The Water Lily Saga


Can you honestly say you’ve ever looked at a Monet painting and not wanted to grow water lilies? Over a lifetime of gardening,  I’ve tried, with some success and as many failures.

It’s been nearly four years since the inception of my tiny courtyard garden. My plan was always to find a way to indulge my passion for water lilies, albeit on a very reduced scale. I built a pond in a pot, equipped it with a solar pump and populated it with fish and frogs.

Then I purchased a single pot of delicate pink waterlilies, reading up on ideal conditions, like correct water depth and amount of sun required. The first year was the best. The leaves covered the surface of the pond and the beautiful blooms came thick and fast.

This year there were no blooms. Nor were there many leaves, and those that did appear were small and sickly looking. It was obvious something was wrong. A little research revealed the likely reason – the plants needed dividing and re-potting.

Heavy clay soil is recommended, followed by a layer of fine gravel and then small stones to prevent the soil washing out of the submerged pot to muddy the water. I discovered prepackaged soils are not ideal if one’s fish are to be preserved.

But where to find heavy clay soil near my beach-side home?

I visited swamps in the area, attempting to dig heavy soil from the banks. The densely matted root system of paper barks and other aquatic plants made this almost impossible, not to mention, probably illegal. My daughter called from the bank ‘wade in further Mum! It may be easier to dig away from the bank.’ Easy for her to say. My mind’s eye could see tomorrow’s headlines:


Oh alright! I do exaggerate a little. Crocodiles are not usually found this far south. But the eels can be large and ill-tempered. I’ve seen them take ducklings and signets.


Litchfield National Park wetlands with waterlilies-and no doubt submerged crocodiles-northern Australia

Gardeners are by nature resourceful, so I decided to take another approach, find another way.

I divided and re-potted my waterlilies using the same heavy clay from the original pot, adding worm castings, new layers of gravel and more stones. Then I poked special ‘fish friendly’ pellets of fertiliser around the bulbs. Now I had two pots of water lilies.

That was two weeks ago. Several leaves have since sprung from the divided bulbs. If you look carefully at the photos below, you’ll see the waterlily bulb sprouting new leaves. It can’t be too long before a bud appears.

Sometimes, the situation is only a problem because it is looked at in a certain way. Looked at in another way, the right course of action may be so obvious that the problem no longer exists.

Edward de Bono

Useful links:—repotting





39 responses to “The Water Lily Saga

  1. Waterlilies fascinate me, but I’ve always suspected they might be fairly difficult to cultivate. And I love watery places: creeks, wetlands, ponds. They’re usually teeming with life. I could, however, give crocodiles a miss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh me too Denise. People tell me they are quite hardy given the right conditions. They grow like weeds up north. And of course in Asia where I was enchanted by a variety that had leaves as big as market umbrellas. And yes, I’m drawn to the wetlands – as you say, teeming with life. Crocodiles have their place – as long as its not my place 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. we sometimes find waterlilies here in the rivers in the \uk but when I think about it, it’s usually further south than where I live. I do love to see them. Glad we don’t have crocs in our rivers. I wouldn’t have gone kayaking if there had been.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds as though you’ll soon have everything you’ll need to start painting your own waterlily scenes! Incidentally, I’m glad you found a way to do it without being eaten by a crocodile. 🙂


  4. Yikes! Crocodiles?? I don’t think I would have your dedication, much less bravery, even if you do say they don’t usually come as far south as you are. Still… In any case, I’m very glad that you have apparently found a ‘workaround.’ I hope that it does continue to work for you. Tiny ponds with water lilies must be encouraged–it is not enough for them to live in paintings alone!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. From Monet to Crocs to new buds – what a great story! I pictured you wading in the mud, and then being arrested by a parks ranger or local council worker for wilful destruction of wild habitat and then we, your readers, protesting for your release with placards and online petitions. “Free the Waterlily Woman!” we’d call out.
    So thank goodness for your resourcefulness. We would have missed next week’s blog post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Waterlily Woman – I love it! A great alternative outcome to being eaten by a croc.
      My environmental conscience did prick for a bit there so maybe it’s just as well I couldn’t dig up the mud.
      So unless Waterlily Wiman gets herself into more trouble, there will be a post next week. Thanks for the fun response Gail.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Um, Van, I can’t say I’ve ever looked at Monet’s paintings and wanted to grow water lilies or any plant life for that matter, mainly because I kill cacti, bamboo and I daresay artificial plants if I had any. Funny thing is as I was reading, I don’t know why, but I got this crazy thought of creating a miniature garden for my balcony. You certainly are resourceful. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The Ultimate Tiny Garden | Big Dreams for a Tiny Garden·

  8. That must have been a lot of dedication to venture out to the river to get some soil! The last time I did something like that was when I had to go to my local canal to collect water for a science experiment and almost twisted my ankle trying to climb over a fence. I hope your water lillies will be able to grow strong and healthy soon: they’re very elegant-looking flowers, and it’d be a joy to see them bloom.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for visiting. I’ve been in some tricky situations in pursuit of my gardening interests but have survived thus far. I’m still waiting for buds but the whole repotting exercise has made a difference to the leaf growth.

      Liked by 2 people

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