Monday, March 24, 2014

Repotting my water lilies

I have had a pond in my garden for over a decade, and love it. 
The sound of moving water, reflected sunlight on the water, fish, dragonflies,  and water plants, especially the water lilies, made me want to give the pond more space in our garden.
So what started as a 2 barrel pond, progressed to a barrel-and-in-the-ground pond in 2008.  A waterfall feature has been a part of both ponds.

I received a "Colorado" salmon pink hardy water lily for a gift in 2004.  It lived in the first barrel pond along with a couple gold fish. It was while in the barrel pond, that the lily survived its first raccoon raid.  Sadly, the fish didn't.
Raccoon attacks have continued through the years, in spite of wire covers to protect the plants and fish.
Raccoons are not laid back fishermen.  They ravage the plants, while chasing and catching the fish.  My water lily has survived these repeated assaults, even though its leaves have been shredded, and striped.

After having the lily for a few years, I had a lot of lovely water lily leaves floating on top of the water, but it had stopped blooming.

After reading an article (Pet Project by Robert Smaus 3-15-2007) in the L.A. Times 7 years ago about repotting the lily tubers, I started bringing my lilies up and out of the water once a year to shorten the tuber and roots, and to replace the soil in their pots.  Turns out, water lilies need this care in order to continue blooming.

For years I was nervous about cutting the tubers and roots.  But my lilies have responded, producing flowers all summer long, since I began making it a yearly job.  I am less hesitant about it all now, after many successful tuber splits, trims, and repots.

It is a muddy job, one requiring my garden apron, old clothes, and rubber gloves.  This apron was a gift from my friend over at  Thank you, Jen.

The roots have jumped this pot!  The plant is healthy and has divided in two. 
(The plant in the second pot, the white plastic dish pan, has died. This is the ups and downs of gardening.)

First I remove all the old leaves, leaving only the newest, still curled, leaves. 

After removing the lily from the pot, I cut the tuber leaving 
about 5" of the growing tip on each lily.  Next, I trim the roots, leaving about 6" in length and width. 
Using ordinary clay garden soil, not potting mix which is too light in weight and will float away in the water, I repot the trimmed lily in new soil, placing the tuber and root ball to one side of the pot.  I fertilize the plant with a high phosphorus food. (I continue fertilizing once a month during the spring and summer for continuous flowers.)

The pot needs to be replaced into the water in a timely manner, so the plant will not dry out.
It will bubble for 20-30 minutes while the trapped air escapes.  The pond may be cloudy for a day or so while everything settles back into place.

By the summer...

Oh, and I think we have finally found something heavy enough to keep the raccoons from fishing in the pond.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol  


  1. Glad to see the apron being put to good use! I wish I had your plant knowledge :)

  2. Thank you! I didn't know this! Very helpful!

    1. oops. my reply is below, looking like another comment.

  3. The first water lilies started blooming on my repotted lilies on May 18, 2014. 57 days after I lifted and trimmed them.
    I will post pictures later this week. Thank you for commenting. I am glad this information is helpful.