Feeding Seedling Waterlilies

Compiled by Kit & Ben Knotts

Craig Presnell Photo 

Patti Yager, a member of our email discussion list from Arkansas, asked the group for "information on feeding tropical waterlily seedlings. Mine are in 4" pots with 2" of water over them and 2" leaves. I'd like to see them flower before moving up to larger pots so I know which ones to keep." Our response, along with those of several experienced growers, was:

Kit & Ben Knotts, Cocoa Beach FL:
We personally give 1 Pondtabb to a 4" pot when we plant (or the equivalent in "crumbs" if we have leftovers at the bottom of a box -- we buy LOTS of Pondtabbs!)

David Curtright, Escondido, CA:
You can feed them with fragments of Gro-power tablets or Pondtabbs, or some other good tablet fertilizer. Break a piece off of the tablet, and I always use Gro-Power (12-8-8), and stick it into the mud under the plant. Make sure to seal the hole with sand or mud, and the plant will very soon show its appreciation by growing like gangbusters. Larger tablet pieces can be used as the plant grows. Blooms can be forced once the plant is well developed by using Gro-Power (3-12-12), although this is usually not necessary. I, too have seedlings, about 1000 of them in a 3 gallon pot. As they grow, I remove the larger plants and move them up to 2", then to 4" pots.

Craig Presnell, Delray Beach, FL:
I sprout all my seed in jars and once the seedlings get the first or second leaf past the filiform and a sturdy root, I transplant them to a four inch pot that has a thin layer of peat at the bottom, a 'pinch' of generic 14-14-14 time release fertilizer and then good old Florida top soil, aka...sand. The pots sit in full sun and
approx. 8" of water with constant flow from a well that produces 72 F water year round. The pots I use have holes so that the roots can escape and feed in the mulm. That way the seedlings invariably bloom without my having to worry about feeding them again.

I should mention that I can do it like this because I only plant seedlings from germinations with low success rates. I'm always looking for something different in my seedlings and I've found that if I were to get 1,000 sprouts from, say, 'Anne Emmet', I'm stuck with hundreds of "Faux Anne Emmets". So I toss out the sprouts from high germination crosses and plant out those from pods yielding 20 or fewer seeds. It is the small yields that have produced my favorite lilies.

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