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Containers with Water Lilies as Focal Point
A glazed ceramic pot can be turned into a stunning container for beautiful white water lilies as a focal point.

Few can resist the magical quality of these starry summer flowers floating on a pool of sparkling water. Whether your chosen design plan requires formal elegance or has a wild, natural look, whether you have a large lake or small barrel pool to plant, you can be sure to find a water lily to suit your purpose.

When selecting a water lily (Nymphaea species), first assess the size and depth of your pond or water feature. Large species lilies, such as N. alba, spread up to 6 feet (1.8 m) across the surface and require a minimum water depth of 3 feet (1 m), while tiny types, including N. tetragona, are happy in tubs or small pools.

Types of Water Lilies 8 photos

As well as producing exquisite flowers, the majority of water lilies are tough, functional plants. Their exotic-looking blooms belie their hardy nature—most will survive the harshest winter unscathed—while the platelike leaves inhibit the growth of algae. The exceptions are the exotic blue- and purple-flowered water lilies, which are not hardy and must be given winter protection.

For the best effects in large or medium-sized pools, ensure your water lilies are not crowded by too many other plants, or they will lose their impact. Plant a single lily in a raised pool for a sophisticated look in a formal garden. In an informal or wildlife garden design, build a pond with a pebble beach effect, and plant your water lilies in the deeper water at the other end.

Water lilies combine well with other aquatics, including irises, Pontederia cordata, and the arrow-shaped foliage of Sagittaria sagittifolia. For a patio display, plant a dwarf water lily in a glazed container or watertight tub, and pair it with one or two well-behaved marginal plants, such as the miniature reed, Typha minima, and the magenta blooms of Iris versicolor ‘Kermesina’.

Water lilies object to fast-moving water, so are not suitable for streams or areas close to waterfalls or fountains. They also prefer a sunny location to flower well and may not bloom in the shade. Plant them in aquatic baskets; when they outgrow their allotted space, divide them and repot the smaller plants. In frost-prone areas, grow tender varieties in a sunroom.

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Types of Water Lilies

Types of Water Lilies

Friends to frogs and other wildlife, water lilies are a gorgeous, natural addition to a pool or small container garden.

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