Northeastern USA

Louis Belloisy is a helicopter pilot
and an avid water gardener. Read
his profile by clicking here.

Lou celebrates summer by
Growing Out New Tropical Hybrids

 by Louis Belloisy
Morris, Connecticut - Zone 4 ½
Click images to enlarge

This article illustrates the results of Lou's winter work with seedlings detailed in Journal 1.1
Growing Tropical Waterlily Seedlings in The Basement.

Gathering Seeds

After a successful waterlily cross, when the seedpod starts to grow, I wrap the pod in a piece of black panty hose. The black color absorbs heat nicely to hasten the ripening of the pod. A pod takes three weeks to a month to ripen. When the pod matures, I pick it, place it in a container of distilled water, and keep it in the shade. I shake the jar daily.

In about a week, the pod bursts with all seeds confined within the jar. Eventually the seed covering decays and the seeds settle to the bottom. It now becomes a simple matter of pouring off the debris. Next, I rinse the seeds several times, and then strain the seeds using a coffee filter. After this, the filter and the seeds air-dry for about a week.

Planting Seeds

I plant seeds in 45-gallon (198-liter) heated tanks in the basement. A heater maintains a constant 90F (32C) water temperature. They receive supplemental lighting 16 hours a day. When our winter eases and the sun starts to get higher in the sky, about late March, I repot the seedlings to a greenhouse tank where they remain until they bloom. Germination usually requires two weeks. Typically, it takes nine months from sowing the seeds to first bloom. Remember, this is the frigid northeast.

The photos below show tropical waterlilies that I produced by crossing two different hybrids.

Hybrid 1 displays a nice peach-colored bloom with a pale yellow center. It comes from a cross between Nymphaea ‘Golden West’ (pod) and N. ‘Moonbeam’ (pollen). The compact plant grows to about a four-foot (1.2-m) diameter at maturity. The multi colored pads measure about 13 by 10 inches (33 by 25 cm). Bloom size – 6 inches (15 cm). This first bloomed in April of 2006.

Hybrid 2 produces a nice deep peach-colored bloom, a little darker than N. ‘Moonbeam’ (pod). Donor plant was N. ‘Moonbeam’. Pads grow to moderate size, about 13 by 10 inches (33 by 25 cm) wide with a medium spread of about four to five feet (1.2 to 1.5 m). This bloomed for the first time in April of 2006.

Hybrid 3 flaunts 65 dark pink petals surrounded by plain green pads. It comes from a batch of seeds (parentage unknown) that Rich Sacher sent to me through Sean Stevens. Last year the blooms would not open all the way, which is sometimes the trait of very high petal-count blooms. This year the blooms open all the way and do so for four days. Pads are large, 16 by 10 inches (41 by 25 cm). Bloom size – six inches (15 cm). It bloomed for the first time in May of 2005.

The deep pink Hybrid 4 boasts 35 petals and dark maroon pads with a slight streaking of light green. It results from a cross between and N. ‘Star of Siam’ (pod) and N. ‘Jack Wood’ (pollen). Blooms measure 5 inches (13 cm), pads about 12 by 9 inches (30 by 23 cm). Hybrid 4 is flowering for its second year. It bloomed for the first time in May of 2005. 

Hybrid 5 exhibits light blue blossoms similar to N. ‘Pamela’. Its color is lighter than N. ‘Star of Siam’ (pod) that was crossed with N. ‘Jack Wood’ (pollen) to create it. Pads are heavily mottled, not as dark as "Star". The plant has a spread tendency of N. ‘Star of Siam’. Bloom size – 5 inches. Pads are about 16 by 14 inches (41 by 36 cm). This is its fourth year of blooming.


Multi-petal red/pink Hybrid 6 comes from a cross between N. ‘Star of Siam’ (pod) and N. ‘Jack Wood’ (pollen). Pads are heavily streaked with maroon. Pads are about 13 by 10 inches (33 by 25 cm). Blooms measure about 6 inches (15 cm). It bloomed for the first time in May of 2002.

Hybrid 7 produces simple blooms of light magenta. It is a cross between N. ‘Star of Siam’ (pod) and N. ‘Jack Wood’ (pollen). Unfortunately, this plant disappeared. The blooms stood a full 12 inches (30 cm) above the water.

Finding Satisfaction

Growing tropical seedlings this way is definitely a labor of love; it is expensive because of the energy needed to heat the water and provide light. However, seeing a plant bloom for the first time generates great satisfaction. Most are a disappointment, but a few are interesting; fewer still produce spectacular results. They usually have similarities too close to their parents to warrant further interest.

I lost one tank during the winter with about 20 seedlings due to a thermostat failure. Before I could act, the water had shot up to 110F (43C) degrees, poaching the plants. I had high hopes for some of those seedlings. As they say, there is always “Next Year”.

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