Guide to Growing Anecphya
Seeds & Seedlings

By William Phillips
Click images to enlarge

The Anecphya display at the Memphis, Tennessee, Botanical Garden 2003

The spectacular waterlilies in the Nymphaea subgenus Anecphya are native to Australia and include the species N. gigantea, N. immutabilis and N. violacea. These can be very large plants with special requirements and can be very tricky for many to grow. William Phillips has made tremendous progress in their cultivation and shares his methods in this Guide.

If you can grow tropical waterlilies you can grow Anecphya. You can have tons more blooms than with regular tropicals - plus you can enjoy them any time of the day (some stay open 24 hours a day for up to 7 days). You don't even have to heat your pond if you are in a cooler climate. Mature Anecphya are strong and sturdy plants, contrary to long held opinions.

We used to think that Anecphya required temperatures of around 80 degrees. We have learned that they require a very warm surface temperature and love to have their feet cool (with the exception of N. violacea). They all require intense light. This is a common failure with people trying to grow Anecphya.

My advice is to paint your pond black and use black vegetable dye as these two little changes in a regular pond will give you a very warm surface temperature and a cool bottom temperature. The black vegetable dye gives beautiful reflections and keeps algae down also.

As to the optimum pond size and depth, 9' x 12' x 16" is fine. I suspect that you will be wanting more and more, and larger and larger, ponds as time goes by! The 16 " depth is a bare minimum and I do not recommend one that shallow. However, you can bloom Anecphya in 6" pots in 10 inches of water and have blooms every day, but the blooms will be small, about 3 or 4 inches. I would strongly suggest a depth of 24 to 30 inches. You will have much more beautiful plants and appreciate their true beauty, with blooms 3 or 4 times as large.

Producing Seeds

If you are growing several types of Anecphya it is very important to cover your purposely pollinated pods with a nylon sock because your Anecphya pond will be paradise for all sorts of bees and hummingbirds. Consequently your seedlings are likely to be a mixture of anything if they are not covered. Tie the sock around the stem and label it so when it matures and floats to the surface you will know what it is.

In order to obtain a good seed crop the pods really need to go down into quite cool water for good maturation. I have been able to pollinate hybrids of various Anecphya that I thought were sterile by simply cutting off the heat to the ponds and letting the sun heat the water surface. The bottom water remains cool so that the seed pods sink into really cool water for maturation. The seed pods will be enormous if you do this.

We used to think that germination required 80 degrees or more and intense light. However, if you look on the bottom of your pond you will see that it is literally covered with thousands of rosettes with enormous leaves. These can then be removed to containers and you will have more giganteas than you could ever imagine.

Germinating Seeds

I clean the seeds well and put them in conditioned water in cement mixing pans (smaller containers like dishpans are fine for small lots of seeds). I use a small amount of liquid fertilizer and humic acid in the water and let them sprout and grow under the light of a sodium lamp. Water temperature is in the low 80's. The seeds will sprout in a few days and start putting out lots of roots. The seedlings need to be spread apart so that the roots don't get tangled. Just keep spreading them out and they will form little floating rosettes and a little tuber.


Seedlings at three weeks of age

In the spring they will be ready to be potted in soil and bloom during the summer. Using this method practically all seeds germinate and there is no loss from trying to pull them out of soil to replant. When the little tuber forms it is easy to pot it just as you would a tropical tuber. It will have a good root system and good leaves. Keep the liquid nutrition up. Add a little magnesium and a product containing silicon to make the plantlets more sturdy. Keep the light on them for 14 to 16 hours per day.

There are a couple of products that I have found helpful added to the water after sprouting. One is K-L-N by Dyna-Gro. This gives the seedlings a vigorous root system and it helps when you eventually transplant them. One more thing that K-L-N is great for is starting stubborn tubers. I have had some that I thought just wouldn't get started. I now soak tubers for about 30 seconds each day for a couple of days and about the third day there is a sprout.

Another fantastic product is Nitrozime. It is high in cytokinins, micronutrients, biostimulators, and growth hormones. The plants look much healthier, with larger leaves and flowers when you use a little of this in the water. Tests were done at the University of Alberta and the treated plants showed a 60% increase in yield.

I think people should consider using additional magnesium and silicon. Dyna-Gro has a couple of products that I like, Mag-Pro, and Pro-Tekt, which is high in silicon. I believe supplemental magnesium and silicon helps reduce leaf melt. When a seedling with a healthy root system and strong sturdy leaves is transplanted I think there is a much greater chance of success.

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