Making New Waterlily Hybrids

From Conception to Bloom

By Craig Presnell
Click images to enlarge

My middle daughter is a school teacher...middle school as it happens. She has asked that I photo-document my hybridizing process from pictures of the parent plants to, down the line, a photo of the blooming progeny. The final intent is that the kids can select one to be named. They are asking for weekly photo updates on the process/progress so I will post them here as well.

Before the picture show begins comes the all important disclaimer. What may bore you to tears over the next couple months is representative of my approach to hybridizing water lilies and is not meant to imply it is either the only way, or, for that matter, the best way. It is just what I do...what has worked in the past for me. It is based largely on conjecture and personal experience with just a dash of hard science. Will it work as planned this time? If it does it will be about a first. The rule has usually been that I plan and hope for one thing but settle for what I get. Perhaps I'll be lucky with my guesses this time. Having said that...

The Goal: I'm looking to get a small tropical lily having a leaf spread of 4' or less. I want it to be a full flowered pink, though a double would be nice as well. For pads I see something patterned, either mottled or speckled. Doesn't seem like much to ask for, but there are few small tropical lilies in existence and then most are blue, so you can see there is not a whole lot to work with.

The Parents: To provide the pollen I've decided to use a white species or wild type lily named Nymphaea micrantha; the major benefit being it is a small lily. The downside is that the flower does not have nearly as many petals as I would like and I don't have much experience using it as a parent lily and so cannot be sure how its genetics will influence the flower color in the seedlings. As a side note, N. micrantha is what is known as a 'viviparous lily', that is, it produces complete identical plantlets as the juncture of the pad and the petiole. Passing this trait on to the hybrid seedlings is not a specific goal, but if it were to, well, I wouldn't consider the project a failure. Some would even consider it a plus.

For the seed parent I've selected one of my earlier hybrids named N. 'Day Glow'. It is a vibrant pink lily with approx 50 petals. I know its parents, I know its siblings and I've never had any blues appear in the line. Even the pads are a rose color and have a green speckled pattern. The bad news here is that it is not a small lily and spreads to over six feet.

No matter what procedure a person uses to cross lilies, the intent is the circumvent the randomness of natural pollination and introduce a more controlled, selective cross in hopes of coming up with something new and hopefully desirable. So lets see what we get...the pictures begin.

One more note, I add the used stamens to the nectar cup, for luck. They have to be discarded somehow so I figure I might wring another couple pollen grains out of them and they will inhibit access to marauding bees. Many just cover the flower to prevent that, but I like to be able to still see it.

Left: Pollen suspension
Center: Pollen and stamens added to 'Day Glow' stigma
Above: Tagged finished flower

Ripe pod

Newly released seed

Collected seed


First seedlings planted

Seedlings 1/30/02

Seedlings 2/7/02

Seedlings 2/15/02

Seedlings 2/21/02
First floating leaf

Page 2 > | Page 3 >

Profile - Craig Presnell

Craig's Gallery

Waterlilies | Lotus | Aquatic Plants | Victoria | Our Adventure With Victoria
Water Gardening | Water Gardening Friends | New This Month
Kit & Ben Knotts | Our Garden | Search The Site | Home 
Email Discussion List