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Hardy viviparous plant from flower

Viviparity in the
Hardy Waterlily

Article and photos by Pairat Songpanich, Thailand
Translated to English by Guntapon Prommoon, Thailand
Edited by Dr. Slearmlarp Wasuwat, Thailand 

Click images to enlarge


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines "viviparous" as producing young in a living state, as with most mammals, or as with those plants the offspring of which are produced alive, either by bulbs instead of seeds or by the seeds themselves germinating on the plant instead of falling as they usually do.

For the waterlily, viviparity is the creation of plantlets on the flower for hardy and tropical night blooming waterlilies, and on the leaf in the case of tropical day blooming waterlilies. However, an exception is made for Nymphaea 'Jongkolnee', a Thai tropical day bloomer, which is different by blooming day and night and is viviparous on the flower. 

The article by Kit Knotts, "Viviparous Waterlilies" at, talks about viviparity on both leaves and flowers of various waterlilies. The purpose of this article is to expand on the topic with data collected from my experiments on hardy species and cultivars that can be viviparous. The first section will be on the collection and addition of viviparous species/cultivars that have been recorded. The second section is on my unnamed hybrids that can be viviparous.

Tropical day bloomer
viviparous plant from leaf

Flower of N. 'Jongkolnee'
developing plantlets

1. Viviparity of Named Hardy Waterlilies

Information in the Water Gardeners International Checklist of Nymphaea (Waterlily) Names indicates that more than 1,800 names (Knotts, 2006, 2007, 2008) have been found in the literature. More than 1,200 are accepted species and cultivar names, but only 57 of those are recorded as viviparous. From what I have found on hardy waterlilies that can be viviparous, from the sources above, other documents, the internet and my own experiences, I can have gathered 13 viviparous hardy species and cultivars (see Table 1). 

 Table 1. List of hardy waterlilies that can be viviparous

 Viviparous species /

 Pod Parent

 Pollen Parent


Date of
Mexicana Group
1.  Nymphaea mexicana Zucc.  




 2. N. 'Barbara Dobbins' N. odorata  N. mexicana 


3. N. 'Colorado'  N. 'Louise Villemarette'   N. mexicana 


 4. N. 'Georgia Peach' N. 'Louise Villemarette'   N. mexicana  


 5. N. 'Helvola'  N. pygmaea   N. mexicana  


 6. N. 'Mangkala Ubol' N. mexicana   N. 'Perry's Fire Opal'


 7. N. 'Phoebus'  

Parentage unknown


Colonel A.J. Welch Group
 8. N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch'

Parentage unknown  


 9. N. 'Cherokee' N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch'   N. 'Aurora'  


 10. N. 'Perry's Pink Delight'  N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch'   N. 'Splendida' 


 11. N. 'Perry's Red Star' N. 'Vèsuve'   N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch' 


 12. N. 'Perry's Viviparous Pink'  N. 'Perry's Pink' N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch'  


Other Group
13. N. 'Lily Pons' N. 'Perry's Fire Opal' N. 'Gloire du Temple sur Lot' 



From Table 1, the viviparous species/cultivars can be categorized into the flowing three groups by examining the pod-pollen parents.

Mexicana Group is a viviparous group with traits from N. mexicana consisting of one species (No. 1) and six cultivars (No.2 - 7). For No. 7 N. 'Phoebus', the data on pod and pollen parents does not appear, but looking at the leaf and flower of N. 'Phoebus', it can be considered to be the offspring of N. mexicana


N. 'Mangkala Ubol'
Colonel A.J. Welch Group is a viviparous group with traits from N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch' (Henley, 2000) consisting of four cultivars (No. 9 - 12), hybrids of N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch' and other cultivars. For N. 'Colonel A.J. Welch' (No.8), there is no evidence linking to any species but looking at the leaf and flower, it can also be considered to be the offspring of N. mexicana.  
Other Group consists of a viviparous cultivar not in first two groups, N. 'Lily Pons' (No.13). It is interesting and strange that there has never been information that these pod and pollen parents can achieve hybrid viviparity. The viviparity of N. 'Lily Pons' has been seen first hand by Dr. Nopchai Chansilpa (creator of N. 'Mangkala Ubol'). He brought N. 'Lily Pons' from USA to plant in Thailand on 2007 for breeding and saw viviparity on three different flowers (Chansilpa, 2007). 


Waterlilies and Lotuses: Species, Cultivars and New Hybrids (Slocum, 2005) states that hardy waterlily cultivars are "Nonviviparous", but it can be seen, though not often, that some of the cultivars can be viviparous on occasion. Examples like N. 'Barbara Dobbins', N. 'Colorado', N. 'Georgia Peach' and the case of N. 'Lily Pons' have shown over time (15 years) that they can be viviparous.

Viviparous N. 'Colorado' plantlet >

2. Viviparity in Pairat's Hardy Hybrids & References >

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