Water Lilies: What's in a Name

Everything is in the name when you choose a water lily for your pond. Water lilies are commonly marketed by color only. It is not uncommon to go to a nursery that has a bin of “yellow”, a bin of “red” and a bin of “pink” without the essential name of the lily. By properly identifying a lily by name you will not only know its color but also its fragrance, size, light requirements and blooming habits.

When choosing a lily for your pond it is important to consider such characteristics as light requirements, size, and hardiness to be sure the water lily you choose will grow and bloom in your pond. The name of the water lily will help you identify these characteristics and assure you of success for a beautiful pond. For example, if you were to purchase a “yellow” water lily for your low light pond instead of a yellow ‘Chromatella’ which requires low light it may not bloom since it could be one of several full sun lilies.

Light requirement will be your first concern. If your pond is in full sun you are lucky because any water lily will be successful. If you have partial sun (4 1/2 to 5 hours) then your choices are a bit limited in number, but fortunately not in beauty. ‘Chromatella’ (yellow), ‘James Brydon’ (red) and ‘Hal Miller'(white) are some examples of hardy lilies that are superb growers in partial sun. ‘Dauben’ is a stunning blue tropical that will bloom in as little as three hours.

Size will be your second concern. Water lily sizes are much like clothes sizes; they are never really one-size-fits-all, even in the best conditions. It is essential that you are aware of the mature size of the lily before purchasing. Small is one to six square feet of surface covered from ‘pad end to pad end’. Medium is six to 12 square feet from ‘pad end to pad end’. Large is 12 square feet plus of water surface. If you discuss the surface area with an experienced aquatic gardener they will be able to tell you the ideal size at maturity.

Color is always a concern among gardeners. Fortunately for the water gardener there is a beautiful array of colors available. Following are just a few of the lilies that are known for these favorite qualities: The ‘Aflame’ (small, prolific bloomer, full sun) is noted for its bright red and its host of blooms; the ‘Pink Beauty’ (small-large, prolific bloomer, full sun) formerly known as ‘Fabiola’ has a subtle fuchsia tone; the ‘Chromatella’ (small-medium, partial sun) is a sunny little yellow lily that is in constant bloom and easy to grow; the ‘James Brydon’ (small-large, free blooming, partial sun) not only has red cup flowers, but also red pads that command notice; and ‘Hal Miller’ and ‘Virginia’ (medium-large, excellent bloomers, partial shade) are enchanting white lilies that are a marvelous addition to your pond.

Although fragrance is a desire and is found in hardy water lilies on a low level, tropical lilies are highly fragrant.

If asked to name the hardiest water lily with the best qualities, considering all the categories the ‘Chromatella’ comes out just ahead of the pack. It opens its flowers early in the day and closes late in the afternoon as compared to most others. It will bloom in 3 1/2 to 4 hours of sun or full sun. The color is a strong yellow with mottled leaves as a contrast and is suitable for any pond. Last Fall ‘Chromatella’ was still blooming in November.

In the day blooming tropicals the name ‘Blue Beauty’ is one to remember. It is fragrant and free blooming. Its blue flowers are most generous in full sun and adaptable to any size pond. If it were the only lily in the pond for the Summer it would definitely be on exhibit as the star of the show. If you are light restricted the’Dauben’ is an excellent understudy. The color is pale blue and adapts to ponds with no direct sun. It is always full of bloom and unlike most tropicals it will bloom even when the water cools in the Fall and Winter. This little wonder can be brought into the house and forced to bloom through the Fall and Winter if placed under a 150 watt light bulb for 24 hours a day. Another tropical that has similar characteristics and color is the ‘Charles Thomas’. Its blue petals are edged in a memorable pink. It has the good fortune of sharing its name with the owner of Lilypons Water Garden.

In the night bloomers I almost always recommend ‘Wood’s White Knight’ or ‘Texas Shell Pink’. The ‘Wood’s White Knight’ is a lovely white tropical that needs full or partial sun to bloom in the evening and can stay open till 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. the next morning. ‘Texas Shell Pink’ is exquisite by moonlight and has an intoxicating fragrance. The’Red Flare’ is well named for its deep red flowers and red foliage. She makes a spectacular showing in color and fragrance.

There is so much information in just a name and it’s so important when one realizes what it all means. A beautiful water lily pond filled with exotic blooming water lilies for you and your friends to enjoy is the reward for finding out “what’s in a name.” Go to the nursery that carries water lilies with names.

What you have in your mind?