Water Garden Pests and Water Lily Diseases

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Magazine Title: Water Lily Pests and Diseases: Not Much to Worry About

July / August 2009

Paula Biles

Unlike most specimens of the plant kingdom, pests or diseases seldom afflict water lilies. Water gardeners have it easy compared to gardeners who grow roses, veggies, or lawns. Plus, most water lily troubles are superficial and do little permanent harm. Often they may be prevented and controlled with a watchful eye and careful maintenance.

Here are the most common, from big to small. Some may not be a problem at water garden businesses, but might affect your customers. Remember that the key to keep pests from becoming problematic is to regularly monitor the condition of all your aquatics. Then before anything can become a concern, you can nip it in the bud.

Terrestrial Animals

Dogs don’t eat water lilies. However canines cause problems when they go for a dip, blissfully overturning pots. While some dogs can be trained to stay out of the pond, breeds like Labradors have an innate love for water. In those cases some owners solve the problem by giving their lab its own kiddie pool. A harsher solution is the Fido Shock, which delivers a small electrical charge through a wire fence.

The electrical fence can also deter raccoons, who regularly knock over aquatic plant containers. Keep pots away from the pond edges since the raccoons won’t go into deeper water. These critters are very persistent and outwit most devices designed to scare them away. The most effective deterrents are the Fido Shock and the Scarecrow, a sprinkler activated by motion sensor. Move the Scarecrow periodically to increase effectiveness. It also helps to place two at right angles. If deterrents don’t work, check with your animal control departments. Often they’ll provide traps then remove the captured animal. To bait the trap use the unlikely, but extremely successful, delicacy – Twinkies.

Aquatic Fauna

Turtles will eat anything slower than they are and that includes water lilies. Symptoms are lily pads that appear to have been cut with a knife or scissors. The best solution is to relocate the turtle to a more appropriate pond.

Some koi will snack on lilies and root around in pots while others don’t. Until someone figures out why this happens, take precautions to reduce koi damage. Cover the soil in containers with gravel and then with stones – bigger than the largest koi’s mouth. (Some ponders say lava rock is uncomfortable in a koi’s mouth and they’ll avoid it.) Place lilies very close to the surface (3-6?). This prevents koi from grazing in the pot and also gives new leaves a chance to grow.

Butterfly koi usually make better water garden pondmates, as do goldfish and koi raised from babies. Whatever you do, don’t add a single pot of plants into a pond that has been sterile of vegetation. The new diversion will soon become lily salad. Another strategy to protect water lilies is to buy or make a cage around the plants. As a last resort, create an adjacent but separate pond area for the lilies.

Ramshorn and Japanese Trapdoor snails don’t usually harm aquatics since they feed on decaying plant material. However Pond and Apple Snails do feast upon lily pads and other fresh vegetation. A technique to get rid of snails without altering your water chemistry is to place a lettuce leaf or zucchini slice in the pond. Leave it overnight, then remove it and destroy the snails it has attracted. Repeat as needed. Adding snail-eating fish, like the Clown Loach, is another biological control. Potassium permanganate and other specialized chemicals can be used but the biological controls work best in backyard ponds.



The key to controlling aphids is to keep them from ever becoming a problem. As soon as you notice the little buggers, squash them by hand. They usually appear on new growth or older yellowing leaves and may start reproducing in terrestrial plants near the ponds. Although many books recommend washing aphids off leaves so the fish can eat them, this only works for light infestations. You can overflow the pond, spraying hard to flood them out. Repeat every day or two until aphids are under control.

Light oil sprays will suffocate the aphids and are not harmful to fish or plants. Sprays should be repeated every 10 days to be most effective. Mix two parts vegetable oil to eight parts water and a dash of dishwashing detergent. Treat in the evening and rinse off the oil the next morning. A Volck oil spray (5 Tbsp to 1 gal water) also works. Spraying trees and vegetation around the pond as soon as any aphids are detected is the quickest way to prevent an infestation in the pond.

Other environmentally safe controls are available. Diatomaceous earth is a microscopic abrasive that kills the aphids. It can be dusted on the leaves or mixed with water and sprayed. Again, flush the pond of extra residue so it doesn’t harm other pond inhabitants. Blade Runner, Aphid-X, and Herbal Aphid Spray are all made from natural ingredients. A weak solution (1.5%) of insecticidal soap left on for less than an hour also works well.

A very low-tech aphid control strategy is to drown the aphids. This can be done by submerging the plants overnight or by putting some newspaper on top of the leaves and leaving it there for several hours.


Leaf mining midges chew wavy lines in the lily pads. These very small larvae can be handpicked, the leaves can be removed, or the water can be treated with Mosquito Dunks (which contain Bt).

China Mark Moth

This small nondescript brown moth is the water lily’s major pest and is also called the Sandwich Man. It is nocturnal and lays eggs on the underside of floating leaves. After hatching, the larva cuts leaf pieces to make protective sandwiches. They affect water lilies, although the larva also burrows into any floating leaves or debris. They have a two week cycle, so keep a close check for them throughout the growing season.

