This article is presented in partnership with Missouri Botanical Garden

For more than 125 years, water lilies have captivated the visitors at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The novelty of the lily pads and their vibrant blooms demand the attention of onlookers and photographers alike.

When the Garden’s first Victoria flower bloomed in 1894, thirty thousand people gathered to see it. Since then, the water lilies have remained an iconic staple in its collection. Today, the water lilies are on display across the Garden. You can find them in the Central Axis, the Carver Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Swift Vista pools along the south side of the Linnean House. They are also on display at the Wetland Walk at Shaw Nature Reserve and in the Native Garden outside the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House.

The lilies bloom from May through October, usually peaking during August and September. Months before they are on display in the pools, Garden horticulturists start the water lilies behind the scenes in the greenhouses. They are transplanted to the reflecting pools when the water temperature reaches 72 degrees.

With the right conditions, the Victorias grow at an amazing rate, up to an inch an hour at their peak. Thanks to a generous donation, a new heating system was installed in the center reflecting pool of the Central Axis in 2018. The addition of heat allowed horticulturists to move the water lilies to the pool earlier in the year, extending their growing season. In the summer of 2019, a Victoria lily pad reached 91 inches across—a new Garden record. That size surpasses the average diameter of a St. Louis-grown Victoria by more than a foot, and it falls just two inches short of the largest Victoria ever recorded.

Guests can enjoy the water lilies and other notable plant collections at the Missouri Botanical Garden Tuesdays–Sundays.