One piece of water garden advice I’m glad I learned is always to plant at least one tropical waterlily instead of growing only hardy lilies. Because waterlilies are relatively expensive – compared to a six-pack of annuals or a perennial in a 4-inch pot – there’s a temptation to populate your pond with just hardy types.
That’s because hardy waterlilies are a long-term investment. They overwinter on the bottom of the pond and are brought back up the next spring for a new season of blooming. Tropicals, sensitive to freezing temperatures, are generally one-season plants.
Yes, tropicals can be overwintered in the basement or garage – but it’s a lot of trouble for most of us.
Still, where summers are relatively warm, tropical waterlilies have several plusses that far outweigh their disadvantages:
Hardy waterlilies bloom only during the day, so if you go off to your job in the morning and return in early evening, you may miss the flowers except on weekends.
Tropical waterlilies are divided into two groups -- day bloomers and night bloomers. Day-blooming tropicals will be in flower for several hours longer in the afternoon than hardy waterlilies will.
Night-blooming tropicals, though, add even more hours of enjoyment. Their flowers begin unfolding about the time the day-bloomers are going to sleep. Then they stay open on into the next morning. That’s especially nice when you host a cookout or other outdoor entertainment in the evening.
In the fall, tropical waterlilies bloom about a month longer than hardy ones. This fact has always surprised me; it seems counterintuitive. Maybe it’s because hardy lilies have to spend time going dormant before winter. But it’s a fact: Tropicals will provide more fall flowering than hardy waterlilies do.
And, oh yes, tropical waterlilies are almost always fragrant.
So when you’re buying plants for a water garden, I've found, you get more than double the pleasure with two types of waterlilies.