This conversation was started by Waterlily Expert and Hybridizer Rich Sacher in 2018.
On February 1st 2018 Rich decided to dedicate the month of February to the topic surrounding Australian waterlily varieties which are not very available to most of us and therefore are surrounded by questions for all of us not lucky to have them readily available. The topics covered range from growing the plants, hybridizing the plants, and storing the plants when dormant. Rather than being in the form of a lesson plan lets say this is more like a Journal, ongoing at this time but all the information as well as many questions and answers are here.
January 31st 2018, Rich Sacher:
Easy Aussie: Here are photos of Aussie hybrid tubers, washed free of peat moss, and ready to be floated in a tank of warm water at 90 degrees F (32 centigrade). An ordinary aquarium heater is used to keep the water warm; I add some Hornwort to keep the water clear, and a few Gambusia fish to prevent mosquito breeding. I do not add supplemental lighting until some tubers have floating leaves inside their bags of water. We start the tubers on Feb. first, so we can be sure to have some blooming plants by May first. The Aussies always need more time to grow up than brachyceras types.
Question, Shengqiang Fei: Can such roots be preserved with peat?:
Answer, Rich Sacher: Yes, store tubers in damp peat moss in a closed plastic bag. Keep at room temperature.
Question, Frederic Depalle : Thank you for all your valuable information. one more precise question : when is the best time to put the tubers in damp peat for winter? No risk to rot in damp peat in plastic bag?
Answer, Rich Sacher: When a tuber is dormant, with no leaves or roots, it can be stored in a plastic bag, in barely damp pat moss at room temperature, for up to six months, or longer. The peat is acidic, and actually helps prevent rot. The peat should be damp, not soaking wet. Squeeze a handful...if water drips out, it is too wet. Some people wrap tubers in damp paper or cloth, and then put them in a sealed plastic bag. This works well, too.
February 1st 2018, Rich Sacher:
Do you want to grow the beautiful Australian lilies?
They are NOT hard to grow, if you have the right information. I hereby declare that February is Easy Aussie month! Every day this month I will post some helpful tips and information to help you become an expert on blooming these wonderful lilies. Some of my Aussie hybrids are shown here. (Note: we do not sell tubers or ship plants. These posts are for your information.)
February 2nd 2018, Rich Sacher:
I have declared that February is "Easy Aussie" month, and every day this month I will post some info so that you can grow these beautiful lilies yourself.
Two photos (below) show two germination tests on seeds.
Note that seeds stored damp or wet will germinate much faster than dried seed.
These seeds could have been separated and planted before they were this crowded. Seeds are germinated at 90 degrees F (32 C) and then planted into seed trays.
Supplemental lighting for 14 hours a day is helpful to speed growth.
Seedlings can be forced to tuber in 7-8 weeks by leaving them in their seed tray, and withholding fertilizer.
Small tubers like these are excellent for winter storage.
(Note: I do not sell tubers or ship plants...these postings are for your information)
Comment, Horst Wirsching: Thanks for this information, until now I never try to Storage Aussi seeds.
Answer, Rich Sacher: I think it is best to keep Aussie seeds damp, or in water. If they are dry for too long, they have poor germination.
Marco Millet: Rich, thanks so much for the info. I just have two questions. How big are you seed trays? what’s your planting density?
Answer, Rich Sacher: I use ten inch (25 cm) clear plastic saucers, fill with fertilized soil, and spread seeds across the surface evenly...maybe 75-100 seeds. Then I cover with sand and place one inch below water level in heated tank. That is a lot of seeds, but not every seed will germinate, and not every seed will make floating leaves.
February 3rd 2018, Rich Sacher:
Immutabilis (photo by Lou Beloisy) is an easy Aussie to raise from seeds, which should always be stored damp or in water. Seeds can be germinated in plastic bags of water at 80-90 degrees F (26-32 C) until half have been sprouted, and then all are planted into fertilized soil.
Seeds are fairly large, and under a microscope, they look like water melons! If you want tubers, leave the seedlings in their germination tray and withhold fertilizer. Tubers will form in two months or so.
Photos show crowded seedlings which are making small tubers because of lack of space and fertilizer. If you want blooming plants, do NOT let seedlings become crowded!
You must transplant them to individual pots of fertilized soil when they have a few floating leaves.
February 4th 2018, Rich Sacher:
Although some of the Australian species lilies can be fussy to grow, immutabilis is considered pretty easy. When a first day immutabilis flower is given pollen from a second or third day flower from a lily of the brachyceras sub genus, many different flower forms and colors can be expected.
