Water Lily vs Lotus

Water lily

Water lily and a Lotus are often confused. Both have benefits to a water garden but the plants themselves are completely different. Water lily has a few characteristics that are unique it is shallow to mid-level plant and it grows in water from about 4 inches deep down to more than 3 feet with some varieties.

Water lily grows up in the bottom of the pond not extreme depths but does not float on top of the water as many people assume. Water lily grows from a rhizome or tuber this is the tip of the root system. Foliage and buds emerge from this point.

Water lilies are separated into two categories. Hardy or perennial meaning, in colder climates they reappear.

And tropical or annual meaning that the plant only lasts one season in cooler climates. They will not die in subtropical climates. Tropical plants are very vibrant and produce many more flowers normally than hardy lilies.

As the lily grows up from the bottom of the pond not usually more than a few feet deep. The lily pads emerge on the surface. Some lily pads are green some flecked with white or purple and some heavily mottled purple tropical.

Lilies come in more leaf varieties than hardy lilies. Tropicals also have some varieties the bloom at night. Many people think that night routine plants are of no interest but the truth is that most of these lilies open a few hours before dark and stay open as late as noon. The next day this provides an extended blooming period where you can come home from work and find your pond coming to life there is some great bang for your buck and night-blooming water lilies.


Lotus are totally different plants. These guys grow in shallow water and need lots of heavy soil and fertilizer. They are probably the heaviest feeders in the water.

Garden Lotus can only be shipped across the country as tubers. Each tuber will have growing tips take a pot at least 20 inches across and place the tuber on top of at least 4 inches of clay or loam. Dirt the tuber should not be buried.

Start the plant in shallow water and make sure the water is warm and has plenty of sunshine. In a few days, the tubers will send up starter leaves that seem to float on the surface of the water similar to a lily pad after a few starter leaves.

Develop the main plant will begin sending up shoots above the water surface. Lotus can grow from a height of 20 inches for dwarf varieties to over 6 feet tall. On very large this is the easiest way to remember the difference in Lotus rather than Willie’s. The plants are tall and well out of water.