Take the time to admire the water lilies in the garden of the master gardener

A stop on the Master Gardening Central Bog Bridge can transport the viewer to Giverny, France. Looking down from the top of the bridge and over the ponds, Monet’s famous water lily paintings seem to come to life. The colorful flower gems float like water nymph crowns, but they’re actually suspended and held upright by sturdy stems.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, there are several native species of water lilies or “lily-like” species found in our ponds, lakes, and ditches throughout the spring and summer: the American water lily (nymphaea odorata), the yellow water lily (mexican nymphaeum) and the blue water lily (Nymphaea elegans). But here at The Bog, our ponds are populated with hardy, hybrid water lilies.

Rustic water lilies (water lily) are cold-resistant perennials with about 50 species, and among them even more cultivars are grown. Their colors can be all nuanced shades of the rainbow. Flowers and pads vary in shapes and sizes, petal length and arrangements.

One of the most photographed flowers in the world, water lilies are not only beautiful and bewitching, but the round, flat water lilies provide protection for our goldfish. They keep algae under control and the water temperature is stabilized by isolating the water from temperature variations. During the terrible heat of July and August, they still bloom happily every sunny day, gradually opening each morning and slowly closing as the sun sets.

Water lilies are typically sold in pots 8 to 10 inches deep, 12 to 20 inches in diameter, and contain heavy loam or clay loam soil rather than light garden soil that can easily float. The crown of the plant is placed on the surface of the soil and held in place with fine gravel. The pots can be lowered a few inches below the water surface and to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Water lilies sitting on stones or bricks in layers will achieve the depth required by each variety of water lily. The best part about growing water lilies is that water gardens can be created with any 15 to 25 gallon container.

To keep plants healthy and in full bloom, water lily fertilizer is applied in tablets, usually 1-2 per month during the growing season, depending on the size of the plant. Pond tablets are found in the aquatic section of nurseries and are pressed onto the surface of topsoil just below the gravel. Water lilies are a little carefree. Old or damaged leaves are removed along with any other decaying debris. Keep the pond shaded with water lilies and algae growth will be less. The plants need 6 hours of sun and space to propagate, so no overcrowding! Keep pond water fresh and replenished up to 18 inches or to the bottom of your container.

So stay cool this summer and stop by the bog garden to admire what Monet painted hundreds of times and the water flowers that have fascinated the world throughout history.

For answers to your gardening questions, please visit Montgomery County Master Gardeners at www.mcmga.com or call 936-539-7824. Master Gardener members are available to assist you weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the A&M AgriLife Montgomery County Extension Offices located at 9020 Airport Road, Conroe, Texas 77301.

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