The mechanical control method, better known as squishing, works well to control an initial outbreak – fish just love the worms. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural bacteria, can be used as a spray. Once ingested, it kills the larva but won’t hurt people, pets, or fish. It is the active ingredient in Dipel, Insecticidal Soaps, and Thuricide. As with many sprays, it is best applied at the end of the day (see sidebar). If there is a severe infestation, the best remedy is to remove all affected foliage close to the crown of the plant and destroy it.


Many years ago several varieties of hardy lilies were susceptible to crown rot, a fungal disease. The leaves on affected plants would curl and turn yellow, and buds would rot below the surface. The plant would soon die since the rhizome had rotten away, leaving a stinky mess. Treatment was to thoroughly soak the tuber in a fungicide. However, since the disease is highly contagious the best option was to remove the plant and completely destroy it. Luckily the incidence of this and other fungal diseases has decreased as less susceptible hybrids have been developed.

Natural or Chemical Treatments

Be cautious of all pesticides and always use the least harmful treatment first. If mechanical control (aka squishing by hand) doesn’t work, then try the appropriate insecticidal soaps, sprays, or dusts. These rely upon natural bacteria that target specific organisms, diatomaceous earth, or other natural derivatives. Unlike pesticides, they are usually not harmful to other insects and pond inhabitants. (Unfortunately those based on pyrethrum and rotenone are toxic to frogs and fish.) Numerous environmentally friendly treatments are now available, such as Blade Runner, Herbal Aphid Spray, Dipel, and several Insecticidal Soaps.

If biological controls are unsuccessful and you must resort to a pesticide, follow some simple precautions. Check what the label says about use with fish, pets, and other wildlife. Many products may be safe on terrestrial plants but should never be used in or around the pond. Whenever possible, remove the plant and treat it outside of the pond. After it has been treated, rinse it off and return it to the water garden. Some chemicals might require water changes after treatment if applied in the pond.

Most pesticides and biological controls are best applied at the end of the day. There is less breeze to blow spray to surrounding areas or plants; there is less chance the spray will burn or damage the plant; there is less opportunity for UV to degrade the effective ingredients; and absorption of the active ingredients into the plant’s system is usually higher.

An Ounce of Prevention Provides a Big ROI*

• Before adding any new plants to your pond, closely examine them for signs of pests, especially if you’ve had infestations from a particular grower. Look at both sides of the leaves and in the crevices where stems and leaves overlap. Remove anything suspicious. You can also soak the plant to kill unwanted pests and parasites. Plants can be soaked in a potassium permanganate solution (4-6 Tbsp in 12-13 gal water) for 1-2 hours.

• Regularly fertilize plants and divide them when overcrowded. Since insects and diseases attack sickly and stressed plants, thriving plants usually do not have pests.

• Trim off all old and damaged foliage from lilies and marginals. This weaker growth is often where insects thrive. Removing dying leaves eliminates their food source, helps rejuvenate the plant, and reduces material that falls on the bottom to decay. A carefully trimmed lily displays beautifully and sells quickly, plus it’s usually disease and pest-free.

• When adding water to your ponds, be sure to spray all the plant foliage, especially if it hasn’t rained lately. This cleans the plants plus washes off pests before they can become a problem.

(Okay you should know what ROI means but just in case – Return on Investment)

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POND Trade Author - Paula Biles

Author Paula Biles

Company About the Lotus

Bio Paula Biles was diagnosed at an early age with CPO (chronic plant obsession) and after graduate school the condition became severe. The constant compulsion...

Read the full bio.



Paula,maybe you or someone can help me. I can't seem to find and answer on line. I grow tropical water lilies here in Hawaii and lately I have a problem. The leaves of the lilies are stiff, arrow head shaped (not round and flexable) ,with the edges curling up out of the water and ugly. I grow most of the lilies from seed but they don't start out with stiff curled leaves. So I don't think it's genetic...HELP

Aloha, Pat

1. Posted on May 21st, 2010 at 8:43 am.

By Pat Hall of Hall's Farm.


Hi Pat,

Your photo shows something definitely wrong with your tropical lilies. Malformed leaves like this have been attributed to two different things: some kind of virus and a nutrient deficiency.

I've heard strong arguments from old timers that the seldom seen mis-formed leaves (and sometimes blossoms, too) are caused by a virus and there is no cure. However, my experience leads me to believe folks who argue that lack of adequate nutrients is the cause. Unfortunately I do not know of any scientific studies to prove one or the other.

So here is what I have found over the years.

• Some tropicals seem to be more susceptible than others. I have grown a relatively low number of different varieties since 1985 and have had this problem about 4 times -- always in the early spring as the plant begins to start growing again. It's happened with a deep pink N. capensis and this spring with my 'Tina'.

• As soon as I repot the lily with good new soil and fertilizer (Nutricote, bone meal, Black Kow) it begins to grow normally. Within a week or so it begins putting up properly shaped leaves. The old distorted leaves do not become normal, but the new ones look A-OK and it remains healthy.

If your lilies are planted in pots, I would suggest repotting them into fresh soil with plenty of good nutrients, including micronutrients. If they are in the bottom of a pond, try inserting fertilizer stakes, tabs, or make up fertilizer packets with fabric or coffee filters.

Good luck and please report back so we can learn if this solved your problem.

Aquatically Yours,
Paula Biles

2. Posted on May 26th, 2010 at 3:41 pm.

By Paula Biles.


