Friday, July 23, 2010

Why are my water lilies brown?

Hi, I have a koi pond and my water lilies are turning brown. My koi are doing very well. My water is very clear. I use Barley in my pond. Can you give me some advice.

Thank you, Mike R.

Hi Mike

Lilies grow best in water that is 18"-30" deep. If planted in water that is too shallow the leaves will dry out. In the correct water depth and during the growing season, water lily leaves will turn brown and then will produce new leaves again. Lilies do go dormant in the fall and then come back again in when the weather warms in the spring time.

Lilies need to be fertilized in the spring and summer. In order to produce new leaf growth and flowers, lilies need to be fertilized once per month with 2 good quality fertilizer tabs throughout the season. If the wrong fertilizer is used or if fertilizer is used incorrectly this will burn the leaves and the entire plant.

There are not any pests that can turn the leaves a brown color. The most common pest is the garden slug and snail. This is evident by the nibble marks on the leaves. Koi will also munch on the water lily pads, but I do not think this is why the leaves are brown.

Try taking your lilies out of the water to make sure they are not rotting for some reason. This is evident by a pungent smell. If this is the case then repotting is needed.

Garden Blessings, :-) GAiL

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

How to Pot Water Lily

Hardy water lily can grow in both very hot climates and in very cold climates too.
Select a sunny location in water that is at least 18 inches deep. In water 2-3 feet deep or more, lilies will grow until their lily pads read the water surface.

ALL Lilies purchased from The Pond Plant Girl are "pond ready". They are fertilized and ready to simply drop in the pond. Your water lily will be very large and will need to be repotted into a larger container.

Potting Bare Root Water Lily

Most water lily purchased online is sold bare root. This means that most of the leaves have been cut back and the thick tuber has only a few roots attached. The picture on the left shows the thick cigar-like black water lily tuber. The roots are white. There is a single water lily leaf in the upper right hand corner of the picture. This is a healthy lily that was donated to the Pleasant View Elementary School pond project in Porterville, CA. Before bringing it to the school and planting in their pond, I am growing it in my 18" holding pond until it is large enough to grow in their large 5 foot deep pond.

Mixing Soil Medium for Your Water Lily

Water Lily Soil can be purchased at OSH Hardware Store and Menard's Hardware or you can mix your own water lily soil! If sterile soil is not an issue for you, you can choose soil and sand from your yard and local river or you can go to a sand and gravel yard like I did.

DO NOT USE REGULAR POTTING SOIL because it will float to the water surface!

1. Mix 2 parts clay soil with
2. 1 part river sand (not ocean sand)
3. Add 1 part pea gravel (optional)

Choose a pot that is large enough to allow room for your water lily to grow.

A 1 gallon water lily pot will work for a small lily. I chose a 3 gallon wide mouth black bucket with a rope handle from The Dollar Tree Store because I will be planting this lily in a deep pond. This pot is the perfect size and the handle makes it much easier for when the pot needs to be raised up for fertilizing. A plastic handle is also a good choice, but stay away from metal handle buckets. A black bucket is best to retain warmth and for appearance purposes.

An alternative to potting is to allow your water lily to grow wild. This is a good choice if you have a very large and deep pond. However, if you need to maintain your water lilies or thin them out, it can be very labor intensive... especially if you need to go diving!


Before Planting and Transplanting your Water Lily

Add fertilizer at the bottom of the pot. You can purchase water lily time released pellets or water lily fertilizer tabs or stakes, or you may add green label Osmocote fertilizer. Lay paper towel over the fertilizer and cover with the water lily soil mix. In 10 days, push in a Jobes tomato fertilizer spike. Fertilizing should be done every 10-14 days during the blooming season - alternating with Osmocote and then the tomato stake 10-14 days later, etc. The easiest method is to add time released lily fertilizer instead, however it can be very costly if you have a lot of lilies.

Fill your water lily pot half full of the soil mix and lay your lily in the pot.

Gently cover your water lily with the remaining soil but be sure any water lily leaves are sticking out of the soil. Lightly cover the surface with pea gravel. BEFORE placing in the pond. Wet down the water lily soil to minimize any floaters escaping from the soil.

This is how the water lily looked a week after receiving in the mail. I will update new pics as the lilies grow.


The picture above (left) is what you will receive from me. All lilies weigh 10 pounds after draining excess water. All water lilies ordered from me are pond ready and have buds ready to bloom. The other picture above (right) is the average bare root you will receive from other sellers. It weighs about 1 pound at most.

Winter Water Lily Care

Option 1


This is the key to keeping your hardy water lily through the winter. A good rule to keep is to submerge your water lily at least 2-3 feet deep and allow them to go dormant. It is okay to allow the leaves to die back or you may also cut them back. In the springtime when new growth appears, remember that your lilies will need fertilizing and might need repotting. If your lilies are growing wild, press fertilizer spikes (if possible) down into the soil.

Option 2

1. Remove the water lilies from the pond and cut back all the leaves and flowers.

2. Store in a Rubbermaid tub inside an area (such as a garage) where the tub of water will not freeze...

3. OR Store wet in a sealed black garbage bag. Without any light, the lilies will go dormant for the winter.

4. Change out the garbage bag once per month during the winter season.

5. When the weather warms the lilies will begin to sprout new leaves and will be ready to be divided, repotted, and fertilized. If the lilies are not busting out of the pot, they may also be placed straight back in the pond without repotting. Fertilizing is necessary to promote healthy growth and new flowers.


For more winter care ideas see: Gardening in Alaska - Build an Easy Greenhouse