How to Repot Water Lilies

by / 2 Comments / 2912 View / August 19, 2011


To me, a water garden isn’t complete without water lilies.

There are so many choices…tropical, hardy, day bloomers, night bloomers, pinks, purples, blues, yellows.

One is never enough.


pink water lily floating in a pond

Water lilies and aquatic plants are easy to grow as long as you follow a few basic steps for potting and repotting.


Soil Medium for Water Lily

The most popular lily question I receive from my customers is. “What soil should I plant my lily in?

Commercial potting soils are unsuitable because they contain bark and that will muck up the water when it spills into the water.

In spite of all the good commercial pond planting media available, (even those with added beneficial bacteria), the easiest and least expensive planting media for lilies is kitty litter!

Yes, that’s right, kitty litter.


Kitty Litter as Planting Mix?

Kitty litter is essentially clay that binds nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

The weight of the Kitty litter  also keeps it in place so it will not float out of the pot.

A heavy loam top soil is also suitable for your aquatic plants.

Make sure the kitty litter is non scented & non-clump forming.


Select plastic, cloth, or clay pots that are at least 10″- inches across.

Water lilies are fast grower so this is an ideal size to start with.

Remember, the smaller the pot, the smaller the lily.

Control the growth!


I prefer a cloth pot as it will conform to the bottom of your pond and will not tip over.


How to Plant Your Water Lily

Fill the pot with your planting media and leave a “hole” for the tuber.

Plant hardy lilies against the side of the container at a 45-degree angle.

Position the crown to stick out of the soil a bit and pointed towards the center.


Close-up of of a white water lily with a yellow center


Plant tropical lilies in the center of the pot and be sure to leave the crown exposed.

Add soil around the tuber and roots, then top off the soil layer with a half-inch of sand.

If you have fish in your pond,  you can use gravel instead of sand to hold the soil in place.

Keep the gravel away from the growing crown!


Fertilizing Your Water Lily

Lilies are very heavy feeders so it’s  important to fertilize them beginning in the spring and throughout the growing season.

Pond plant fertilizers are available as liquids, tabs, granules and time release stakes.

The stakes are the easiest to use.

Make a hole in the soil near the edge of the pot and push the stake in.


Most time released fertilizing stakes last a year, but in Florida we recommend you change out the stakes in the late summer too.

If you prefer a monthly fertilizer, the tabs are a good choice.


I don’t care for the liquid fertilizers unless you have  a lot of plants.

Liquid fertilizer is convenient.

Granules work well when you are planting a lot of plants since they can be mixed into the soil.


Planting Depth in Your Pond

Planting depth is an important factor for the growth of your lily.

You should place your lilies in the pond from 12” to 24”-inches  deep for the best growth and the most blooms.

Some lilies can go as deep as 30”-inches or more, like the “Big Blue Gigantia,”

Remember, the deeper you plant lilies,  the more energy it  takes for them to grow to the surface, creating smaller leaves and less blooms.



Water lilies in Shirley Bovshow’s pond


When planting new tubers or small lilies,  start the plant with about 6″- inches of water above the crown, lowering to 12″- inches after a couple of weeks.


Transplanting and Dividing Water Lilies

The lilies in your pond should be transplanted each spring.

If you have them in a large pot it’s ok ay to re-use the same pot but refresh the planting media and  fertilizer.

Hardy water lilies should be divided every two or three years depending on the plant container size.

Don’t forget the wider the pot, the larger the plant.


Best Practices for Your Water Lily

Whatever you do, don’t place the lily close to rushing, moving water.

Calm and still areas of the pond that are  not subject to splashing  is best for your lily.


Water lilies crave sunshine.


Make sure that they receive at least 5-6 hours of full direct sunlight daily.

Some varieties, will bloom with as little as 3-4 hours of full sun and the “Dauben” will actually tolerate some shade.


Follow these easy steps and you will be rewarded with big beautiful blooms all season long.




Lisa Burns is a water garden expert at Backyard Getaway.

Please ask your water gardening questions in the comment area below!

Let us know if you found this information useful!


2 Comment

  1. Wow! What a beautiful post! I love lilies. In spite of all the good commercial pond planting media available, (even those with added beneficial bacteria), the easiest and least expensive planting media for lilies is kitty litter! In pond they live lively with Pondpro2000 as it is nontoxic.

  2. Thanks Lisa!

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