Green Culture Singapore Articles
Contributor & Photos: Gloria Chay (HortVet) • Available online 1
article will focus on the plants from the genus Nymphae that are
commonly referred to as 'water lilies'. There are so-called Hardy
Water lilies and Tropical Water lilies, the former tolerating winter
conditions. Tropical water lilies are the ones found locally, and
of these, there are day-blooming and night-blooming varieties.
GROWING TROPICAL WATER LILIES
water lilies are considered to be the showiest and largest of the
group. Day blooming varieties have flowers that open up from about
late morning till late afternoon. If they are grown in full sun
or catch the rising sun, then the flowers may open a bit earlier.
Night bloomers open from dusk until early or late morning. The flowers
generally open and close for 3-4 consecutive days. Tropical water
lilies can be grown in small tubs of about 1 meter diameter, not
necessarily requiring ponds. The miniature varieties are especially
excellent, though they do not have the showy and large flowers of
their bigger relatives. Large varieties can be flowered in tubs
such as large water jars, but judicious pruning of their leaves
is required as they spill over the edge. Portions of leaves not
in constant contact with water will turn brown and shrivel up, looking
of the blue water lilies in HortVet's collection.
water lilies come in virtually all hues of the rainbow, including
a green variety called "Green Smoke". The majority of varieties
sold in nurseries are hybrids with equally colourful names such
as "Wow" (a deep red). "Yellow Sensation" and "Wood's Blue Goddess".
Unfortunately like many plants in Singapore, water lilies are sold
without the cultivar's name and are just referred to as red, pink,
white etc. This is also the case for plants such as frangipani,
hibiscus, lotus and bougainvillea to name a few. Nurseries should
improve the naming of plants so as to enhance the knowledge of gardeners.
When it comes to plants such as water lilies and frangipani, other
characteristics such as fragrance, size and/or colouration of leaves
play a major part in the decision to purchase. Many water lily leaves
are attractive with red blotches on them; some have serrated edges
while others are smoothly rounded and some varieties have an absolutely
dazzling purplish-red on the underside.
lilies are very easy to grow, provided they are given adequate sunlight
and fertilizer to flower. Ideally they should receive a monthly
dose of slow release fertiliser, wrapped up in several layers of
kitchen towels or newspaper to form a small roll or "popiah", which
is then inserted into the soil close to the plant (at least 5cm
away). Our plants receive 2 handfuls of slow-release fertilizer,
wrapped up in 2 'popiahs' every 6-8 weeks. This appears to be the
absolute minimum as anything less frequent than that results in
an obvious decrease in growth and flowering. New leaves are very
much smaller, and flowering ceases. Granular fertilizer is not encouraged
for 2 reasons: it has a greater risk of burning the plant, which
can be potentially fatal, and the sudden release of nutrients from
this type of fertilizer promotes the development of algae.
pink water lily in HortVet's collection.
a water lily is first planted, whether in a tub or in a large pond,
60% of the water surface has to be covered to restrict growth of
algae. Algae feeds on the rich concentration of mineralized salts
present in tap water used to fill the pond, excess fertilizer, fish
excreta and decaying plant material. When light is decreased and
less available to algae, the problem of green water will disappear.
Water lettuce (Pistia) and water hyacinth(Eichhornia) are excellent
and readily available floating plants that can decrease mineral
salts in the water, thus making them unavailable for algae , and
offer a temporary cover on the water surface whilst the water lily
grows. However, they are fast growers and cannot be given free rein
in large ponds, as they will very quickly become weeds. Do not attempt
to change water or use algaecides at this stage as the problem will
soon resolve itself as long as the water lily leaves grow and cover
the water surface mentioned.
mosquito control, certain larvicides are available in nurseries.
We however, have found Siamese Fighting Fishes to be an effective
and charming way of controlling mosquito larvae. These fishes are
air breathers and require no external source of oxygenation, unlike
goldfishes or Kois. The latter 2 species of fish also eat water
plants, and are not really compatible in anything other than a fairly
large expanse of water. Large Kois are also known to uproot small
water lilies, probably in their search for food. A reliable combination
is one male and several female fighting fishes in a large tub. We
have kept 2 adult males successfully together in a large tub where
fallen or dead leaves at the bottom offer refuge for the fishes
to hide and can demarcate their territories. Juveniles co-exist
quite happily until their colouration intensifies, signaling maturity.
We have not had as good results with other fishes like Guppies,
although we know of people who find them useful. The only drawback
is that this requires constant vigilance to check that fishes are
still alive. We do not supplementary feed our fishes except when
starting with a new plant. In time, an ecosystem will develop which
will support them.
blue water lily in HortVet's collection,
with a yellow center and lighter blue petals.
have not encountered any serious problems with pests- most pests
such as water snails and beetles disfigure leaves and can be either
tolerated or physically removed. We do not spray with insecticides
and find that a good ecosystem in our tubs and around the rest of
our garden keeps things at an equilibrium.
is by division of the tubers. Plantlets will also develop at the
periphery of the parent plant and can be carefully dug out and repotted.
Separate the rooted plant from the sprouted tuber, and spread the
roots out in the container before planting. Water lilies need to
be under about 6-12 inches of water when mature, whereas Lotus (Nelumbo)
requires only about 3-6 inches. Certain day-blooming tropical water
lilies display a viviparous vegetative mode of reproduction. A young
plant emerges from a swelling in the centre of the leaf, at the
junction of the leaf blade and stem. Roots eventually emerge and
these leaves carrying young plants can be removed and anchored down
to a shallow container filled with 1 inch of water.
Slocum, Perry D. and Robinson, Peter, with Perry, Frances. 1996.
Water Gardening-Water Lilies and Lotuses. Oregon, USA: Timber Press,
Gloria Chay, also known by her handle "HortVet" in the
Green Culture Singapore (GCS) Discussion Forum, is a veterinarian
and grows a wide variety of plants including Heliconia, gingers,
Begonia, and Episcia. She is a member of the Singapore
Gardening Society (SGS) and Editor of the SGS monthly newsletter
- the Grapevine. Gloria is also one of our avid supporters of the
Discussion Forum where she is also a moderator for various sections.
Culture Singapore would like to thank SGS for the kind permission
granted to publish this article online.