Water lilies have a distinctive look, with their large floating leaves and colorful flowers. They grow in ponds or other outdoor water sources, so are a great addition to an outdoor water feature in your yard. Though this is fine for those who live in warmer climates, colder areas usually can’t sustain these pretty plants outside.
Luckily, it is possible to grow these beauties in your home. It isn’t an easy task, though, so it does take some dedication to ensure they thrive. If you want to give it a try, check out our indoor water lily growing tips for everything these delicate plants need to survive.
Types of Water Lilies
There are around 50 species of water lilies and several ways to classify them. For our purposes, the easiest way to do so is to split them into tropical and hardy plants.
The tropical water lilies need warm water and temperatures, so aren’t sustainable in the colder climates. Even indoors they take a lot of work due to their delicate nature. They are also quite large, so they need bigger containers and a great deal of heat and light to survive. The benefit is their large, colorful flowers, and if you have the room and the skills, it is possible to grow them indoors.
Hardy lilies grow in colder climates, so they can handle those temperature fluctuations of hot and cold that are common in the northern hemisphere. Their flowers are smaller, taking up less room, so they can be grown in smaller containers when needed. The hardy breeds don’t have the brightly colored blossoms of the tropical varieties but they are still quite lovely. There are also some dwarf varieties available for those with less room for their indoor plants.
If you’re looking to add some water lilies to your indoor garden your best bet is to go with the smaller, hardy varieties of lilies. They are all around easier to grow, and don’t require as much special attention as the tropical ones. While you can certainly give tropical lilies a shot, be warned that they do require a lot of care and are difficult to successfully grow indoors.
The container size required for water lilies depends on the variety you’ve chosen to grow. The tropical varieties need a great deal of space, so a large container of about 6-feet by 6-feet is a must to give them the room needed to grow to their full size. Few people have room for a container of this size in their home, usually opting for smaller water lily varieties.
For the hardy varieties, you can choose a 15- to 25-gallon container for your water lilies, depending on how many you plan to support. Make sure it’s water tight to prevent leakage. The dwarf varieties can handle smaller containers than this, though it is best not to go below 3 gallons.
If you’re only interested in individual plants, you can grow them in glasses or jars. This is a bit tricky, though, since you need to change the water every few days to avoid any algae growth and the odors that come with it.
Though they grow in water, water lilies still need soil to keep them grounded and provide the nutrients they need to survive. If you’re growing them in a smaller container, you can pour the soil into the bottom of the pot. There are aquatic potting soils available, though you can also use loam, clay, perlite, or a combination of these.
For larger containers with multiple water lilies, it may be best to use a net pot or a planting basket to keep the soil from washing away. Add rocks to the bottom to give it some weight and prevent movement, then add the soil. A layer of pebbles on top is also a must to keep the soil in place.
The best water for water lilies is distilled or spring water since these don’t contain any chemicals. If you choose to use tap water, let it sit out for 24 hours or more to allow the chlorine to evaporate before adding it to the container. There should be at least a few inches of water above the soil for the flower to float on, though the amount depends on the variety you’ve chosen.
The water should be kept warm at all times, even with the hardy water lilies. Tropical plants need water temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive. If the water drops to 60 degrees F or lower, the plant won’t survive. Hardy water lilies are best kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding a water heater is the best method to maintain these temperatures.
You may also want to add an air circulator to the container, similar to what you’d use in a fish tank. This will aerate the water and prevent it from becoming stagnant and smelly, reducing how often it needs changing.
Water lilies need a lot of sun to thrive, so be sure to place it somewhere that gets 4 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, even in the winter. Maintaining this light level can be tricky in colder climates without a heated greenhouse or a sunroom, so you can also use artificial light if needed. This requires a dedicated area for your plants to grow, with grow lights right over the plants that run for 12 to 18 hours each day.
Like most plants, water lilies need some help in the form of fertilizer to help them get the nutrients they need. The best option is liquid fertilizer, though you can also add fertilizer pellets designed for water plants if needed. The fertilizer you choose should be high in phosphorus to promote healthy roots, buds, and flowers.
Once you have your water lilies situated and growing in their new container, there is little left to do. They require almost no maintenance, outside of the tasks already mentioned, though there are a few things you can do to ensure clean water. First, remove any dead leaves that come loose from the plant to prevent them from rotting in the water. You can also change the water once in a while if you notice that it starts to smell, though an aerator will help prevent this.
You may also want to avoid repotting your water lilies unless absolutely necessary. These plants like to stay put, so unless they outgrow their tank, it’s best to leave them alone. A better option is dividing mature plants and repotting those offshoots rather than moving the entire plant.
Indoor Water Lily Growing Tips
Growing water lilies indoors can be challenging but is worth the effort. Having a thriving water lily in your home is quite the site, and an excellent focal point of a garden. It’s not everyday that you see an aquatic garden after all!
Have you grown a water lily or similar plant in your home? Let us know how you did it!
Indoor Water Lily FAQ
Can You Grow Water Lilies Indoors?
Yes you can, but they can be quite difficult. To make them easier, choose a hardy, dwarf variety that won’t take up much space and is better suited to the climate of the typical home.
Where Do You Grow Water Lilies?
Water lilies grow in water, so you’ll need to provide a water-filled container to grow them in. This can be anything from a lined pot all the way down to small jars.
What Care Do Indoor Water Lilies Need?
Usually not that much. They do need a good deal of sunlight (around 6+ hours per day) and also need to have their water changed. Outside of that thought, they are quite easy to care for and don’t require that much effort.