Hope you can help me. My hardy and tropical water lilies are being eaten alive by a small, thin worm @ 3/16" long. They are only seen if i turn over a leaf where they are busy at work. Any idea how I can treat this without killing my koi?
Any help would be appreciated

3. Posted on June 5th, 2010 at 5:46 pm.

By John McGroarty.


Hi John,

Thanks for sending such detailed photos, which clearly show the damaged leaves and the culprit.

Since I've never seen this problem in Florida, I checked with a friend in the wholesale business who has much wider experience. She said it is probably some kind of fly larvae that's doing the damage. (They're seen the problem in some Maryland ponds this summer.) In ponds with mosquito fish these pests usually aren't a problem, so it's likely that your koi prefer the food you give them rather than these tiny little larvae.

Treatment is important since heavy infestations can defoliate lilies and severely weaken the plants. You may want to start by cutting off the most damaged leaves and destroying them, leaving at least 4-6 leaves per plant. Then use Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits, which contain  Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (BTI). This naturally occurring bacteria will not harm your koi, or anything else except the insects (or their larvae) that ingest it.

You can often get these products at good garden stores, since they're usually used to prevent mosquitoes.

Good Luck,

4. Posted on June 9th, 2010 at 9:29 am.

By Paula Biles.


Pat, something is eating my water lilies. One day they were so full I was wondering how to thin then out and the next morning someting ate most of the pads and flowers around the edge. They looked like what turtles do. Like something cut them with a scissor. I don't have turtles, but I do have frogs. Two of them. I have also seen deer trying to get near the pond. Do they eat lilies?

I have large goldfish in the pond and they just had a baby. Would that have any affect on the plants?

I'm grasping at straws as each morning when I get up there are more plants gone.

Any help would be greatly appeciated.

5. Posted on June 21st, 2010 at 7:29 am.

By diane.


Turtles are a definite problem since they eat anything slower than they are – including water lilies. However with turtles you would have seen the problem develop over time, not overnight. So the culprit is definitely the deer, who love delicacies like water lilies and will eat whatever they can reach. There's not much you can do to keep them from eating the lilies except for physical barriers (like your netting) or an electric fence that they can't reach over.

Many years ago I went to an annual meeting for the International Waterlily Society, which had some programs at a very large botanical garden in Washington, DC. The Garden was very upset because deer had gotten into the garden and decimated all their roses and water lilies. They were doing their best to outsmart the critters but hadn't yet solved the problem.

Goldfish and frogs don't negatively affect your plants, except for occasional rooting around in the pots.

From your photos it looks like the deer can't reach one side of your pond. Look to see what keeps them from getting close and see if you can duplicate those conditions on the other side. Once I read that placing wobbly stones and flagstones around the edge could discourage pests, who didn't like walking on unsettled/uneven surfaces. I never tested it, but it might be of use in your circumstance.

Good luck.

Aquatically Yours,
Paula Biles

6. Posted on June 23rd, 2010 at 8:19 am.

By Paula Biles.


Hello Paula,

I am a rookie here when it come to water garden. I have a koi pond and water lilies in them. My lilies was very healthy until recently I noticed that there are many brown spots on the leaves. Some of them turned brown when they're older. My concern here is what caused the brown spots? and how can I get rid of them? My pond surface was 60% covered by water lilies, but due to the brown spots, there are only 30% left. I hope to get your help soon before they are all gone. Thank you so much for your prompt assistance.

7. Posted on July 15th, 2010 at 1:13 am.

By Sonny of NA.


This appears to be a fungal infection. Neither of our aquatic nurseries, in California or Oregon, suffer from this disease. It seems to be a problem in hot, humid southern climates. We get quite hot in California's southern Central Valley, but don't seem to have a problem. I have seen this happen at growers' facilities in Alabama and Texas. I consulted with Mike Swize of Nelson Water Gardens, as he has grown waterlilies for many years in College Station and Katy, TX. He confirmed that it is a common problem for them in summer--in fact, it is a consistent fact of life for them every summer. As soon as I reviewed the photos, I noticed that, as I expected, this was a problem with hardy lilies only, which is consistent with everything I have seen. Mike agreed that in his experience, only hardy waterlilies are affected. He has observed the following:
This occurs in the summer months, and the problem resolves itself in cooler weather

Only hardy waterlilies are affected

Immersed leaves (leaves growing out of the water above the water surface, rather than floating on the water) are much more affected than floating leaves

Cutting back the affected leaves and allowing new leaves to grow usually solves the problem, because by the time the new leaves become crowded enough to be seriously affected, cooler weather arrives

The plants do not appear to suffer permanent damage from the infection

Treating with a fungicide is not advised, for two reasons--fish may be affected by the fungicide, and fungicides are not approved for use in aquatic applications. That being said, copper is often used as a fungicide; while it may not successfully treat this particular fungus, some copper formulations are approved for treatment of algae; used in a pond for algae control, perhaps it would also serendipitously control the fungus (most fish can handle small doses of copper; trout and salmon are the most sensitive fresh water fish). Also, many organic growers are successfully using compost tea to treat bacterial and fungal infestations on plants; this technique is not addressed by EPA or agricultural regulations, and would probably yield good results if correctly produced, and used fresh and regularly. The problem with compost teas is that most people, including some professionals in the compost tea industry, do not follow the proper protocols of using safe, richly diverse compost and microbial foods along with heavy aeration.

