Skip to Content

Water Lily Vs Lotus | Similarities & Differences

Water lily, lotus, and other flowering aquatic plants are lovely and beautiful that they have now been used to create ponds, patios, and beautify the environment. If you are looking to grow them but skeptical about which to pick, especially between water lily vs lotus, an understanding of the major characteristics will help you decide.

If you are not used to aquatic flowering plants, it can be almost impossible to spot the difference between them. Among most of the aquatic plants available, the water lily and lotus are similar in growth and appearance.

So, if you have always guessed the identity of any of these plants, this article will help you easily identify each one with certainty.

But before we look at the differences, let us highlight some of the few similarities between water lily and lotus plant.

Water Lily Vs Lotus | Key Similalities

  • Water lilies and lotus both grow in freshwater
  • They produce seeds because of the pollination of their flowers by insects
  • They possess tuberous roots, long stems, fairly circular leaves
  • Water lily and lotus are two types of aquatic flowering plants
  • Their petals are numerous, large, rose or white-colored
  • Water lilies and lotus have dwarf varieties which are perfect for domestic cultivation
  • They blossom from June until October

Water Lily Plant

water lily plant

The water lily plant is an aquatic flowering plant belonging to the family Nymphaeaceae. They have over 70 species. Just like most aquatic plants, the leaves and flowers spread just above the water surface and floats all along.

The main two types of water lilies that you will commonly see are the hardy water lily and tropical water lily plants.

Hardy lilies are 8 to 12 inches long, and its flowers blooming between 6 to 12 inches above. Hardly lilies further have two main types which include the Blue Aster and Helvola.

The first is a medium-sized plant with green and purple variegated foliage and blue flowers, while the latter is a miniature water lily with light yellow flowers. The tropical water lily is quite different. Their leaves are around 20 inches long.

While they are different types of tropical water lilies, the main one is the Tropic Sunset. It is a standard-sized day blooming tropical water lily, that contains red and green variegated leaves and flowers with bright pink petals and bright yellow stamens.

All members of the family are perennial except for the genus Euryale, which is an annual plant that grows only in Asia.

Lotus Plant

lotus plant

Lotus is a type of aquatic plant belonging to the family Nelumbonaceae. Unlike water lilies that spread and float on the water surface, the leaves and flowers of lotus raise above the level of water.

Typically, lotus plants are larger than water lilies. Their leaves are 18-36 inches long and can grow as much as 8 feet tall. The flowers are not also left out with this size. The flowers can grow up to 12 inches in diameter.

The major disadvantage which can also be considered as a difference is the condition for bloom. While water lily will grow and bloom in both full sun and partial shade, lotus will only bloom under full sun.

The common variety of lotus is the Bali Red. This lovely lotus features dark red flowers that will flower in colder weather. They can grow as much as 4 ft above the water. Bali red requires many weeks of sunny, warm weather, and rich soil to bloom well.

Lotus is more demanding to cultivate. They will require more attention, and will also need more fertilizer than water lilies.

Water Lily Plant Vs Lotus Plant | Key Differences

1. Seed production

While both of them produce seeds as already mentioned in their similarities, the seeding process is different.

Water lilies produce sweet nectar on the first day of bloom which attracts insects. On the second day, nectar production stops, and the flower produces pollen for two days. By the third day, the flower coils and contracts, thus pulling the height into the water where the seeds mature inside the ovary.

Lotus is pretty easy in formation. All the process of formation, from blossom to seed takes place above the water.  A seed capsule forms at the center of the flower and expands as the flower fades.

2. Growth

Another major distinguishing factor between lilies and lotus is size and growth. Lotuses are larger than water lilies. This makes water lilies the most preferred aquatic plants to grow around homes.

However, if you prefer to have lotus grown on your home ponds or patios, miniature varieties are more suited to small home ponds.

Adaptation Of Water Lily And Lotus Plants

When it comes to the adaptation of these plants, they are similar.

Their wide leaves that float on the water’s surface attracts sunlight for photosynthesis. They have also got cuticle on the leaves that help keep the leaves dried, thus avoiding disruption of respiration.

They have fragile stems because the energy produced is used to grow larger leaves.

These adaptations ensure that they survive the worst condition that their environment offers them.


If you are looking to spice up and create a beautiful artificial pond or patio, aquatic plants will be a great idea. Either water lily or lotus of all aquatic plants will be the best fit.

Because of the small nature of water lilies, it is best preferred for cultivation. They are also easier to grow and less demanding as regards maintenance, not forgetting to mention their adaptiveness.