Water lilies are the perfect plants for ponds and they bloom all summer long. Here’s a quick guide to growing them, in any size garden

After we featured Michael Hogan’s house, he invited me to visit his farm garden again when the roses and water lilies were in bloom. Unfortunately I missed the full glory of the roses by a few days, although they were still looking lovely, but the stars of the show were definitely the many different water lilies floating serenely in the various ponds and water features. I couldn’t believe the variety and perfection of the blooms.

Inspired by Monet’s garden in France, Michael used the existing ponds and willows in the garden as a base, surrounded the edges with grasses and irises and then introduced the water lilies. “They’re so rewarding and flower all summer. I then decided I wanted more of them so I had a couple of long rectangular ponds dug (pictured below) and filled these with more water lilies.”


Growing tips

“If you have a small water feature then you can plant water lilies in the plastic pot they come in,” says Michael, “but if you want them to spread and multiply, try this tip I got from Pieter van der Walt of Aqua Flora: Take them out of the plastic pot, place them on the bottom of the pond, anchoring them if necessary with a rock. They soon send their leaves up to the surface and they root quickly in the soil. But this only works if you have a soil base to your pond; a heavy subsoil works best as it sinks immediately and the water clears within a day or two.”

Planting them is quite a mission, he revealed. “I change into a T-shirt and shorts and then spend up to a day placing them in the water. You have to smother yourself with sunscreen to prevent getting really sunburned.”

Water lilies in small gardens

What’s nice about water lilies is that you don’t have to have a large pond. They’ll grow in smaller water features with a depth of between 30–100cm and also in large water-filled containers like these ones from Norick Interiors (below left) and The Pot Place (below right).