Water lilies belong to the genus Nymphaea. For purposes of simplicity Nymphaea has been abbreviated to N. throughout most of this site.
There are two categories of water lilies: tropical and hardy. Tropical water lilies may be either day or night blooming varieties.
Tropical water lilies require a consistent water temperature of 75 degrees F. or warmer and full sun to bloom. The day blooming plants open around mid morning and close by mid afternoon. Night blooming water lilies open around dusk and close by mid morning of the following day or later if it is a cool or overcast day
Tropical water lilies , both day and night blooming varieties, continue to bloom for about three days and may have multiple blooms present. The flowers are held high above the water by as much as 12 inches. The flowers may be blue, purple, red, pink, white or yellow.
The green leaves are oval with jagged, undulating or irregular edges. Some leaves look as if they were splashed with maroon paint such as N. ‘Foxfire’ and N. ‘Miami Rose’. The amount of maroon varies from dots to heavy splotching.
Another characteristic of some tropical water lilies is the ability to develop a small plant on the leaf that may even bloom if not picked and replanted. This is one of several ways the plant may propagate and is referred to as a viviparous plant. N. 'Tina' and N. 'Islamorada' are two examples.
There are few miniature plants in the tropical category however a recent discovery of N. minuta is the exception and it will also bloom in the shade.
Hardy water lilies bloom only during the day. The blooms tend to float on the water surface with a few exceptions such as N. ‘Colorado’ which is held about 3 inches above the water. Flowers are available in the same colors as tropical plants except there are no blues or purples. Recently there was a report of a breeder who successfully made a blue hardy but it is not available at this time.
Hardy leaves are green and round. There are also many miniature hybrids available in the hardy category such as N. 'Perry's Baby Red’ and N. 'Charlie’s Choice’. These are nice for container gardens and smaller ponds.
Perry D. Slocum. Waterlilies and Lotuses: Species, Cultivars, and New Hybrids. Timber Press. 2005.
Greg & Sue Speichert. Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants. Timber Press. 2004.
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