Water Lilies for Water Gardens

Giant Victoria lilies command center stage in any garden. 

Victoria Water Lilies

Victoria Water Lilies

The pads of Victoria water lilies can grow up to 8 feet in diameter and are rimmed with a raised lip.

The pads of Victoria water lilies can grow up to 8 feet in diameter and are rimmed with a raised lip.

Does your garden seem to lack a little drama? Maybe it could use a gushing water feature. A cool outdoor  living space? Maybe it just needs one jaw-dropping plant. Look no farther than the Victoria water lily.

With enormous leaves that can span up to eight to 10 feet across, this is not a plant for small spaces – or the faint of heart. But if you have room for two or three – actually, one should fit the bill quite nicely – here’s your ticket to garden drama.

These exotic and mysterious perennials discovered in the Amazon more than two centuries ago pack quite a punch. Leaves of Victoria water lilies emerge in early summer from submerged potted plants as thorny shells, unfurling as much as two feet a day. Once fully open and flat, their giant quilted pads can support the weight of a small child with the leaves' undersides covered in spines presumably to ward off munching fish. Their night-blooming flowers are equally bizarre, rising in late July or August as a tennis ball-size bud that starts out white and turns pink as it unfurls. Each plant produces about a dozen flowers until fall, each lasting about two days.

There are two species: Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana. The former has leaves whose undersides are burgundy; V. cruziana’s pads are a bit smaller with upturned rims. Both grow rapidly given plenty of heat and humidity.

Both of these species were discovered around 1800 in Bolivia, and in 1960, the two were crossed at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania to create Victoria ‘Longwood’, which, like most hybrids, produces even larger plants than its parents. Today, this drama queen holds court in Longwood’s hallmark lily pool garden and is one of many reasons visitors flock to this wonderful attraction.

Because of their enormous size at maturity, Victoria water lilies can be difficult to overwinter, so often their seeds are collected in the fall for starting new plants in greenhouses for the next growing season—when another act in this drama unfolds yet again.

Next Up

Our Favorite Flowers: 'Aflame' Water Lily

This aquatic perennial is known for its exotic red blooms.

Water Lilies for Every Garden

Whether you are going for a back-to-nature or ethereal vibe, water lilies are an ideal addition to an outdoor space.

Growing Water Lotus

Learn how to add exotic flair to your garden with a striking water lotus.

Create a Still-Water Container Garden

Create indoor water gardens with a splash of creativity.

Medicine Garden

Learn how to grow your own herbal pharmacy.

Growing Monarda: When to Plant and How to Grow Bee Balm

Your garden will be buzzing—with helpful bees and compliments—when you plant colorful monarda, or bee balm.

Masterwort: Our Favorite Flowers

Scent up your garden with these fragrant flowers.

Preparing Perennials for Winter

A few basic cleanup steps in late fall will help your perennial beds thrive next growing season.

Planting and Growing Russian Sage

Learn how to plant Russian sage and use his drought-tolerant perennial.

Growing Astilbe

Use astible for its bright foliage and flowers that will add a burst of color to any shady spot in your garden.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Home Town

6am | 5c

Home Town

7am | 6c

Home Town

8am | 7c

Home Town

9am | 8c

Home Town

10am | 9c

Home Town

11am | 10c

Home Town

12pm | 11c

Good Bones

1pm | 12c

Good Bones

2pm | 1c

Good Bones

3pm | 2c

Good Bones

4pm | 3c

Good Bones

5pm | 4c

Good Bones

6pm | 5c
On Tonight
On Tonight

No Demo Reno

8pm | 7c

Flip or Flop

9:31pm | 8:31c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Flip or Flop

12am | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

No Demo Reno

2:59am | 1:59c

Flip or Flop

4:30am | 3:30c

Flip or Flop

5:30am | 4:30c