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A tropical water lily is a magnificent centerpiece for the water garden. They hold their fragrant blossoms high out of the water and can have several exquisite blooms at a time. The flowers stay open later in the day than the hardy water lilies and they also bloom later into the season. Tropical lilies can easily be distinguished from hardy water lilies in that the leaves are serrated or jagged. Tropical lilies come in day blooming and night blooming varieties. The day blooming varieties open several hours after sunrise and stay open until several hours before sunset. Some varieties of tropical water lilies are viviparous (growing plantlets on their leaves) which indicates they are more cold tolerant and will continue to bloom through fall in colder climates. The night blooming varieties will open an hour or two before sunset and remain open as late as noon on a cloudy day. For best performance plant tropical water lilies in at least a 2 gallon or larger plant container with a generous amount of heavy garden soil. Even the heaviest clay soils will work fine with the addition of a little sand and fertilizer. Fertilize monthly to reach maximum blooming potential. Depth should be maintained between 6" and 18" when first transplanted and then once established can be grown from 12" to 30" depending on the variety. Water temperatures should be at least 65 degrees before planting tropical water lilies in your water garden.
The hardy water lily with its profuse and extravagant blossoms is a winter hardy or perennial plant. Lilies come in a variety of colors and sizes and once established bloom continuously all summer. Hardy lilies can easily be distinguished from their tropical counterparts in that the leaves are smooth around the edges. Hardy water lilies perform many functions in the water garden. Water lilies provide shade, coverage for fish, utilize water-born nutrients and insulate the water from extreme day/night temperature fluctuations. Hardy water lilies grow best in a generous amount of heavy garden soil avoiding too much organic matter unless it has been well composted. Even the heaviest clay soils will work fine with the addition of a little sand and fertilizer. Depth should be maintained between 6" and 18" when first transplanted and then once established can be grown from 12" to 30" depending on the variety. Fertilize monthly to reach maximum blooming potential.