For water gardeners in the colder regions, the hot summer months are high time to get the most enjoyment out of our water gardens. For water gardeners of the colder regions to enjoy the classic water lily with its floating leaves and colorful fragrant blooms; they have to keep hardy lilies that will make it through the cold winter months and come back the following season. But us water gardeners in the cold regions sometimes don’t get to fully enjoy the hardy lily because it typically blooms during daylight hours and closes as the sun dips into the western sky; just about when we get home from work to enjoy our pond. It is a sad state of affairs; however, there is a solution…the tropical night blooming lily!
The term “night blooming lily” can sound a little misleading, almost as if the lily opens just at night. Here is the great thing about these lilies; they open during the day and STAY open into the dark of night! Maybe they’d be better termed extended bloom lily,…just a thought.
The tropical lilies have some real spectacular varieties one can choose from. The floating lily pads have some great patterns and interesting textures. The blooms on the tropical lilies can open to be considerably larger and with colors not found in their hardy counterparts. But, what is really nice about the tropical night blooming lilies is that they stay open much longer and allow those of us who get home a little later to still enjoy them. Those are some nice attributes for this aquatic pond plant, but there are some down sides too. The tropical lily tends to be more expensive than hardy lilies, they have a shorter season, and they are typically treated like an annual in that they cannot tolerate the cold and freezing weather. Once the frost hits most pond owners will throw out the tropical lily and other tropical plants from their water garden. For the tropical lily enthusiast this can be a little expensive every year. However; the tropical lily can be winterized and brought out again for the next growing season with some simple steps, if one chooses to keep their tropicals for year after year.
How do I winterize my tropical lily? A popular question with water gardeners. If you don’t have a greenhouse to keep them in here are some easy steps to follow.
• Stop fertilizing/feeding your tropical lily towards the end of the growing season.
• Wait until the pond’s water temperatures start to dip below 60F/15C to remove the lily from the pond.
• If you keep your lily in its pot then remove any growth and place the entire pot into a container so it is covered in several inches of distilled water and store in a cool area like a basement. Aerate the water and use a heater if necessary to keep the water temperature at 60F/15C. Give the lily a little light with a simple fluorescent grow bulb. Too much light may make the lily grow and that is not desirable while in storage.
• Check water quality from time to time and if water seems or smells foul do a water change using distilled water.
• Return your tropical night blooming lily to your pond when the outdoor water temperature stabilizes at about 70F/21C. Fertilize, enjoy.
• Stop fertilizing/feeding your tropical lily towards the end of the growing season
• Wait until the pond’s water temperatures start to dip below 60F/15C to remove the lily from the pond.
• Remove all leaf growth and spent blooms from the crown of the lily
• Feel under the crown for the lily tuber, remove the tuber, and rinse it completely.
• Fill a container, like Tupperware or a mason jar, with moistened sand, not WET, just moist.
• Dig a shallow depression in the sand and place the tuber in the sand and cover. If you want access to the tuber during storage place a piece of newspaper or paper towel on top of the tuber then cover over with the moist sand.
• Cover the container and store in a cool (50F-60F) dark place such as a basement, or even a refrigerator for winter storage. A garage may be too cold.
• When the pond’s water temperature stabilizes at about 70F/21C the lily can be repotted, fertilized, and placed back outdoors into your water garden to enjoy for another season.

If you are winterizing multiple tropical lilies be sure to label the containers so you know what variety is in the container. Make sure you do not place the tropical lily outdoors to soon or it may go dormant again. Following these easy steps each year will prolong the life of your tropical lilies and save money every year that can be put towards other supplies for your pond, more aquatic plants for your water garden, or towards that special koi you have been wanting to get! Happy pondering!
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.



Great post! I volunteer at an aquatic gardens and have started my own water lilies from seeds. And, this is exactly what I have learned to do. You are right on it! Next year I may build a small greenhouse. Perhaps, you have comments on this. I heard that using polycarbonate is best. Thanks again for your post.


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