Here are photos showing various seedlings that resulted when immutabilis was used as the pod parent in hybridization.
Several of us have noted that these hybrids of Aussie species are often much easier to grow than the species themselves.
The pollens used for these hybrids came from colorata, Albert Greenberg and Bull's Eye.
February 5th, Rich Sacher:
Pictured here is the beautiful Aussie hybrid, Tuonta, from Nopchai.
Other photos show Aussie tubers in bags of water, ready for the warm water tank at 90 degrees F (32 C); a single tuber beginning to grow after ten days in warm water; a tuber planted at an angle in a four inch (10 cm) pot; and photos of plants with roots, after growing for 2-3 weeks in fertilized soil in warm water.
Both seeds and tubers of Aussies should be started in water that is 80-90 degrees F (26-32 C) (Please note: we do not sell tubers or ship plants. These posts are for your information.)
February 6th, Rich Sacher:
Pictured here is a new hybrid by Nopchai Chansilpa, a magnificent double flowered white Aussie hybrid. Aussies have over 200 chromosomes, giving lots of variety in their hybrid offspring.
To illustrate, this pink New Orleans Lady, when pollinated by the purple stamen IMCO, produced the various seedlings whose flowers are shown here.
February 7th, Rich Sacher:
Immutabilis is an Aussie species which is easy to grow from seed.
Immutabilis X colorata produced my hybrid Betty Lou, which I named in memory of my sister. The purple stamen IMCO also came from this same cross. In choosing which hybrid to keep and propagate, I looked for a seedling with an exceptional flower, unusual pink stamens, easy to grow, easy to propagate, with a long season of bloom, and a smaller plant than immutabilis. Betty Lou showed all these good traits. In two years, I made 200 tubers which I donated to FAN and Oregon Aquatics, to be sure that my Betty Lou would travel around the world.
February 8th, Rich Sacher:
Some people think they are difficult to grow, but that is not true...if you provide the right growing conditions for them. So, in what ways are they different from other waterlilies?
1) Aussie tubers are slower to begin growth, and this problem is solved by starting the tubers in very warm water, 80-90 degrees F (26-32 C). Start them one MONTH earlier than you would for other water lilies.
2) Aussie lilies must NOT be allowed to become pot bound, or starve for nutrients when they are small. If this happens, they will quickly make tubers, and go dormant.
3) When bare rooting plants for shipping, leave as many roots and good leaves on the plant as possible. This ensures they will resume growth quickly upon being replanted.
4) When replanted after shipping, they MUST go into water that is at least 75 degrees F (23 C), in a larger pot with fertilized soil.
Note that ALL tropical lilies can be handled this way, but they are more forgiving of less optimal conditions. The Aussies, however, DEMAND the warm temperatures and extra care in shipment, as detailed above. Give them what they want, and you will get what you want...a spectacular Australian water lily, with blooms until late into your season.
February 9th 2018, Rich Sacher:
One of the false beliefs about Australian lilies is that they require deep water. Not True.
One photo shows the pink flowers of New Orleans Lady, growing in 20 cm pots, in my greenhouse pond which is 12 inches (30 cm) deep! The water is about 6 inches (15 cm) deep over the top of the pots. At our botanic garden pond, the water is knee deep, about 24 inches (61 cm) deep.
I plant all the Aussies and hybrids in 16 inch pots (40 cm diameter) and the pots are about 7 inches deep (18 cm) That leaves about 16 inches (40 cm) of water over the top of the pot, not very deep at all. So, although the Aussies are happy in deep water, they do not require it! I have grown Betty Lou with only 4 inches (10 cm) of water over the top of its pot!
February 10th 2018, Rich Sacher:
Jose Suarez asked if immutabilis also had a white form. I have seen photos of white ones, but never the actual plant. I have always thought that "immutabilis" was an unfortunate name for this species, since the word means "unchangeable". But there are almost white forms, and even a pink and white form. I have only hybridized with the common blue and white flowered immutabilis...and in the heat of the summer greenhouse, even its flowers look more purple and pink, instead of the usual blue and white.
Pictured are my common blue and white flowered immutabilis; the same plant in high heat, looking more pink and purple; and finally, pictures of pink immutabilis, which I hope to work with for the first time. I thank Jose for his observation.
