Red Water Lily Leaves: Reasons A Water Lily Has Red Leaves

Frog On A Water Lily
red waterlily
(Image credit: Martina Simonazzi)

What do you do if your water lily has red leaves? Usually, the answer is simple, and the health of the plant isn’t affected. Read on to learn more about red leaves on water lilies.

About Water Lilies

Water lilies are low maintenance plants that grow in shallow, freshwater ponds and lakes in tropical and temperate climates. They can also be grown in buckets or large aquariums. The rounded leaves appear to float on the surface of the water, but they actually grow atop long stalks that extend to roots in the soil at the bottom of the pond.

The plants are peaceful and colorful, but water lilies also serve several important functions in the environment. They provide shade that helps cool the water and keeps fish healthier. The waxy leaves provide shelter for fish and a place for frogs to rest where they are protected from predators lurking underwater. Delicate water lily blooms attract dragonflies and butterflies.

What Causes Red Water Lily Leaves?

Is your water lily turning red? Sometimes, chilly temperatures can cause red leaves on water lilies. If this is the case, the leaves will fade back to green when the weather warms up.

Water lily species vary in color and some have a natural purplish or dark red pigmentation.

Some species, including the hardy European white water lily (Nymphaea alba), display reddish leaves when the plants are young, turning bright green with maturity. Tropical night blooming water lily (Nymphaea omarana) has big, bronzy red leaves.

Water lily leaves may turn brownish if the water is too shallow and the leaves dry out. Generally, the leaves regain their greenish color when the water is at the correct depth. Water lilies prefer a depth of 18 to 30 inches (46-76 cm.), with 10 to 18 inches (25-46 cm.) of water above the roots. 

Water lily leaf spot is a disease that causes concentric reddish spots on the leaves. The leaves will eventually rot and may give the plant an unsightly appearance, but the disease usually isn’t fatal. Just remove affected leaves as soon as they appear.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.