Winterizing Lilies


  • As leaves brown in the fall, trim them off, down to the level of the soil.
  • Lower the containers to the bottom of the pond.
  • Be sure that the container is resting below your local freeze line.


    Over-wintering a Tropical Waterlily can be no more trouble than taking care of other tropical flowers not adapted to cooler climates. No matter what method you use to bring a tropical lily through the winter, do not rush your plant outside into the spring weather and cold water that is too chilly for it to tolerate. Take your tropical waterlily outside only when the water temperature is at least 70 degrees F, regardless of air temperature.


    1. Near the end of the growing season (August in the northern United States and about the end of September in the south), skip the lily's last fertilization. The plant will become starved and overcrowded and, in response to this stress, will start to make a tuber, which is a hard, off-white colored growth protruding from the root system.
    2. Leave it in the pond until all leaves are dead. This may take until after several frosts. Feel the plant's root - a hard tuber must be formed for it to be stored successfully.
    3. When the tuber formation is complete, remove it from the planting container and wash it off. The tuber may be as large as a fist or as small as an acorn. There may be multiple small tubers around the large one.
    4. Save the small tubers since they are more likely to make good plants next spring compared to larger ones.
    5. If the tuber still has a root or stem tissue attached, let it air dry for a few days. Since a callus has formed to protect the tuber from dehydration the tissue will then snap off cleanly.
    6. Wash the tuber well and place it in a plastic bag or jar filled with sand and saturated with distilled water.
    7. Store in a cool dark place, at approximately 50-65 degrees F.
    8. Check the container monthly, and if the water is foul or discolored, change it with fresh water. If the tuber is clean and hard when stored, it should survive the winter.


    1. Place the container is a light warm place.
    2. When the sprouts can be seen, pot up the tuber in a small pot.
    3. Place in a larger container of water so that developing leaves can float.
    4. Maintain the water temperature at 70-75 degrees F with an aquarium heater and use a fluorescent grow light to supplement natural light. Avoid incandescent grow lamps, as these can often burn the plant when placed close enough to be effective.
    5. When the leaves grow up to the water's surface and white feeder roots can be seen, snap the plantlet off the tuber and pot into a Standard Growing Container.
    6. Place in the outdoor pond when the water temperatures are no longer dipping below 70 degrees F. Usually mid-May to early-June. Use a Pond Thermometer.
    7. Discard the old tuber. The new plant, given warm water, Fertilizer, and lots of sun, will make a full size blooming lily very soon.


    Another, and some may find easier, method for over wintering day-blooming tropical waterlilies is to simply remove the potted lily from your pond around the first frost (preferably just before). Remove all of the leaves and stems, including any remaining buds, and place the container in a 55-65 degree F dark area in your home. Once the container is in place, ignore it for the next 4-5 months as it gradually loses its moisture to the room around it. This slow drying closely mimics the natural process by which most tropical lilies are forced into dormancy. Unlike hardy lilies (and other hardy plants for that matter), topical lilies don't normally experience a winter in the climatic zones where they originate, but instead enter a dry season. The lack of rainfall triggers a hormonal reaction in the tuber of the lily, causing it to form a husk-like covering on the outside of the tuber(s). This covering is what holds in the moisture and protects the lily from drying out entirely. In theory, a lily can be held in its dormant state for several months, though is recommended that they not be subjected to too long a period of dryness. Though this last method isn't a guarantee that you'll be able to keep your tropical alive from seson to season, it is certainly worth the attempt given the attraction of the tropical lily flowers (not to mention the annual cost associated with replacing a lily year after year). To start growth again in the spring, simply wait until the pond temperature is at least 70 degrees F, which usually isn't until mid-May/early June. At this time, place the container in the pond at the recommended depth for the lily (usually 18-24"). Within approximately 2-6 weeks, growth should be apparent, though not necessarily vigorous at first.