilies, I have just decided to let go and see what happens. I have had the most flowers on these lilies this season than I have ever had.

This brings me to Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'.
Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'
Wanvisa and it's neighbor lily were in a 150 gallon stock tank together. I tried to pull them out to move them but realized they were now one plant and not two!

Their crowns had grown together, but I managed to separate them while still in the water with a clippers and some finagling.

Below shows a few of the steps I went through to repot this lily. It's a little hard to take pictures with dirty hands but you'll get the general idea. I also strongly suggest not dropping your iPhone in the water. Not that I have done that.

Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'

Not much left in the pot.
It's best to repot lilies every 2-3 years. I clearly haven't repotted this one since I bought it in 2012, as it was still in the original net pot. Bad lily daddy!

The best thing to do is to get all your equipment together and work on a cool spring day in the shade. For tools, I use an old serrated bread knife, scissors, and a hand shears. Sometimes growing crowns will break through a net pot and it requires a good cutting tool to remove the plastic pot without hurting the growing lily crown.

Also good to have your new soil and fertilizer tablets ready, and the gravel washed for top dressing the pot. You want to work fast to not dry out the water lily.

I started by removing all the fine roots protruding from the net pot and gently worked the four growing crowns out of the pot. Since most of the new roots were free from the old pot, I used my hand sheers to cut the crowns free. What was left in the old net pot gets composted.

Now's a good time to pull off any remaining dead leaves or flowers from your divisions.  

Divisions have been made.
I prefer to use my vegetable garden soil for repotting since it is readily available and good soil. I do however try to get soil that hasn't been amended with peat moss or grass clippings (they both float and will make a mess).

I prefer to use a plastic pot with drain holes in the bottom and not a net pot. In this case, I just grabbed what I had on hand.

I use a few sheets of paper towel to block the holes in the bottom of the pot. This keeps the soil in long enough to sink the pot back in the pond. The paper towel eventually disappears.

Place a couple PondTabs fertilizer tablets in the pot before filling up with dirt, just tuck them in the first handfuls of dirt and put the lily crowns on top.

Divisions replanted, fertilized and dressed with gravel.
Be sure to not cover the growing crowns or bury them in the soil, they should be sticking up and out of the gravel. The crowns will eventually grow across the top with new roots growing down into the pot.

I like to use a natural stone that's larger than pea gravel. The big comet goldfish can pick up pea gravel and spit it out elsewhere, so a larger gravel prevents this. Fish can also get small gravel caught in their mouth.

I like to use a slightly larger gravel, so the fish don't move it around.
When it's time to put your newly potted plants back in the water, be sure to take it slow. As they are lowered, they will bubble and spit as the air gets worked out of the pot and you don't want to make a mess of the water.

Here are some other gratuitous pictures of other water lilies this season.

Nymphaea 'Mayla'
Nymphaea 'Hazorea Dagan White'
Nymphaea 'Perry's Orange Sunset'
Nymphaea 'Nigel'
Nymphaea 'Perry's Almost Black'
Nymphaea 'Solfatare' in front. 'Nigel' in the back.
Nymphaea 'Gonnère'
'Black Princess'

Nymphaea 'Arc-en-Ciel'
Nymphaea 'Mayla'

Nymphaea 'Sioux' & Nymphaea 'Wanvisa'
Nymphaea 'Escarboucle'


  1. Your lilies certainly are giving the peonies a challenge (for beautiful, colorful, flowers I mean).

    1. It is impossible to take a bad picture of a water lily. I feel like I have a nice collection of colors too.

  2. Beautiful pictures, especially that pair Wanvisa and Sioux. Where did you obtain that Hazorea Dagan white from?

  3. Our local purveyor of water lilies is Hughes. Are you near Portland? http://hugheswatergardens.com/