Article supplied TO IWGS by Oregon Aquatics, Inc. and Southwest Aquatics, LLC.
Victoria waterlilies are an extraordinary genus of waterlilies native to South America, famous for the huge size of their pads (up to 6 feet in diameter) and the upturned rims on the pads. Victorias are night blooming waterlilies, with large, beautiful blossoms. Usually the flowers bloom white the first night, and pink or red the second night. The third night the bloom is darker and beginning to fade. A larger plant can have pretty much continuous bloom in hot weather. The fragrance is delightful and powerful, reminiscent of pineapple. The genus consists of two species, V. amazonica and V. cruziana, and hybrids between the two species. Victoria amazonica has larger pads, warmer water requirements, and lower rims than V. cruziana. Hybrids between the two, the most famous being the Longwood hybrid, tend to combine the best features of both species. We sell hybrid seedlings. We usually ship them with pads between 10 and 14 inches; delivered potted plants are sometimes larger. They are annuals, and must be re-grown each year from seed. Victorias require warm water temperatures and room to grow.
We germinate and grow them in 85 degree F water until the plant has pads 6+” in diameter. At this time the temperature may be reduced gradually to 75 degrees, although warmer water results in faster growth. Plants that have been bare-rooted for shipment should be re-established in water of at least 80-85 degrees to avoid shock. A rule of thumb for established plants with pads 18+” is that they will survive with water temperatures that get above 73 degrees F daily. 73 degrees seems to be the break-even point; above that they grow, below that they decline. The higher the temps, the more they grow (we don’t know what the upper limit is).
Young plants with a pad diameter of 6-15 inches are potted into shallow, wide pots (10″W x 7″D, or 16″W x 7″D). When they fill out these pots, they may be transplanted into their final pot size, anywhere from 23″W x 10″D to 60″W x 18″D. If planting in a shallow pond, a shallow kiddie wading pool is just the right size, although a little flimsy; spray painting the rim black hides the blue color. Minimize disturbance of the root ball when transplanting by positioning the smaller pot over the larger, and slipping the root ball out of the smaller pot into the larger. Make a depression in the soil of the larger pot for the root ball, or fill the pot around the root ball. Pot size, water temperature, fertilizer, and room for pads are the major factors determining the ultimate size of the plant. Victorias grow spines on their stems, flower buds, and underside. These spines become bigger and more painful as the plants grow, so do your moving and transplanting earlier, rather than later. Use gloves when handling, and hip waders are good protection when working around larger plants. Seedlings and young plants are generally greenhouse grown; adjusting them gradually to full sun avoids burning the tender leaves.
The pond that Victorias are grown in should have adequate surface area. If the area is small, keep the final pot size small to restrict pad diameter. A Victoria in a 10′ x 12′ pond with 3′ pads is still impressive. Depth depends on the size of the plant and water temperature. Begin young plants in shallow water, perhaps 6″ over their crowns. In warm summer climates, this may be increased as the plant matures to as much as 2-4′ over the crown of the plant. In mild summer climates, keep the plant shallow for warmth.
Use good topsoil or garden soil. Do not use anything high in organic content. Most commercial aquatic mixes do not contribute to the plant’s nutritional requirements, but as fertilizer is needed in any case, this is not a major objection. It helps to leave some extra room at the top of the final container, as Victoria crowns tend to grow themselves up and out of the soil to the point they have trouble reaching nutrients in the soil. When this occurs, it is helpful to put a little more soil around the base of the crown.
Use a quality aquatic fertilizer, such as Highland Rim. Young plants are sensitive to being over-fertilized, but maturing plants grow very quickly, and use a lot of fertilizer. As a general rule of thumb, use double the amount recommended per gallon of soil for hardy waterlilies for young plants, and quadruple the amount for mature plants. Fertilize for the size of the plant, however, not the size of the pot. If you’ve just put a one gallon size plant into a 20 gallon pot, fertilize it as a one gallon until it grows.