Tropical Waterlily Tuber

by Sean Stevens
Click images to enlarge

Tropical waterlilies may be propagated by more than just viviparous propagation...
Here is a tutorial on how to take starts from tropical waterlily tubers.

Tropical waterlilies can be propagated by many means and this one method is the most common amongst tropical waterlily growers.

New tropical waterlilies will grow and bloom all year long showing wonderful displays of color above the surface of the water but as the days progress something remarkable is happening under the soil. A tropical waterlily will produce a tuber that the plant uses to sustain itself in times of drought allowing the plant a chance at survival. In times of drought in the waterlilies natural habitat what happens is the pads will die off and the tuber will remain below the soil and becomes quite nut-like, protecting the tuber through the dry season. Once the rains return and the tuber becomes moist again it will send up new growth from the terminal crown and a new plant will be born.

Now, as tropical waterlily hobbyists, we can duplicate this natural process and utilize the tuber to produce additional waterlilies from the same tuber. Once new growth begins to show itself on the tuber and there are visible roots, the new plantlet can be removed from the tuber to form a new plant which in time will also form its own tuber.
Here is a picture of what the growth would look like when it is time to pinch the new plantlet from the tuber. >
 < Notice that the plantlet has sufficient roots to sustain the new start once it is removed from the tuber to help it grow on. Removing the start any sooner would be futile since the plantlet needs the roots to provide nutrition to the plantlet for good growth and assurance of health.
 > This photo shows the area where the roots join up to the plantlet. These roots are not actually sustaining the tuber but are in fact attached to the plantlet itself. Just below the root zone is where you will pinch off the plantlet from the tuber. Great care must be taken to achieve this operation or you could kill the new plantlet by severing it in the wrong place.

A gentle pinch and twist is all that is required to remove the plantlet from the tuber. Notice that the roots are still attached to the plantlet. This is a successful tuber separation.

Sometimes as shown at the left you will have more than one plantlet growing from the tuber. In this case I did remove the second plantlet because it also has root growth that was sufficient to sustain the new plantlet.


In the photo at the right you see the separated plantlet and the tuber side by side. If you notice there is already new growth on the tuber at this time, forming new plantlets that can be grown on for a few weeks until they are large enough to also be removed from the tuber.

It is at this point that you would pot up your tuber and the new plantlet. A small nursery pot is sufficient for the first few weeks until the tuber produces new growth and in the other pot the plantlet becomes pot bound. The new plantlet can then be potted up to its final growing pot and placed out in the pond to flourish. Now let's not forget about the tuber that we potted back up.

< This picture is from one week later. As you can see there are three new plantlets forming. In a couple of weeks they will be large enough to be pinched from the tuber and also grown on to flourish and produce tubers of their own.

One final note on propagating tropical lilies by this method. Sooner or later the propagating tuber will become exhausted and stop producing new starts. If utilized for too long the tuber would surely die. I recommend figuring that a good number of starts to expect from a tuber in one season is from 3 to 5. After that you should consider that your tuber is tired and needs to get some vitality back. By leaving one start on the tuber, potting it up and leaving it to grow on for the rest of the season, the plantlet will feed the mother propagating tuber and nurse it back to health as well as form an additional tuber on the plantlet. Given a good season to be nursed back to health, the propagating tuber can be removed and the process started over again for additional plants.

I would urge everyone to try this method of propagating so you can share your lilies with others and give yourself a chance to trade and collect other exciting specimens you do not have in your collection.

Profile - Sean Stevens

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