plant Easy level

Nymphaea sp. L.

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Water lily

Water lilies are without doubt the most beautiful aquatic plants. They are used in ponds, sunny courtyards as they can be successfully grown in a variety of water-filled pottery containers, wooden barrels, old kitchen sinks, water features and aquariums. They are simple to grow. All they need is full sun, some good soil and at least 30 cm of still water. Full sun is necessary for the plants to grow vigorously and produce flowers as well as for the flowers to open during the day.

The leaves show many interesting adaptations to their watery environment. The margins are slightly rolled inwards toward the uppermost side (involute) which helps keep the blades afloat. The underside of the leaf, which is continually wet, has a strong attraction to the water and this holds the leaf flat against the water. The veins act like a structural support for the leaves. The upper leaf surface is coated with a smooth waxy cuticle, which gives it the appearance of being leathery and shiny. This water-repellent waxy layer is of vital importance to the plant, not only to help prevent the leaf from sinking, but also to prevent the tiny stomatal pores, through which it breathes, from becoming clogged with dust. When water splashes onto the leaf surface, it forms rounded droplets that roll across the surface cleaning up the dust as they go. Clean dust-free leaves are also better able to photosynthesise effectively.

Another problem facing aquatic plants is the supply of oxygen to their roots. Roots must constantly be supplied with oxygen to stay healthy and the water lily’s roots are buried in poorly aerated pond mud and therefore cannot get oxygen they way normal plants do. It has overcome this difficulty by developing a system of large internal ducts throughout the leaves, petioles and roots which ferries the oxygen from the leaves to the roots.

Native to: Afghanistan, Alabama, Alaska, Albania, Alberta, Algeria, Altay, Amur, Andaman Is., Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Arkansas, Assam, Austria, Bahamas, Baleares, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, British Columbia, Bulgaria, Burkina, Burundi, Buryatiya, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Central European Rus, Chad, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Chita, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Connecticut, Corse, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Delaware, Denmark, District of Columbia, Dominican Republic, East European Russia, East Himalaya, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, Florida, France, Free State, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Idaho, Illinois, India, Indiana, Inner Mongolia, Iowa, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Irkutsk, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, Kamchatka, Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kentucky, Kenya, Khabarovsk, Korea, Krasnoyarsk, Kuril Is., KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Louisiana, Madagascar, Magadan, Maine, Malawi, Malaya, Mali, Manchuria, Manitoba, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mauritania, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Mongolia, Montana, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nebraska, Nepal, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Brunswick, New Guinea, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New South Wales, New York, Newfoundland, Nicaragua, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, North Carolina, North Caucasus, North European Russi, Northern Provinces, Northern Territory, Northwest European R, Northwest Territorie, Norway, Nova Scotia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oman, Ontario, Pakistan, Palestine, Panamá, Paraguay, Pennsylvania, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Primorye, Prince Edward I., Puerto Rico, Queensland, Québec, Rhode I., Romania, Rwanda, Sakhalin, Saskatchewan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Carolina, South European Russi, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sumatera, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tennessee, Texas, Thailand, Tibet, Togo, Transcaucasus, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Tuva, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vermont, Vietnam, Virginia, Washington, West Himalaya, West Siberia, West Virginia, Western Australia, Windward Is., Wisconsin, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Yukon, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Extinct in: Sardegna, Sicilia

Introduced into: Arizona, Ascension, California, Chile Central, Chile South, Colorado, Cook Is., Fiji, Mauritius, Nevada, New Mexico, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Oregon, Seychelles, Society Is., Tubuai Is., Utah, Victoria

Submitted by
Eleonora Pasquariello
11.8776293, 75.5774536
Geographical region
Southern Asia
Drainage Basin
Arabian Sea
River catchment
Water body type
Water body name
Water body part
Water body course
Middle course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)
Listed in CITES


Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

Dissolved Oxygen


Plant form
Plant type
Plant size
30-90 cm
Plant growth rate
Plant light demand
Aquarium equipment

Water lilies need light in order to thrive. While there are many varieties of water lilies, some can grow in deep shade while others prefer full sun. Nymphaea spp. that need full sun will not survive without it for long periods of time.