February 11th 2018, Rich Sacher:
Pictured here is my hybrid, New Orleans Lady, which is pure Aussie, not ISG. When crossed with Bull's Eye, the dark pink hybrid from FAN, it produced a number of interesting blue and white flowered hybrids. The flowers were pretty, but the plants were huge, and slow to propagate, so they were sold off (at America Aquatic Gardens) as unnamed hybrids.
February 12th 2018, Rich Sacher:
The native Aussie species immutabilis is especially easy to grow from seed, and it makes a great pod parent for hybridizing with other lilies.
Pictured here is The Big Easy, a cross between immutabilis and Bull's Eye.
I selected this seedling because it grew quickly, bloomed early in the season, and was easy to tuber and propagate. As with other inter subgeneric crosses with Aussie lilies, this hybrid is easier to grow and bloom than any of the pure Aussie species, making them suitable for a wide range of climates.
February 14th 2018, Rich Sacher:
To propagate new plants from tubers, put tubers in a hot water bath of 90 degrees (32 C) , floating in zip lock bags of water. When there are some roots and leaves visible, the tuber can be planted into fertilized soil, with the tuber exposed for easy removal later.
Pictured is a tuber of Starlight, after two weeks in 90 degree water, ready to plant.
Other pictures show same tuber, removed from the plant, ten days after planting. Note the small plant still at the tip of the tuber, ready to grow another plant. All tropicals, as well as Aussies, can be propagated quickly this way. In propagating Betty Lou, (immutabilis x colorata, aka IMCO)
I was able to produce over 200 tubers in one season, using the above method of chain propagation.
February 15th 2018, Rich Sacher:
All the Aussie plants whose photos are shown here have started in my small tank of water, heated to 90 degrees F (32 C) with an ordinary aquarium heater.
If you are starting with seeds or tubers, the three requirements for success are:
1) Start early in the season...4 months before you want your first blooms.
2) You must start seeds, tubers or small plants in warm water...at least 80 degrees F (26 C)
3) You must maintain high fertility, and do not allow small plants to become pot bound.
February 16th 2018, Rich Sacher:
Storing Tropical Waterlily Tubers
If a small tuber of ANY tropical lily shows signs of rot at the bottom when it is harvested for storage, the tuber can often be saved by cutting off the rotting tissue, and then storing the tuber in barely damp peat moss, at 60-70 degrees F (15-21 C)
Pictured is a rescued tuber of Starlight (not an Aussie) It was in storage in damp peat moss for four months, and then put into 90 degree F (32 C) water for three weeks.
The bottom of the tuber has healed, and there are at least seven plants growing from the top of the tuber.
The rooted plants are planted with the tuber exposed, and in three weeks, the tuber will be removed and returned to the warm water, to produce more plants.
Smaller tubers less than 3 inches long ( 7.5 cm) can often be saved this way.
February 17th 2018, Rich Sacher:
Waterlily New Orleans Lady
Here is the story of the Aussie hybrid, New Orleans Lady, a large pink and white flowered Aussie hybrid.
The pod parent was immutabilis:, and pollen donor was Andre Leu, a deep pink flowered Aussie lily.
All the seedlings from this cross had various shapes of flowers, all with blue and white petals.
The most interesting seedling flower had a pink dot in the center of the stigma, as does Andre Leu, so I self pollinated this plant, hoping to obtain a pink and white flowered Aussie hybrid.
Again, most of the seedling flowers from this self cross were blue and white, but about 25% of these seedlings had pink and white flowers. I selected the seedling whose flower had the best color and form, and propagated it. I named it New Orleans Lady.
February 19th, Rich Sacher:
If you would like a copy of my written experiences with growing the Australian water lilies, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask for Easy Aussie, and I will email you.
I believe that with enough correct information, everyone will be able to grow some of the wonderful Australian lilies, and their hybrids. It has been fun to share my photos and information with water lily lovers around the world, and I look forward to seeing more spectacular Aussie hybrids very soon.
February 20th, Rich Sacher:
I was asked if all Aussie ISG hybrids are sterile, like the hardy X tropical hybrids.
I do know for certain that many Aussie ISG hybrids ARE fertile, and produce viable seeds.
Pictured is a photo of Tuonta, blooming at the museum pond in New Orleans. It always makes spontaneous seed pods, presumably bee pollinated. See pictures of pods collected this past fall. As for the sterility of H x T hybrids...I do not know if ALL of them are sterile...but I suspect that a few of these ISG hybrids may be fertile, too. Can anyone confirm this??
Noi Nopchai Chansilpa: I have many crosses that are fertile,some of them has very healthy seed pods but very few viable seeds.
