Nymphaea micrantha
Craig Presnell Photo

 Viviparous Waterlilies
By Kit Knotts - Click images to enlarge

Viviparous literally means:

1. producing living young instead of eggs from within the body in the manner of nearly all mammals, many reptiles, and a few fishes
2 : germinating while still attached to the parent plant (or) producing plantlets.

In waterlilies there are several ways these little new plants are produced: in some tropical day bloomers from the pads, in some hardies and a very few tropical night bloomers from spent flowers.

Tropical Day Blooming Vivips From Leaves

Only one tropical day blooming species, N. micrantha from Africa, has this characteristic. It ranges from white through medium blue and is somewhere in the breeding of all viviparous cultivars.

  Viviparity is signaled by a nub at the point at which the pad and stem join. At first it often looks gelatinous and soon shows signs of developing leaves. As the parent pad ages the new little plant becomes more developed and, by the time the host pad has deteriorated, it is a miniature copy of the parent.  On rare occasions these plantlets will even bloom while still on the parent pad.  

N. micrantha itself, especially the white form, is so strongly viviparous that the vivips make vivips which make vivips, all while attached to the parent, but it is hard to keep going. Hybrids can be strongly or weakly viviparous, depending on breeding, growing conditions and time of year. Certain cultivars will only vivip in fall.

There are several ways to encourage the development of vivips from nubs. One is to slightly wound the stem, as happens in nature to older pads from weather events or caterpillar attack. Another is to remove the parent pad from the plant with a few inches of stem and float it upside down.

Once leaves have formed, baby vivips can be planted, bagged, "bricked" or simply left to float where eventually the developing tuber will cause the plant to sink to the bottom and become established. Bagged in ziplocks full of water and floated in a sunny pond, babies will actually mature somewhat until needed. "Bricking" is a term for anchoring babies under the edges of a heavy object to encourage the development of floating leaves and roots.

The best method that we know of for getting viviparous plants going has been developed by Sean Stevens -
Viviparous Tropical Waterlily Propagation

Tropical Day Blooming
Viviparous Cultivars 

'August Koch'
'Carla's Sonshine'
'Florida Star'
'Key Largo'
'Lindsey Woods'
'Mme. Ganna Walska'
'Margaret Mary'
'Mrs. Martin E. Randig'
'Mrs. Robert Sawyer'
'Paul Stetson'
'Peach Blow'
'Pink Platter'
'Pink Ruby'
'Queen of Siam'
'Sarah Ann'
'Shirley Bryne'
'Teri Dunn'
'Vanilla Sky'

N. 'Panama Pacific'

N. 'Peach Blow'

Hardy Vivips From Flowers

Some hardy waterlilies will make new little plants from flowers that have finished blooming. It has been said that those that do this are all offspring of 'Colonel A.J. Welch'.

 Viviparity in the hardy waterlily 'Colonel A.J. Welch' - Photos by Werner Wallner




N. 'Georgia Peach' Photos by Kathryn Perry
As the flower fades, the small leaves may begin to unroll and sometimes roots will begin to form. Leave the plant attached to the flower stem until some roots and leaves are visible, and then put the plant in fertilized soil, placing it in a sunny, shallow spot in the pond. Sometimes the new plant develops, sometimes not...but it is worth the try. Rich Sacher, New Orleans, Louisiana

 Some Hardy
Viviparous Cultivars

'Barbara Dobbins'
'Colonel A.J. Welch'
'Georgia Peach'
'Perry's Viviparous Pink'

 Tropical Night Bloomer
Vivips From Flowers

A few tropical night bloomers in the subgenus Hydrocallis will also make plants from flowers. These are rare in cultivation.

Tropical Night
Blooming Species

N. lasiophylla
N. prolifera

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