The simplest solution is to remove affected leaves, and have an ample representation of tropical waterlilies in the pond. Mike said that in overgrown ponds with a lot of immersed leaves, the leaf die-off could pollute the water. In this case, doing water changes and/or using a sludge-reducing bacterial product helps keep the water clean.

Jim Purcell
President, IWGS
Co-owner, Oregon Aquatics, Inc. and Southwest Aquatics, LLC

8. Posted on July 26th, 2010 at 4:17 pm.

By Jim Purcell, President, IWGS of Oregon Aquatics, Inc. and Southwest Aquatics, LLC.


We have a newly installed pond. Until today the lily pads looked very healthy and are starting to spread out nicely across the pond surface. This evening though we noticed a lot of flies sitting on the pads and the pads themselves are covered with tiny black and white flecks. It looks as though someone sprinkled salt and pepper all over the pads. Since we are new to owning a pond we don't have any idea what this is. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

9. Posted on September 7th, 2010 at 4:56 pm.

By Bill.


I have had a number of trouble-free waterlilies in my pond on Long Island for many years. This year I bought a large number of waterlilies to ring my pond completely. And after a few weeks of bloom, they all vanished from view--pads, flowers everything. All of the flowers and most of the pads disappeared from old waterlilies too. On inspection they all appear eaten off at the base. Whatever is eating them leaves no debris. The pads and flowers are just gone.

10. Posted on September 19th, 2010 at 6:07 am.

By Bill Wedin.


tree frog tadpoles are destroying my Lilly pond. I remove 50 or more per day and throw them in the larger goldfish pond. there are no fish in my "lotus tank", now I see snail;s. I have seen these babies chewing away, like a pizza.on my leaves. what insecticide or pest killer can save my lilies?
the lotus is not eaten. while I adore killing there guys, my lilies must be saved.

11. Posted on September 21st, 2010 at 7:13 am.

By elizabeth grosser.


Hi Paula, I do agree with your respond regarding the brown color spot on the leave in hot climate. Here in South East Asia, mostly happen to my hardy and sometime affected to my tropical too. Its very annoying when they start colonies if you leave them alone for a week. I recommended to watch them closely at daily basis (early morning), quickly remove brown spot and if the spot still coming back re-pot with fresh soil and I use granules with high Nitrogen for the leave. Yes, I totally agree to cutoff long or old pads and maintain clean water. I never throw my affected waterlilies. My lilies are now happy. Thank you, Paula. Your passion in watergarden is very inspirational. :)

12. Posted on September 21st, 2010 at 9:31 pm.

By AsiaWaterlily of FB- asiawaterlily@yahoo.com.


I have never seen tadpoles cause damage to water lilies or lotus even with huge populations. Reducing the population would be the only control. They do a whole lot of sucking on the leaf surfaces but not with much damage. I could also be wrong so I wouldn't rule it out completely. Snails on the other hand can be devastating to waterlilies very quickly and can go unnoticed for a long time. There have also been reports of heavy caterpillar and fly larvae infestations this year that may be an additional problem. They conceal themselves well and may also be going unnoticed. It would be important to check thoroughly before treating. I have attached a 3 part Excel spreadsheet (see tabs at the bottom of the sheet) that should be useful.
I hope this helps,
Kelly Billing


Editors note: you can find this spreadsheet if you go to our website tab "Pond Resources." It is a pdf called "Pest Diseases"

13. Posted on September 22nd, 2010 at 9:00 am.

By Kelly Billing of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, Inc..


Hi Lynn,
It's likely that the tiny little critters you have are fairy shrimp, which include many species including the Brine Shrimp bought as food for aquarists. They swim really fast, with a jerky kind of motion. I'm not sure Cindy can include a photo, but here's one I finally managed to shoot with a straight pin to show the scale.

Copepods are really really small (about .1" long) and look like alien creatures, plus they eat stuff smaller than they are ... not usually lily pads.

There are two mysterious things:

1) Why are your fish are not eating them, since they are a delicacy? The only time I find them in my ponds are when they hide in clusters of vegetation, out of reach from the fish or in my container gardens where I do not have any fish. Perhaps you feed your fish VERY well.

2) What kind of damage are you getting to your night blooming lily pads? It may be possible that something else is causing problems and the fairy shrimp are feeding on the decaying pieces of leaf. If the damage is not severe, you may ignore it. One season several years ago I had a batch of vegematic tadpoles that decimated many of my lilies. Luckily it has never been repeated.

Sorry I can't give you a more definite answer, but I suspect that the little critters are not the problem. However if you do want to get rid of them, I would recommend making them more attractive to your fish -- feed the fish less and/or remove any underwater vegetation that block the fish from getting to them.

Good luck.

Aquatically Yours,

14. Posted on September 28th, 2010 at 3:28 pm.

By Paula Biles.


Original Question: Hi, I am having a problem with these little bugs eating (from the underside) my lily pads. They seem to only really like my night blooming variety. I notice these little bugs also in my fish aquarium. They look like little shrimp and dart around really fast. I live in Hawaii.

