Wintering Water Lilies: How To Store Water Lilies Over Winter

Pink Water Lily
(Image credit: TonyBaggett)

Graceful and elegant, water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) are a wonderful addition to any water garden. If your water lily is not hardy to your climate though, you may be wondering how to winterize water lily plants. Even if your water lilies are hardy, you might be wondering what you should do for them to help them make it through winter. Winter care for water lily plants does take a little bit of planning, but is easy to do once you know how. Keep reading to learn more about how to over winter water lilies.

How to Winterize Water Lily Plants

The steps for wintering water lilies starts long before winter actually arrives, regardless of whether you grow hardy or tropical water lilies. In late summer, stop fertilizing your water lilies. This will signal to your water lily plants that it's time to start getting ready for cold weather. A few things will happen after this. First, the water lily will start to grow tubers. This will provide food for them over the winter. Second, they will start to die back and enter dormancy, which slows their systems down and helps keep them safe over winter. The water lilies will typically grow small leaves at this time and their larger leaves will turn yellow and die. Once this occurs, you are ready to take steps for wintering your water lilies.

How to Store Water Lilies Over Winter

Wintering Hardy Water Lilies

For hardy water lilies, the key to how to over winter water lilies well is to move them to the deepest part of your pond. This will insulate them a little from repeated freezing and unfreezing, which will decrease your water lily's chance of surviving the cold.

Wintering Tropical Water Lilies

For tropical water lilies, after the first frost, lift the water lilies from your pond. Check the roots to make sure that the plant has properly formed tubers. Without tubers, it will have a difficult time surviving the winter. After you have lifted your water lilies from the pond, they need to be placed in water. The containers people use to store their water lilies over winter varies. You can use an aquarium with a grow or fluorescent light, a plastic tub under lights, or in a glass or plastic jar placed on a windowsill. Any container where the plants are in water and get eight to twelve hours of light will work. It's best to store your water lilies bare rooted in the water and not in growing pots. Replace the water weekly in containers and keep the water temperature around 70 degrees F. (21 C.). In the spring, when the tubers sprout, replant the water lily in a growing pot and place out into your pond after the last frost date has passed.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.