The European white water lily is an aquatic perennial plant that roots in the mud at the bottom of lakes. The stalks arise from thick, fleshy stems that are buried in the mud. The floating leaves are heart-shaped or egg-shaped. The European white water lily has large flowers, up to 20 centimetres in diameter, which appear between June and August. Its spherical fruits ripen from August to September.
The plant typically grows in stagnant and slow-moving waters.