While the hardy waterlilies in our outdoor display ponds are just waking up from their long winter's nap, the atmosphere behind the scenes in our Aquatics greenhouse is decidedly more summer-like.
Here, tropical waterlilies are getting an early jump on the season in tubs of water heated to simulate their native habitats.
One of the more popular tropical waterlilies grown here at the gardens is Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid', which is known by the common name of water platter. This particular hybrid was developed at Longwood Gardens in the early 1960's by crossing the two existing South American Victoria species, V. amazonica and V. cruziana. The resulting hybrid proved to be easier to grow then either species, while boasting the bronzy-red outer leaf rims of V. amazonica and the taller leaf rims and increased hardiness of V. cruziana.
The seeds were germinated in ziploc bags floated in warm water (86 degrees F) in early March. These were planted in sand with a small amount of peat at the bottom of each container once they had developed their first two underwater leaves and a few roots.
As the seedlings grow, each new leaf will become larger and more rounded than the previous leaves. Leaf rims will also begin to develop, and the trademark thorns that cover the stems and undersides of each leaf in order to protect the plant from predators can be seen as early as the first week of growth.
By mid-June, the young plants will be moved to the outdoor display pools, where each leaf has the potential to reach a mature size of 5 feet or more in diameter. Blooms should begin to appear in August and will open in the evenings. The first night's bloom will be pure white with a heady pineapple fragrance and will transition to a deep pink color by the second evening.