Nymphaea: Water lily

Family: Nymphaeaceae
Common name: Water lily, Waterlily, Pond lily

Water lilies are one of the most beautiful of God’s creations, and one of the most researched plants due to their simple flower structure similar to the earliest flowering plants. They can be grown quite easily in home gardens or terraces, provided there is sufficient direct sunlight.

There are over 50 species of water lilies with hundreds of cultivars and hybrids throughout the world, most of them grown as ornamental plants. Water lilies are characterized by underground rhizomes, which are modified fleshy stems from which stems and roots originate. They also produce stolons or long underground roots that form more plants connected to the parent plant.

Shape and size of the leaves vary depending on the species, but most leaves are between 10-30 cms in diameter. Color is light green, dark green or purplish green; with a distinct purple tint on the bottom surface.

Leaves float on the surface of water and are roughly circular in shape with wavy or toothed margins, and a distinct V-shaped cut from the upper end towards the stem.

Flowers are amazingly beautiful, with layers of smooth, waxy petals in multiple layers. They also float on the surface like the leaves, and come in shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue.

Yellow stamens are distinctly visible at the center of the flowers.
The interesting feature of water lily flowers are their capability to change gender within the same flower; the same flower displaying stamens one day and pistils on another. Pollination is through wind, water and insects. Water lilies produce berry-like fruits that contain seeds.

The most popular species are Nymphaea alba or the white water lilies, Nymphaea mexicana or the yellow water lilies, Nymphaea rubra or the Indian red water lilies, Nymphaea tetragona or the pygmy water lilies, Nymphaea candida, Nymphaea micrantha, Nymphaea pubescens etc. Hybrids like Escarboucle, James Brydon, Pygmaea Helvola, Gladstoniana are also very popular, each prettier than the other.

Nothing calms your soul like a small water body in your garden with water lilies floating on the surface, and small fishes swimming in it. And setting it up is easier than you would imagine.

You could use cement or plastic water tubs and fill them with water. Plant water lilies in a small pot filled with clayey soil and insert them into the tub. Small fishes like guppies will ensure that you don’t have mosquito larvae in the water after a few days.

Propagation is through rhizomes and seeds.

Image credits: Rajeev Nair