By Rich Sacher, New Orleans Lousiana
Tropical waterlilies are very easy to grow, and their blooming season in New Orleans is from May lst until a killing frost in December. They come in a wide variety of colors, including some varieties which bloom at night. A well grown plant will have several flowers open every day of its eight month blooming season, and each flower lasts three days.
SUNLIGHT Waterlilies must have a minimum of five hours direct sunlight in order to bloom heavily. The more sun, the better.
WATER Lilies require a minimum of six inches of water over the soil level in the pot; larger lilies can take 8 or 10 inches depth of water; water does not have to be circulated, and quiet fountains will not harm the waterlilies.
SOIL Any heavy garden soil is suitable, but no peat moss, bark, or other floating materials should be used.
FERTILIZER Waterlilies must be fed from May lst through Sept. 1st. Pondtabb pellets, made just for lilies and pond plants, should be used for lilies - 1 or 2 tablets every two weeks.
FISH If you have fish in your pond, cover the soil of your waterlily pot with heavy pieces of broken slate or shingles, so fish cannot dig up plants.
ALGAE Green water is often a problem in full sun and well fertilized plants; do not use chemicals to control the algae . . . it will likely kill your lilies. Instead, encourage a healthy growth of submerged plants like Anacharis, one bunch per square foot of surface area, which will help starve out the algae. Some floating hyacinths or water lettuce will also help, but watch that they do not get out of control.
MAINTENANCE To keep the pond looking good, remove yellowing leaves and spent flowers every week. If an individual lily spreads too much, you can remove the outer ring of leaves to reduce the overall size of the plant without affecting flowering. If aphids appear, hose them into the water each morning to provide food for your fish. Caterpillars can be picked off by hand.
PESTS There area number of animals which feed on waterlilies, and if any of these are present in sufficient numbers, they will destroy the plants: ducks, turtles, nutria, crawfish; Japanese Koi over 9 inches are also destructive.
WINTER Tropical waterlilies are considered annuals and are often replaced every spring However, in extremely mild winters they will often survive and begin to grow again in April, at which time they should be fertilized and repotted. Another method is to remove the container to an area where the temperature is a steady 55 - 60 degrees, cover with damp sand for the winter, and replant in April. This is successful about 60% of the time.