Later addition - the bugs in my ponds that are eating my water lily pads are copepods. Do you have any idea on how to get rid of these? Most of my ponds have fish, comets, gold fish, guppies to control mosquito larve but they do not seem to eat these copepods.

15. Posted on September 28th, 2010 at 3:30 pm.

By Lynn.


Hi Bill,

Without seeing photos of your pesky little flies and B&W flecks, I would say that you have aphids. They usually appear when there are aphid infestations in non-aquatic plants in your yard, when the lily pads are dying, and when the lilies are stressed. (It's sort of like how we get colds when we're stressed with lack of vitamins or sleep.)

If you haven't fertilized your lilies it could lead to some stress for the lilies, although now is usually too late for that -- unless you live in a warm climate.

Hosing off the aphids works, but you have to do it LOTS of times, since many of the little critters just crawl back onto the pads.

If you are into the organic style of pest control, some folks will place a few layers of newspaper on the pads ON TOP of the aphids. This traps them and if left a little while, it drowns them.

There are also two water garden treatments that many folks like, both of which are friendly to fish and other aquatic life. They're based on plant extracts and are not poisonous.
• Herbal Aphid Control by Pond Care
• Aphid X by Crystal Clear

Good luck.

Below is a close up of some aphids on a baby lotus leaf, which is a favorite time for the plants to get attacked.

Aquatically Yours,

Paula Biles

16. Posted on September 29th, 2010 at 9:12 am.

By Paula Biles.


My hardy lilies have stopped growing leaves and flowers, but have leaves growing on the tubers. What's up? Thanks

17. Posted on October 4th, 2010 at 4:00 pm.

By ziggy.


Hi Bill Wedin, After talking to you it appears that deer are probably the culprit. Please take a look at the predator control articles we have on our website.

Article titles are: Predator Control – Otters: Unwanted Visitors and The Masked Bandits of Ponds

Thank you for your question.

POND Trade Magazine

18. Posted on October 11th, 2010 at 2:31 pm.

By Cindy.


Hi Ziggy,
I’m not sure where you are located or if you are referring to hardy or tropical lilies but during the fall and winter here in MD hardy lilies develop a set of winter dormant leaves as the cool temperatures set in. They are heavily clustered at the tuber and are generally very ruffled and often a different color. The same thing can happen when hardy lilies are harvested or divided in the mid to late season. Sometimes the lilies will go into what we call a false dormant period that can last until the following spring season. That is part of why we developed the POD lilies. They are potted in spring in smaller pots for shipping especially for later in the season.

I hope this helps,
Kelly Billing

Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, Inc.
www.AboutTheLotus.com (Kelly's)

19. Posted on October 12th, 2010 at 9:43 am.

By Kelly Billing of Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, Inc..


I just set up a water lily pond in a large clay pot. The first few days, the lily bloomed well. Since then, it has not reopened and in fact it is drooping under the water surface, along with 2 other buds that have not bloomed.

What is happening? Is it just shock? It's been a week.

20. Posted on June 29th, 2011 at 11:09 pm.

By Cynthia Chun.


Water lily blooms only last about 2-4 days, then they go underwater to make seeds. So what's happening in your little pond is normal. You can cut off each bloom as soon as it sinks. This keeps the pond cleaner and it saves energy for the plant. Instead of making seeds it can bloom more.

Buds on lilies may take about a week to develop and there may be several in different stages of development. As long as new buds keep coming from the growing point of the plant, things are progressing as nature intended. Soon the tallest one should reward you with a bloom.



21. Posted on June 30th, 2011 at 8:54 am.

By Paula Biles.


I had this problem for a long time. Tried many options,none worked until I tried Neem oil. It was so effective.... I couldn't find a single snail in less than 5 hours. Neem Oil is cheap out here in India.

22. Posted on September 3rd, 2011 at 8:31 pm.

By Abraham.



I have bought three night bloomers and planted in my pond but they have lost all the leaves and in the soil I noticed very thin and long warms in the soil and when I touch them, they all go under the soil.
What are those? and is it the cause of my lilies to be loosing all the leaves?

23. Posted on September 17th, 2011 at 11:05 pm.

By alice.


It is almost always GOOD to have things growing in the pond, even tiny little critters like your worms. It shows that nature has adapted to your artificial water and is making adjustments. Using Clorox is bad since it will kill some of the living things, including bacteria and other things that help balance your water quality. It can also harm plants and fish if strong enough.

I'm not sure what kind of worms they are but I since they live in the soil around the plant, they are could be animals that eat decaying or dead plant material. It is VERY unlikely that they have harmed your plant. Worms that damage lily pads live on the top or bottom side of the leaves.

Seeing your photos does show the problem with your lily. Your night bloomer was planted too deep and that is NOT good. The growing tip of a water lily should always be sticking up out of the soil. (see examples below) Covering it up is like smothering the plant. With night bloomers, being planted too deep sometimes puts the plant into a special stage of growth. Instead of growing normally it starts propagating by sending out new baby plants ... like you have in your photo.

Night bloomers are sensitive to the seasons and so even if you replant it now, you may not get much growth this year. However next spring it will be ready to give you lots of beautiful white blooms.

The first picture shows a repotted lily ready to put in the water. I used gravel so that my fish don't disturb the soil.

