A large group of beautiful, aquatic perennials commonly known as Lotus. These plants are suited for growing over most parts of the United States. They need at least two or three months of 75*-85* F. temperature for them to bloom. Lotus prefer still water and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. In the Deep South and Southwestern regions, Lotus may not do as well because there is too much heat and humidity. If you live in one of these areas, it may help to move the Lotus to a shady area during the hottest part of summer.
N. lutea (which is native to the U.S.), and N. nucifera (native to the Philippines, the Orient, northern Australia, Egypt, and the Volga River delta at the Caspian Sea), are the only two wild species of Lotus. The rest are hybrids.
Lotus flowers are open for 3 days and some change colors during that time. The height, foliage and bloom size depends on the variety. They produce large, bluish-gray, peltate leaves, which stand above the water when full-grown. They range in width from 12 to 30 inches. The beautiful flowers can grow anywhere from 4 to 12 inches across. Lotus may grow from 2-1/2 to 6 feet high. There are some dwarf varieties that produce 2-inch to 4-inch blossoms and grow only 10 to 12 inches tall. These plants are great for planting in containers and patio ponds.
Lotus are not just "pond" plants. They can be potted in a container and "sunk" into the ground beside the pond. Just make sure to keep water in the container.
The seed heads of these plants are very attractive and are commonly dried and used in floral arrangements.
Lotus tubers should only be bought during their dormant period. Once Lotus break from dormancy, the plant cannot successfully be divided. Lotus should only be bought already potted at this time.
Handle the banana-shaped tubers carefully! Lotus tubers are very fragile. The slightest damage can cause them to die. They can be bruised just from handling them. Even scratches in the tuber (which allow bacteria to enter) can cause a slow death to the lotus. Rough handling can break off the growth bud and the lotus will die. Planting too deep, either in the soil or in the water, is a frequent cause of loss.
Lotus need wide, round containers in which to grow because their roots spread. A square or corrugated-sided container shouldn't be used because the growing tip of the tuber, which is very fragile, will grow into the corners and break. This will most likely cause the plant to die.
For standard-sized Lotus, a container 3 to 4 feet in diameter and 10 to 12 inches deep will be fine. Dwarf varieties may be planted in smaller containers. Since the standard-sized Lotus containers are large and not easily moved, Lotus are often planted in containers that act as their "ponds".
In a large container, set two aquatic fertilizer tabs per gallon of soil evenly on the bottom and cover with several inches of dirt. For your growing medium, use heavy, ordinary garden soil. Do not use peat based potting soils containing peat moss, perlite or vermiculite. Place the tuber on the surface of the soil with the cut edge of the tuber against the edge of the pot. You may put a flat rock on top of the tuber, or add more soil to cover half of the tuber. Take care to not cover the growing tip of the rhizome. Carefully fill the container so that 2 or 3 inches of water covers the rhizome.
Keep the pot in a warm, sunny location and add water as it evaporates. If you receive a tuber in an area where it is still very cold, keep the newly potted Lotus inside in a place that will not freeze. Another option is to make a "mini greenhouse" out of the potted Lotus. Simply take a large, clear plastic bag and place it over the pot. Allow several inches of space between the top of the pot and the top of the plastic bag. Secure the bag tightly around the pot (a large rubber band or strip of leftover 45 mil rubber liner will do the trick). Set the container in a sunny location.
When the plant raises 5 or 6 leaves above the water, a thin layer of gravel or soil may be placed over the tuber. Do not cover the growing tip. The container may then be placed in the pond just below the surface, if desired. Gradually raise the water level in the tub, or lower the pot in the pond, as the Lotus develops. The maximum water depth over the soil level, once the Lotus is established, is 12 inches.
The plant should be fertilized sparingly for the first year. Too much fertilizer may cause the foliage to "burn". A plant that is established can be fed every 3 or 4 weeks during their growing season. Care must be taken when inserting fertilizer tabs, because the growing tip and new growth can be damaged.
Lotus are hardy to Zone 5. It is important to protect the roots from freezing. They can winter over in the pond if the pond depth is below the freeze line for your area. Late in the fall, the yellowed foliage should be cut off and the plant lowered to the deepest part of the pond. Or you may lift the tubers after the plant has died back in the fall. If you lift the tubers, store them in a cool, frost-free location until late spring. To help prevent mildew and rotting, store them in living sphagnum moss.
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