Nymphaea caerulea

Common Name: Egyptian blue water lily 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Nymphaeaceae
Native Range: Northern and tropical Africa
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 0.75 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Blue
Sun: Full sun
Water: Wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Water Plant, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant


This tropical water lily is best grown in still water in full sun to part shade. Full sun is best, but plants will usually flower well in part shade. Plants need protection from wind. Leaves may drown if water is repeatedly splashed on them. Plant rhizomes in spring, preferably in small containers. Plant each rhizome at a 45 degree angle with the bud end up and with the bud slightly above the soil surface. Plants are more easily moved when planted in containers. Set containers in 9-16” of water (after the water temperature has warmed to about 70 degrees F.) at the bottom of a water garden or tub garden or at the muddy bottom of a small pond. Although rhizomes will overwinter in USDA Zones 10-12, plants elsewhere must be overwintered indoors. There are two main options for indoor overwintering. First, bring each container indoors before the first fall frost to a cool dark place, dry over several weeks, find the dormant rhizome in the container and wash it off, place the rhizomes in slightly damp sand or peat in a plastic container, cover the container with a lid (perforated with holes) and keep the container in a cool (about 50-60 degrees F) and dark place for winter (e.g. basement), checking periodically to make sure the sand does not totally dry out. In spring, dust rhizomes with fungicide/bactericide, return them to containers and plant under water as soon as water temperatures return to 70 degrees F. Second, plants may also be overwintered in a greenhouse, aquarium or indoor large tub with water temperature of 70 degrees F. and with up to 14 hours of daylight (use light bulbs).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Nymphaea caerulea, commonly known as blue lotus or sacred blue lily of the Nile, is a tropical water lily that features day-blooming, star-shaped flowers (to 4-6” across), each with upright, pointed, light blue petals spread flat on the water surface. Each leaf is connected directly to the plant rhizomes by a long leaf stalk (petiole). Flowers typically bloom from July to the end of summer. This water lily is native to northern and central Africa. Although once abundant in the Nile Delta, blue lotus has now mostly disappeared from that area where it is now endangered. Blue lotus is sacred to Egyptian culture as a symbol of creation and rebirth. Ancient Egyptians believed the world was originally covered by water and darkness. Then a large blue lotus appeared in the water, the flower opened and light appeared thus ending darkness on earth. From the center of the blue lotus came the solar deities Atum and Ra. The flower thus became a symbolic depiction of the origins of life. Notwithstanding this symbolism, blue lotus has been historically used in Egypt for a variety of other purposes including stimulant, aphrodisiac, sexual enhancer and remedy against general illness. Flowers have an alluring fragrance that reportedly induces feelings of heightened awareness and euphoria. Perfumes and oils were created. Teas made from the flowers reportedly induce feelings of calmness and tranquility. Blue lotus flowers have been widely used throughout history as a common motif in Egyptian art and architecture. King Tut’s body was found to be covered with blue lotus petals when his tomb was opened in 1922.

Much confusion exists over the common name for this plant. Blue lotus is the common name being used herein, but the Indian sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is also sometimes called blue lotus.

Genus name comes from the Greek word nymphaia referring to a water nymph.

Specific epithet means dark blue.


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf mining midges and aphids can be troublesome in some areas.


Ponds. Water gardens.