The second photo shows a lily in the water. You can see the growing tip exposed to the sunlight, which is what the plant needs to grow.

Good luck. For many years I grew the 'Trudy Slocum' white night bloomer. It was very dramatic and especially beautiful in the moonlight. It stayed open until about noon the next day.

Paula Biles

24. Posted on September 26th, 2011 at 9:28 am.

By Paula Biles.



I am from India,
we have a huge pond of water lillies. now i dont see ven a sigle leaf and do i need to chnage water. do i need to remove the plant and replant it again.

please advise.

25. Posted on February 23rd, 2012 at 11:45 pm.

By Ravi.


i have a question regarding lilies, a customer of mine has day blooming lilies, that get loads of buds but they never open.

please help


26. Posted on June 21st, 2012 at 9:57 am.

By roots of roots and shoots garden center.


Here is what Kelly Billing said about the question from roots.Not sure what could be the cause so I will list the obvious, as well as, maybe the not so obvious.

Water lily blooms open and close each day. For day bloomers, they usually open between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Possibly they are open and have closed by the time they are observed.

Predation can be a cause for the absence of flowering. Turtles, Koi and other critters can be responsible for eating the more developed flower buds. As the buds mature the tissue becomes more vulnerable because it is less dense and more palatable.

Occasionally I have seen lilies that are deficient of nutrients to a point that the buds form but do not have the energy to complete the task. This happens more frequently to hardy lilies that are also stressed when they have grown into the side of the pot wall and are struggling to flush their new growth up from a confined space.

There may be other causes. I hope this helps,

Kelly Billing
Maryland Aquatic Nurseries, Inc.
877-736-1807 toll free, 410-692-4171 410-692-2837 fax

27. Posted on June 26th, 2012 at 5:25 pm.

By Cindy Graham of POND Trade Magazine.


I am having trouble with small black spider looking bugs on my water hyacinths and water lettuce... there are also webs along the stones at the side of my water garden. I have been trying to squish them and get rid of any chewed on leaves, but they still come back. how do I get rid of them without hurting my koi? I live in Ohio

28. Posted on July 19th, 2012 at 3:28 pm.



Hi Brenda, the email address you left was incorrect. Please try again - but I think what you are talking about are aphids. If you could send me a picture we can be sure. cindy@pondtrademag.com.

29. Posted on August 16th, 2012 at 2:19 pm.

By Cindy of POND Trade Magazine.


Two years ago my water lilies started to die off .Up until this time, they had been very happy, multiplying at an alarming rate! Upon inspection, the rotten corms were soft, black on the outside, and bright red on the inside, but had no door to them. There was no sign of insects in the pots. I repotted the lilies, using regular garden soil, gave all pots fertilizer stakes meant for water plants and lilies, removed all infected pots, and hoped for the best! My lilies continued to die off. This year, more infected lilies. The few plants I have left do not look healthy! Can you help me? The fish in the pond which are goldfish, continue to thrive, as do the other plants.

30. Posted on June 2nd, 2013 at 2:12 pm.

By Patty Rombough.


Hi Paula,

My newly acquired tropical lilies have developed significant small holes throughout the leaves. I see no evidence of this problem on my many hardy lilies, nor any sign of insect damage. I have not had this problem in previous years with my tropicals. Any suggestions on what the problem might be will be appreciated.

31. Posted on June 7th, 2013 at 2:02 pm.

By Charlie Focht.


Hi Paula-
I put a drop and grow lily pad in my pond and it has to sit near the edge because the middle is to deep.The masked bandit has come and taken the root out of the pot and took several bites out of it.Should I call it a wash or do you think it will still grow if I put it back in the pot and in the water? I have put chicken wire all around the fence where the raccoon has been coming in.

32. Posted on June 8th, 2013 at 1:23 pm.

By Rochelle.


Hi Paula,
I have a water lilly that wants to grow but there is an oder coming from the dirt. I removed as much dirt possible, sprayed the roots and I still smell the oder. The rhizomes seem to be hard except for one that I have thrown away, is there any hope for this hardy lilly?
Patty Beam

33. Posted on June 13th, 2013 at 6:19 pm.

By Patty Beam.


Hi Rochelle,
Thanks for writing, although I'm sorry to hear about your problem. Raccoons are definitely unwanted pests around ponds.

The good news is their damage to lilies usually isn't fatal. However you must take preventative measures to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again after you re-pot it.

Since raccoons disrupt things around the edges you need a way to place your lily in the middle of the pond. There are several ways to do this. (My favorite is #1.)

1) Prop up the lily on a black milk crate (or two if you need extra height). Other colors work just as well, but black ones are almost invisible when in place. To make crates easier to arrange, I tied weights along the bottom, so that they stay exactly where I want them to and don't float around. (This is not necessary if you have a helper.)

2) Concrete blocks can also work. However they must be thoroughly aged so they don't leach into the water and make it extra alkaline.

3) Stack of bricks can also work.

Good luck.

34. Posted on June 21st, 2013 at 10:49 am.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Hi Patty.

Not to worry ... stinky roots and dirt is normal for lilies. That's because parts of the rhizomes are constantly dying and then rotting. It smells horrible (really horrible) to us, but it's Natures way of recycling nutrients to help support the new growth. Heck ... dead fish are some of their favorite food.

