As far as I am concerned , the Water Lily stands out as the queen of aquatic plants. Nearly every person who owns a pond also has a Lily or wants one. The value of this hardy Water Lily lies not only in the wonder of it's cup-shaped or star-shaped flower but in addition in the round or heart shaped leaves (pads) which not only do they keep the fish happy but they assist to maintain the water clear as well.
I think it’s a fascinating plant which has a lots of surprises for each one of us and an equal quantity of pitfalls for the beginner. The first surprise for the newbie often is the vast range of flower sizes, leaf sizes, leaf spread and planting depth required. The dwarf varieties (minatures) with 1" wide leaves covering about 1 sq.ft of pond surface and bearing medal-sized flowers are an outstanding choice for the minipond created from a half-barrel. On the other end of the dimensions you will find the Vigorous varieties with leaves measuring greater than 8" across which, and if left alone, will blanket a pond of 50 sq.ft or more and produce flowers the size of dinner plates.
The golden rule is never buy a Water Lily just because the image looks nice and it costs lower than the others on show. Make sure you measure your pond surface after which you can aim to purchase a number of specimens with an anticipated spread of not more than half of the pond surface. Never be guided by price. Those which can be far too vigorous for the typical size pond actually cost lower than the more compact ones which usually do not look good value for money because of their size.
To make selection easier it really is better to group Water Lilies into a small number of types. Dwarf, Medium and Vigorous. All you have got to try and do is to pick the kind with the correct planting depth and the anticipated spread to your needs and then find a variety within that group with a shape and colour that you will find attractive. Time of flowering won't come in to the choice because all Water Lilies behave roughly the same. Blooming starts in June after which the flowers appear in succession until September. Each bloom opens from late morning to late afternoon and lasts for roughly 4 days.
Now for the surprises. Many of the scores of varieties on offer today came from the breeding work of a Frenchman who lived the name of M. Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac. The first one appeared in 1877 but unfortunately his secrets died with him in 1911. For this reason, the majority of the Water Lily varieties inside catalogues are upwards of 80 years old. I am happy to say that new American varieties are now beginning to appear on the market, but Latour-Marliac hybrids still continue to dominate.
Now for the planting rules. May and June are the best months for planting and you’ll need a sunny spot and still water . Take off the old leaves from the rootstock and trim back the firous roots. Plant firmly so that the crown is barely protruding above the surface. Submerge the basket so the young leaves float on the surface and gradually lower the basket to the ultimate depth as the leaves grow. This may take several months to achieve.
Once you’ve stocked your pond with plants, leave it for a month before introducing any fish. Don't just tip the fish in as soon as you get them home. Place the polythene bag in the pond and leave it for an hour. After an hour gently open the bag and add some pond water to it. Leave the bag in your pond for an additional 10 minutes. The ultimate stage is to tip the fish in to their new home. Do not worry if the fish hide among the foliage for a few days, this really is quite normal behavior. Leave them alone and what ever you do, don't try to coax them out.
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