Rich Sacher: Very interesting information, Noi, thank you. With Tuonta, the seeds from the pods in this picture germinated very easily. I have never hybridized with Tuonta, but the bees do all the work by themselves!
M. Kumar: (Aussie ISG) I got few seeds from Betty Lou. Only one seed sprouted.
Rich Sacher: If you got a few seeds, and one seed sprouted, you should try hybridizing again, over the course of many weeks in the growing season. At some times of the year, some lilies are not very fertile, while at other times, they produce seeds easily. This varies with each variety of water lily, so we cannot give an exact time of year to get the best seed set. Nopchai has reported doing the same cross 100 times before he got some seeds from a particularly difficult lily.
David Gardner: I have citing on HxT fertility, one instance has secondary verification and appears to be a F2 and the other is a self reporting of HxT x H.
Rich Sacher: Thanks for that information, David. I do not hybridize with hardies, so I lack personal experience with the possible fertility of isg hardies. If you have more detailed info, I bet lots of people would appreciate it!
David Gardner: I haven't done any ISG crosses myself, so it is only based on interviews. But it appears certain ISG in one of San Angelo pools has produced Seedlings, they are the result of group pollination and the crosses may have only been possible because of pioneer or mentor pollen. Also possible that it is the result polyploid sport mutation. The other instance was a HxT with perfectly matched chromosome counts, requiring the breeder to try a few variations of the tropical pollen. Additionally it seems that period of fertility is more limited.
Rich Sacher: Very interesting! It may be a while before we can document and verify, a deliberate pollination of a hardy isg which produced viable seeds and offspring. One can daydream of a "Universal mother or father" plant out there somewhere. Thanks again, David!
David Gardner: I honestly don't think we will ever find a universal parent, especially for the auneploids. Though the auneploids do offer a range of possibilities not possible with the base 14 varieties. I am currently looking for a affordable cyto services to be able to identify various N. Alba so I can find documented 48 or 96.
Rich Sacher: David, one can always be optimistic...mutations happen. One of my hibiscus just mutated this week, into a branch with 22 flower buds.
... Several times over the years, a tropical water lily has fasciated for me, producing multiple miniature plants. When the plant sections are repeatedly divided, the divisions outgrow the fasciation, and develop into adult plants which are identical to their variety in every way. Evelyn Randig and Patricia both did this, along with a blue capensis tuber, pictured here. Wish we could isolate and reproduce the causative agent, to inject it into new varieties which otherwise do not propagate quickly!...
July 29th, Rich Sacher:
Both these flowers are hybrids from the same seed pod, immutabilis X Bull's Eye. The flower on the left was rejected because it was small and had few petals. The flower on the right was superior to all other seedlings from this cross, so it was propagated and named The Big Easy.
One of the great challenges of hybridizing is to find enough space to grow out all the seedlings, most of which cannot be judged until they have produced at least 5 or 6 flowers. At that point, one can decide if they are developing into anything of interest. If not, they are discarded.
August 1st, Rich Sacher:
Is our summer heat damaging the pollen on immutabilis? To find out, I cut a first day flower early in the morning, and floated it in a glass vase in my air conditioned office overnight.
See photo. The flower closed at 3 pm, but was open the next morning at 8 am. If you enlarge the photo of the second day flower, you can see the pollen on the stamens.
When examined under the microscope, this pollen had very few deformed grains, and the pollen germinated at a good percentage when incubated in stigmatic fluid at 90 F (32C) for ninety minutes.Tomorrow, I will test the third day stamens for germination, too.
Question, Tom Gleeson: Could the damage have been done to the pollen in the hot, enclosed bud, prior to it opening?
Answer, Rich Sacher: I suppose that pollen can be damaged by high temperature even before the first day flower opens. Same for the ovaries in the flower. However, the flower I tested was harvested after a night of rain, when morning temperatures were lower than usual. When the flower opened in air conditioning for the second day, that pollen was normal, and germinated normally...indicating that protection from high temperatures could be the reason for its viability. Lots more testing needs to be done to confirm this finding.
August 2nd, Rich Sacher:
Extremes in temperature can affect the color of water lily flowers. These pictures were taken of flowers on an immutabilis in my greenhouse. The flower which is purple and pink was taken last month, when the temperature was over 97 degrees every day.
The normal blue and white flower was photographed in December, when temperatures do not exceed 80 degrees. This particular lily has been in bloom for over 18 months now, which is unusual.