So, repot the lily with the end of the hard old rhizome towards the outside edge of the container. This provides plenty of space across the container for new growth. Be sure to leave the growing point above the surface of the soil.


35. Posted on June 21st, 2013 at 11:02 am.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Hello Paula,

I have a few problems with my hardy and tropical lilies I have no idea what is is but it forms holes on the leaves and the tropical lily the leaves just disintegrates !? here you can see some pictures:




Thank you in advance :)

36. Posted on June 26th, 2013 at 12:56 pm.

By Pedro Gomes.


There are two things visible from your photos:
1) It looks like the damage is to both young and mature leaves, so the pest is underwater at least some of the time.
2) However the pic ending in #0170 shows something eating the leaf from the top.

The most common pest this might be is the China Mark moth larva. It lives under the leaf enclosed in a cocoon. If there are lots of them they can destroy many leaves, working from the edges into the center and to the leaf stem. Usually they attack thinner leaves first and are worse when there are no medium or large fish in the pond.

It is very easy to see if they are the problem. Check the undersides of the infected leaves. I have posted several photos on our About The Lotus Facebook page in the Album Diseases, Pests & Other Problems. You will see what to look for.

If China Mark moth larva are the problem, begin by cutting off as many leaves as possible at the base of each leaf. Keep 3-5 leaves on each plant. Destroy the damaged leaves; do not put them in your compost pile. Squash all the remaining cocoons left on the leaves.

The best treatment is a naturally occurring bacteria -- BT, Bacillus thuringiensis. It is safe for you, your fish, and any pets that may drink the pond water. It damages the worm's gut and kills them -- not right away but within 2-3 days. It is commonly available in biologically safe insecticides -- either in liquid or powdered form. For maximum effectiveness use it at the end of the day since it breaks down in UV light. Also, store the container in a cool dark place.

The very small China Mark Moth is active in late afternoon and early evening. In warm climates several breedings can produce many larva cycles each season, so repeat treatments may be necessary.

Good luck.

37. Posted on June 28th, 2013 at 12:12 pm.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Thanks for sending the photos. My immediate response is hmmmm ......

Unfortunately I am unsure of what is eating the leaves of your tropical, which appears to be a night-bloomer.

• Damage like this could be caused by China Mark Moth larva, but they usually start at the edges and work their way into the center of the leaves. There is no evidence of that. They can be found under the leaves in a cocoon made out of cut pieces of leaf.

• Occasionally a few varieties of snails make mincemeat of leaves, usually starting with the thinner ones like tropicals. Carefully examine the bottom of the infected leaves to see if snails are the culprits. They like the tender new growth of emerging pads ... before they come to the surface. The snails could have been introduced this year by birds, animals, or come in with the plants. If you have medium to large fish, the chances are lower that snails can be the culprits, since fish often like to munch on the snails.

• There is a teeny tiny animal (almost invisible) called an ostracod or seed shrimp. When they are uncontrolled (fish population is too small) then they feast on some vegetation. They prefer thinner leaves and when they finish one, only skeletons may be left. One year I had a big problem with them but thought that tadpoles were at fault. A knowledgeable friend told me about the ostracods. If they are your problem, then let me know and I'll check on current treatments. (For me, adding fish did the trick. Now the seed shrimp are always present but not a problem.)

I'm sorry I don't have a clear answer. Let me know if it looks like the problem could be either snails or ostracods. I'll suggest an action plan.

Aquatically Yours,
Paula Biles

38. Posted on June 28th, 2013 at 12:17 pm.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Hi...I have about 4 different water lilies in my koi pond. I have had them for about 4 years and have never had any problems with any of them until last week when I noticed that the leaves on 2 of them have started turning black. The entire leaves, not just spots. Could the sun be doing this, or is it some sort of disease?


39. Posted on July 21st, 2013 at 6:59 pm.

By Robin.


Hello Paula,
I m having a problem with my lotus plant, it started with little gray dots on the pads and then spread along to the whole pad and made it wither away and in the end did the same to all and killed the plant, I m so sorry I have no way to show you the Photos on this comment but please help me out on my problem thru my E Mail : lloydperera0@gmail.com so I will be able to send you the Photos then.

with best regards and thanks,


40. Posted on August 13th, 2013 at 11:35 am.

By Lloyd.


Hi Paula,

I recently notice the water lilies in my pond looks different, there are just a lot of leaves curved very closed together and not flat on the surface, it seems overly crowded to me, maybe it's normal but I just would like to hear from expert.
Here is a picture of it, you can see the one in the lower center is the one I was talking about. Also do you know why the other one on the upper part of the picture a lot of time will have just many many smaller leaves instead of normal sized leaves?
They are not planted in pod, the are planted into the soil in the pond. I am in Hawaii and these are tropical water lilies



41. Posted on August 15th, 2013 at 4:54 pm.

By Jeremy.


Thanks for including the photos, which clearly show what you're talking about and help figure out what's happening. It appears that both plants are overgrown, but in different ways and that's probably the result of a really good growing season, with lots of blooms and growth of leaves on both of your plants -- the nightbloomer at the top of the pic and the main daybloomer. Unfortunately both are probably blooming less now than they were a month ago.

