July Plant of the Month: Hardy White Water Lily

Hardy White Water Lily—Nymphaea odorata:

As we enter into the dog days of summer our sweltering bodies tend to gravitate toward anything resembling an oasis.  An outdoor space fitted with an aquatic feature is your salvation.  Complete with aquatic plants, this space is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoor garden experience. Water features, whether a small pond or aquatic container, offer so much in increasing the diversity and ecosystem in an open space. They not only attract birds, beneficial insects, and pollinators but also can be a habitat for fish and reptiles. One of my favorite times of year is when our native hardy water lilies come into bloom. I can’t think of a more stunningly beautiful, symmetrically perfect flower one can come across in a garden setting.  

Nymphaea odorata or better known by its common name, American White Water Lily, is a floating aquatic plant with large fragrant white flowers. The Water lily is most easily spotted by its flat round floating leaves we call lily pads. It’s a very attractive and tough Northeastern native plant for the aquatic environment and rewards one every year with beautiful, flagrant flowers. They bloom from June to September and the flowers open in the morning and close back at night. They can live in water up to 8 feet deep and reliably come back every year with no real maintenance whatsoever. The flowers prefer water that is stagnant or slow moving and are able to survive quite bitter winters. They also have edible and medicinal properties as the seeds, leaves, flowers and rhizomes can all be eaten. The Rhizomes were actually used by Native Americans to treat coughs and colds.

I, myself  have been managing a stand of white and pink water lilies in a small pond around 3 feet deep for over 10 years now located at the Bridge Plaza Community Garden in Brooklyn. Both are beginning to come in to bloom now. Pass by, take a seat on the bench beneath the ornamental cherry tree and enjoy the flowers as they will be in bloom for the rest of the summer.