August 3rd, Rich Sacher:
The pollen on our outdoor immutabilis flowers would not germinate in vitro during our extreme summer heat. To see if high temperature was responsible, we devised a test. A first day flower of immutabilis was picked early in the morning, and floated in a vase of water, indoors at 75 degrees F.
On the second, third and fourth day, samples were removed from the unfolding stamens for that day, and incubated in stigmatic fluid at 90 F (32 C) for 90 minutes.
Although the pollen from each days' stamens appeared normal under the microscope at 400X, only the pollen from second day stamens germinated normally and at a high percentage. There was no germination of pollen from the third and fourth day flower stamens.
The good germination of second day stamens in vitro does not necessarily indicate the pollen will be effective in setting seed, but it is a very good indication that the second day pollen is viable and fertile, when not exposed to high summer temperatures.
Question, Tomás Escribano: It seems that the pollen dries out and get damaged the 3rd and 4th day then under extreme heat.
Answer, Rich Sacher: By keeping the flower in air conditioning, in a covered vase of water, the stamens were protected from heat and given high humidity. I was not surprised that the second day stamens produced good pollen. I WAS surprised that no germination occurred with the third and fourth day stamens. Of course...I was using a flower which had been cut from the plant. No telling how much that influenced the pollen viability after the second day.
August 22nd, Rich Sacher:
Except for one season with Andre Leu, immutabilis is the only Aussie species I have had to hybridize with for the past ten years. Here are some of the hybrids which came from immutabilis as the pod parent. Not all were worth saving, but the variety of flower colors and shapes is pretty amazing.
September 7th, Rich Sacher:
It is easy to make lots of hybrids with Aussie lilies, but keeping all the name tags in their pots is not so easy when you have a hundred seedlings! I share the blame with bullfrogs and an egret, who knock over some of my pots! Here are some hybrids, parents unknown. I suspect some atrans in the pink one. Flowers with pink dots in the stigma probably are seedlings from a New Orleans Lady cross.
Jordan M. Reece: Aussie’s have always been one of my favorites... that I don’t own because I don’t have a way to keep them over the winter.
Answer, Rich Sacher: Force the plant to tuber starting in September, by withholding fertilizer. When the lily is dormant, harvest the tuber and store it indoors, in a damp, sealed plastic bag, at room temperature. Start the tuber into growth in warm water about Feb 1st. So...you keep the tuber over the winter, not the growing plant.
September 9th, Rich Sacher:
Justin Titus posed a question about forcing an Australian lily to go dormant. These photos show an actively growing New Orleans Lady, in a 4 inch (10 cm) pot. In such a small pot, and without fertilizer, it will stop blooming, stop growing and become dormant, having made a tuber.
Another photo shows a dormant NOL in a 6 inch (15 cm) pot. It has a few leaves, but has stopped making new leaves. This shows that It is entering dormancy.
The next photos show that there are two tubers in that pot, along with the parent tuber, from which any remaining leaves have been removed. All three tubers may now be stored at room temperature, in damp plastic bags, for the winter, until they are put in warm water again for spring growth.
One photo shows a pond of New Orleans Lady, all in small pots, being forced to make tubers; any roots outside the pots are removed, no fertilizer is given, and they will go dormant in another 5-6 weeks. Tubers can vary quite a bit in size, too, as the photo shows.
September 20th, Rich Sacher:
People have been asking for tubers of The Big Easy, and I am making them as fast as I can! BUT, if you have immutabilis, and cross it with pollen from Bull's Eye, you will get hybrids very similar to (or maybe better!) than The Big Easy.
The problem is that immutabilis seems to be in short supply.
The Big Easy was named because it is easy to propagate, starts blooming in a 10 cm pot, and blooms until frost. And...another name for New Orleans is...The Big Easy.
October 4th, Rich Sacher:
Pictured here is my favorite "failure", New Orleans Lady. Its pedigree is immutabilis X Andre Leu, which gave me seedlings with all blue and white flowers. I chose and selfed the best one, and 25% of its offspring had pink and white flowers.
Then, I selected the best pink and white one and named it New Orleans Lady. It took two years to get that first NOL, and three more years to make enough tubers to share. My goal was to create a stable pink and white Aussie which was easy to grow and propagate, but not too big.
Well, NOL is a pure Aussie, not an ISG, and it is easy to grow and propagate, as is immutabilis. BUT: it is a really big plant...so it failed my goal of producing a smaller plant. Regardless, it remains my favorite "failure" and I am quite fond of it!