1) The nightbloomer has grown several new little plants, probably coming from small tubers attached to the mother plant. My guess is that there are at least 3 and maybe more. This is based on the size and clusters of small plants, marked with red arrows. These can be good if you want to start new lilies or give some to friends. However when they remain attached to the main plant, they use up resources and reduce the number of blooms and leaves on the main plant.
• You can leave them alone and by next spring you'll have lots of smaller plants clumped around Momma. But Momma will not perform as well as she did this year.
• You can reach down into the soil around the base of the plant until you feel the offshoots, then carefully pull them off. They may be small tubers or tiny plants. You can give them away or replant them in another area of your pond.
• You can throw them out if you want keep Momma at peak performance and you don't care about new plants. You will need to repeat this every season.

2) The other plant is also overgrown, but it doesn't reproduce with tubers like the other one. As a result the leaves just pile up on top of each other trying to get enough light to keep growing. It might also be that the main tuber is growing straight up and is mostly out of the soil, like the photo below. The higher the tuber gets, the harder it is for the plant to get enough nutrients for continued growth, so the leaves and blooms get smaller and fewer.
• You can leave it alone and eventually it will get long enough that it will fall over and grow that way. It should continue to grow but won't perform as well as it has so far.
• You can reach down and pull it out of the soil. This may not be possible because the roots are so extended. ***
• You can cut around the base of the plant to free it and then replant it in another part of the pond. ***
*** If you get the plant out (by pulling or cutting it out) you will need to cut off the oldest end of the tuber and leave only a small stub 5-8" to replant. When you replant it, be sure to leave the growing point ABOVE the surface of the soil. WARNING -- this is a really really stinky job.


42. Posted on August 28th, 2013 at 4:31 pm.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Hi Lloyd.

There are many different problems that show up as damage to the leaves, so without pics it's hard to know what it might be. You can see examples of some on our Facebook page About The Lotus. Check in the photo album called Diseases, pests & other problems.

In general, here are some common problems with lotus:
1) They are planted too deep in the soil and too deep under the water.
2) They are put out in the pond BEFORE the water temperature is consistently above 75deg F.
3) They are fertilized while there are only floating leaves instead of waiting for aerial leaves to develop.
4) The plants produce leaves but no flowers. This is usually because they need more sun.
5) When grown from seed they do not usually bloom the first year. This is normal. Wait until the next year to get flowers.

Questions to help with the diagnosis:
1) What State do you live in?
2) Was the lotus in a container in the pond?
3) What variety was it?
4) When did you first get it? Was it a plant, a seed, or a tuber?
5) Have you ever repotted it or fertilized it?
6) How deep did you plant it under the soil?
7) How deep was it under the surface of the water?
8) Was it in full sun?
9) After it died did you throw it out or leave it in the pond?

Hopefully we can figure out some of the answers so that next year you will have a nice lotus.


43. Posted on August 29th, 2013 at 10:06 am.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Hi Paula,
I was dividing some lotus rhisomes thst had grown out of their pot. My lotus are in side of an ornamental container wi th hnoting else growing in it. I noticed some tiny multi legged critters, pale and translucent, that scurried to hide amongst the hair roots and in the ends of the dead shoots(casings) It Is Impossible to catch one. I don't think they are shrimp..It looks like some thing from the deepest depths of the ocean...like a fast moving flat, albino pill bug!!! Any ideas?

44. Posted on January 18th, 2014 at 3:36 pm.

By christine.


There are many different critters growing in freshwater ponds, especially those without lots of hungry fish. Usually we never see them because they're small and stay hidden among the foliage or detritus at the bottom of the pond. They're all part of a healthy pond and some even eat things we don't want, like dragonfly nymphs eating mosquito larva. Check out wikipedia and/or do a google image search to see if either of these could be your mystery critter. If not, try checking this ID key I found online.

If you are really interested there are some terrific books that cover big and small freshwater animals. My favorite is in the Golden Guide series for kids. It's Pond Life by George Reid. (Unfortunately I loaned out my copy and can't check it for reference right now.)

• Fairy shrimp - tiny, fast, very common, always found among living and dead plant material
• Mayfly or damselfly larva - not especially fast, but they do look like something from another world, maybe dragons or outerspace

Aquatically Yours,

45. Posted on January 20th, 2014 at 9:43 am.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


I have a water lily that has stopped budding. I do have guppies in the pond, but i think that is okay. My wife had a surface floating plant in the pond which continuously reproduces. Did the plant cover the sun and stop the growth? And how ca I get the plant to bud again now that the floating plants have been removed?


46. Posted on June 17th, 2014 at 8:44 pm.

By Jeffery.


The guppies would not be a problem at all and the surface floating plant was probably not the problem either.

My guess is that your lily is in a pot and has been there for many months or maybe a year. It has run out of food. The easiest thing to do is fertilize with aquatic plant tablets. Poke holes down into the soil and stick in the tablets. Follow the label for how many you will need.

Aquatically Yours,

47. Posted on June 19th, 2014 at 7:03 am.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.


Is this a tropical or hardy lily? Did you have any blossoms besides the one that sank? Can you please send a few photos to show the leaf spots? While it is possible that fungus may be the cause, there are other things that also cause spots.

48. Posted on September 9th, 2014 at 6:41 pm.

By Paula Biles of About the Lotus.

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