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This article is part of a regular column in the Deccan Chronicle. View the column here.
It’s going to be that time of the year again soon. As the lakes and ponds around you start filling up, they’ll take on the myriad hues ofIndia’s most cherished bloomers: the majestic Lotus and the serene Water-lily. Yet strangely, the one in your little urn remains as glum as ever. You fuss over it, talk to it, curse at it – and still, not one bloom! Ready to give up? Ah, don’t. Try these tips out, and I’m sure it’ll finally give you some long-awaited joy this season!
Lotuses and Water-lilies are happiest on the mucky beds of natural water bodies, and need a lot of coaxing to bloom outside their natural surroundings. Water-lilies, however, are a bit more cooperative than Lotuses. You can grow them in disused bathtubs, wide urulis, large cement pots or even terra-cotta urns. Just make sure your container is watertight, at least a foot deep and at least 2 feet wide at the surface.
Have you chosen a shaded, cozy little nook to place your container in? Charming, but sorry, wrong choice! Water-lilies, like many native Indian flowering plants, need 4-6 hours of direct sunshine every day! The ideal place for a Water-lily pond is out in the open, or in the middle of your terrace, where it can soak up as much sun as it needs. If you live in a hotter climate, you could try blocking out the harsher afternoon sun, but don’t go overboard with that. These are hardy native plants that survive the heat a lot better than the cold.
You can plant your water lily in pond or potter’s clay, directly into your water container, or in a smaller immersible pot. Make sure there are at least 6 inches of water above the rim of the pot though. If you notice that your mother-plant is producing offspring from its roots, you might want to use one of the baby plants instead, as it’s likely to bloom better. Retain the mother plant in another water tank though. You’ll get plenty of babies that you can propagate!
Fertilizing a water plant can be tricky. Wrap a fistful of bone meal (or washed and crushed eggshells) wrapped in a plastic bag. Puncture holes into the bag and weight it down with a stone at the bottom of the tank, to keep it from floating up to the surface.
Lastly, you need to keep your tank pest-free. Introduce native fish species like Gambusia into your container, to keep the water clean and mosquito larvae-free.
Don’t stress if your water lily sheds all its leaves and plays dead the moment you plant it. Just leave it submerged for a week or two, and you’ll see new leaves gradually emerging. In climates with distinct cold seasons, water lilies often go into hibernation and don’t show any signs of life until the weather begins to warm up. Relax, they’re just following their seasonal cycle. Keep your plant submerged, make sure it gets plenty of light, and it’ll be back in action in the summer, providing you another season of brilliant blooms to enjoy!