If you’re planting them in an aquarium, be sure to provide them plenty of room to grow and thrive. Water lilies are generally fed right through their root body by fish waste and other decaying organic matter that is rich with nutrients. However, many hobbyists choose to provide additional nutrients for their lilies as well. By using a nutrient-rich substrate and slow-release fertilizers, you can achieve stunning flowers and a great deal of growth.

Plant care

Like any other perennial, each different water lily may have specific needs regarding the sunlight, soil, fertilization, water depth, and pruning requirements. In general, water lilies require a minimum of four to five hours of full sun each day to produce the most blooms.

Species of Nymphaea reproduce sexually though show variability between species e.g. flower opening times, flower colour and function of the various flower parts. Agamospermous reproduction is not seen in species of Nymphaea, however several modes are exhibited e.g. detachable tubers and stolon formation. This enables them not to be completely reliant on pollinators.

Accepted species:

  • Nymphaea abhayana A.Chowdhury & M.Chowdhury
  • Nymphaea alba L.
  • Nymphaea alexii S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea amazonum Mart. & Zucc.
  • Nymphaea ampla (Salisb.) DC.
  • Nymphaea atrans S.W.L.Jacobs
  • Nymphaea belophylla Trickett
  • Nymphaea × borealis E.G.Camus
  • Nymphaea candida C.Presl
  • Nymphaea carpentariae S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea conardii Wiersema
  • Nymphaea × daubenyana W.T.Baxter ex Daubeny
  • Nymphaea dimorpha I.M.Turner
  • Nymphaea divaricata Hutch.
  • Nymphaea elegans Hook.
  • Nymphaea elleniae S.W.L.Jacobs
  • Nymphaea gardneriana Planch.
  • Nymphaea georginae S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea gigantea Hook.
  • Nymphaea glandulifera Rodschied
  • Nymphaea gracilis Zucc.
  • Nymphaea guineensis Schumach. & Thonn.
  • Nymphaea hastifolia Domin
  • Nymphaea heudelotii Planch.
  • Nymphaea immutabilis S.W.L.Jacobs
  • Nymphaea jacobsii Hellq.
  • Nymphaea jamesoniana Planch.
  • Nymphaea kimberleyensis (S.W.L.Jacobs) S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea lasiophylla Mart. & Zucc.
  • Nymphaea leibergii (Morong) Rydb.
  • Nymphaea lingulata Wiersema
  • Nymphaea loriana Wiersema, Hellq. & Borsch
  • Nymphaea lotus L.
  • Nymphaea lukei S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea macrosperma Merr. & L.M.Perry
  • Nymphaea maculata Schumach. & Thonn.
  • Nymphaea malabarica Poir.
  • Nymphaea manipurensis Asharani & Biseshwori
  • Nymphaea mexicana Zucc.
  • Nymphaea micrantha Guill. & Perr.
  • Nymphaea noelae S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea nouchali Burm.f.
  • Nymphaea novogranatensis Wiersema
  • Nymphaea odorata Aiton
  • Nymphaea ondinea Löhne, Wiersema & Borsch
  • Nymphaea oxypetala Planch.
  • Nymphaea potamophila Wiersema
  • Nymphaea prolifera Wiersema
  • Nymphaea pubescens Willd.
  • Nymphaea pulchella DC.
  • Nymphaea × rosea (Sims) Sweet
  • Nymphaea rubra Roxb. ex Andrews
  • Nymphaea rudgeana G.Mey.
  • Nymphaea siamensis Puripany.
  • Nymphaea stuhlmannii (Engl.) Schweinf. & Gilg
  • Nymphaea sulphurea Gilg
  • Nymphaea × sundvikii Hiitonen
  • Nymphaea tenuinervia Casp.
  • Nymphaea tetragona Georgi
  • Nymphaea thermarum Eb.Fisch.
  • Nymphaea × thiona D.B.Ward
  • Nymphaea vanildae C.T.Lima & Giul.
  • Nymphaea vaporalis S.W.L.Jacobs & Hellq.
  • Nymphaea violacea Lehm.
Water care

For beginners, it is best that you stick to cooler temperatures because they are easier to maintain and provide a safer environment for the fish. The ideal water temperature for most varieties of water lilies hovers around 24C°.

By opting to keep your plants in warm water, you should avoid exceeding 28C° as not to stress your plants. Remember that providing a stable water temperature is the most important thing you can do for your lilies. This will ensure their happy blooming for years to come.