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Nymphaea 'Red Flare'

What's in a Name?
Guide for the Waterlily Buyer

Since the waterlily is the highlight of your pond, and not inexpensive, it is essential that you get what you pay for. When you purchase a particular color, shape or type and it turns out to be something else, you have every right to be disappointed. Even worse, when you buy a waterlily with a well-known name on its label and it proves not to be the one you've selected, you're not just disappointed but possibly defrauded. You've been subjected to a case of waterlily identity theft.

Perhaps you're satisfied with any waterlily even though it isn't labeled correctly, as long as it's pretty -- but you shouldn't be. Would you be happy if you received a garment in the wrong color or size? No! You'd take action! You would return it and, at the least, you'd expect an apologetic attitude together with a prompt exchange or refund. If a seller made errors repeatedly, would you continue to buy there? Why should be any different with your waterlily supplier?

When you buy a waterlily labeled "yellow", it should bloom yellow. If you buy a named waterlily, you may pay a slight premium for it but there are good reasons why. A named waterlily has characteristics that are specific and unique, special qualities that made it worthy of naming. No other is quite like it, but each plant that carries the name must be identical. New plants are created by dividing the original or by growing them from tubers of the original, assuring exact duplicates.

Many excellent waterlily sellers provide only plants grown as described above. If you are reading this, you are probably dealing with one of them or are about to do so. Unfortunately, many uninformed and/or unscrupulous and/or downright dishonest sellers tempt water gardeners with knockoffs or incorrectly labeled waterlilies at cheap prices. They attach well-known plant names to unknown or less popular varieties, sometimes through ignorance but usually for profit.

Beyond the fact that this is wrong, consider some practical aspects. Knowing the correct name of a lily allows you to obtain information about its habit and cultivation. Is it suitable for your climate? Is its size right for your pond? Does it require any special care to do its best? Is it notoriously difficult or especially easy? Correctly named waterlilies have a history and a proven track record.

Truly Named WGI ©, the truth-in-labeling program of Water Gardeners International, provides you with a Directory of growers, wholesalers and retailers who pledge to sell true to name waterlilies. Many provide images and provenance linked from the Directory.

See additional resources for determining if your waterlily is correctly named in the encyclopedic waterlily Image Galleries and the extensive lists of Named Waterlilies on WGI's partner web site Victoria-Adventure. Both sections are continually updated and reviewed by recognized experts.

You, the buyer, are the force that can stop waterlily identity theft. By learning as much as you can about the lilies you have and those you want to have, by insisting on correct labeling and complaining when you don't receive it, by letting WGI know about your experiences whoever the seller, you benefit yourself and all of water gardening.

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