Water gardening actually began over 2,000 years ago in the Orient, and there are millions of Americans now practicing this garden art. Many homeowners are interested in creating water gardens in their yards for the serenity, sound and beauty water provides. While there are thousands of aquatic plants available, the most popular remains the waterlily (Nymphaea).

Water Lily 'Tina'

‘Tina’ is a semidwarf variety with slender petals.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Slocum Water Gardens

Water Lily 'Trudy Slocum'

‘Trudy Slocum’ is a beautiful night-bloomer.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Slocum Water Gardens

Water Lily 'Yellow Queen'

‘Yellow Queen’ is one of the largest yellow hardy lilies.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Slocum Water Gardens

This well-known, well-loved water plant comes in many sizes and colors, and it serves as the focal point of many displays for several good reasons. Waterlilies are classified as deep-depth submersible plants and not as "floaters", even though they have their visible leaves floating atop the surface of the water (while the remaining portions of the plant grow under it). In balancing a pond, waterlilies provide shade at the bottom of the water garden, oxygenate the water and use up extra nutrients found in it – all features that hinder algae.

There are two groups of waterlilies: tropical and hardy.

Hardy waterlilies are perennials that grow from rhizomes. They’re found year-round and come in reds, pink, oranges, yellows and whites. One group of cultivars, called “changeables,” even changes color from yellow to reddish-bronze or apricot on successive days of blooming.

Tropical waterlilies, also perennials, develop from tubers (short, fleshy underground stems) and are noted for their fragrance. These frost-sensitive plants are divided into two groups: day bloomers and night bloomers. Day bloomers, like hardy lilies, open during the day and are available in most colors, including blue. Night bloomers, as you might expect, open around sunset and close by noon. They only come in white, pink and red. A water garden containing day and night bloomers produces flowers around the clock.

Whether hardy or tropical, waterlilies are a fantastic addition to the water garden. Here are a few in particular you might like to try:

‘Trudy Slocum’ is a beautiful white-flowering night bloomer. Its white flowers are large and held well above green pads. ‘Tina’ is a semidwarf tropical variety with long, slender, blue petals and a golden-yellow center. Free-flowering, it’s adaptable to different environments, from sun to even partial shade. And ‘Yellow Queen’ is one of the largest yellow hardy waterlilies, with a 7- to 9-inch bloom size.

So when planning your water garden, don’t forget the beautiful – and useful – waterlily. Not only can this popular aquatic help with algae control, it serves as a great focal centerpiece of any pond. After all, Claude Monet toiled for years to capture the waterlily in his paintings, and for good reason: They’re just extremely beautiful plants.