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Lotus (Nelumbo) is one of the most majestic plants to have in a water garden. It is by far the most exotic of all pond plants. And it is the one plant that scares water gardeners. Quite a few people tend to shy away from them, and are intimidated by them. NO NEED!  They are very easy to grow once you understand the basic care of them.

The colors available are white, yellow, pink, and even bi-color. The blooming period is usually in late summer in colder climates because Lotus love the heat. They are very fragrant and the perfume will permeate the evening air. The flowers, which last 3 to 5 days, close up at night. Most florists and craft people love the dried Lotus pods because of their uniqueness in fresh and dried arrangements. The seeds that dry in the pods will rattle when shaken. It is reported that the seeds remain viable for centuries! They are reports that folks were able to germinate lotus seeds left in the tombs of the pharaohs after 3,000 years.

Lotus are hardy from zones 5 to 10 and there are some varieties that are hardy to zone 4 so be sure to check the zone hardiness of the variety that you are purchasing.

Sun requirements are at least 6 hours a day. They will not bloom well in 6 hours but they will grow.  To bloom well they need full all day sun. The most important factor is sun. In order to bloom well they need around 90 days of soil temperature of 75  to 87 degrees

The height will vary from 18 to 60" depending on the variety.

Ideally they like 4 to 10" of water over the pot. I start out in the spring at a shallow depth of a couple of inches over the rim of the pan. This shallow depth will be warmer too. As new growth begins to sprout the pan can be gradually lowered to a deeper depth, but no deeper than 10 inches, if need be.

It is recommend that you float your lotus tuber in aged pond water for 10-14 days in a warm sunny place before planting. This allows the tuber to sprout and will increase your success in growing lotus. Be sure to change the water if it becomes nasty

Lotus is planted in pans (large and shallower than a pot). The pan should be at least 13" x 9", but larger is much more preferred. In a pinch a kitty litter pan works great. To the pan add half a mixture of garden soil and half of commercially prepared topsoil so the pan has about 4 inches of soil. Also the pan will warm up faster than a deep pot. Warmth is essential.

One trick if you keep your house on the cool side is to set the pan on a heating pad that is set to "low".

Then the tuber arrives it should be dormant. Handle the tuber carefully so you do not break off the growing tip, called an “eye”. The eye is described as the part of the tuber where the leaves will grow from. You should be able to detect a spot on the tuber where leaves, not roots, were once growing. This eye must not be covered with either soil or gravel. Lay the tuber horizontally on the soil with the eye sticking up so it will protrude from the soil and gravel and cover with dirt. 

Before covering the tuber with the dirt, place a large flat stone on the tuber to help keep it weighted down and to keep the fish from bothering the tuber. The tubers have a tendency to float out of the dirt until the roots have developed. Push a couple of pond tablet fertilizer tablets in the soil near the outer rim of the pans. Finally add a couple of inches of pea gravel on top of the dirt. Set the pan in a sunny area and add a couple of inches of water to the pan. 

Once you see leaves coming up then you can add more water. This little trick will also help keep the tuber from floating out of the pan. OR you can add the plant to the pond if the water is warm so that no more than a couple of inches are over the top of the pan. Lower the pan a couple of inches every few days.

TIP: Upside down clay pots are very useful and can be stacked until you get the depth you want. NOTE: You do not need to purchase special prepared pond soil. Save your money for more plants! Wondering what I mean by ordinary garden soil? It is any soil that will grow plants. Go out and dig up some soil where you have a vegetable garden or flowerbed. If it is good enough to grow garden plants, it is good enough for pond plants! And if it is clay based that is even better.
 

The lotus will be slow growing at first. Then the leaves will start to come once the tuber has rooted. The warmer the room where they are starting, the quicker the leaves appear.  Even if you keep  your house at 72 the dirt will only be in the 60's and that is too low for the tuber to break dormancy.

We start a new crop every year in February in the greenhouse.  The temperature in the greenhouse will range from 80 to the upper 90's depending on the air temperature out side and how much sun we are getting that day.  In about 10 days in the 80 to 90 degree temperature we have leaves in 7 to 14 days.

So if you are keeping the tuber too cold it may rot before it roots!


I have found I get better blooming results by fertilizing them every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season. Simply take a stick and push a small hole into the soil near the outer rims of the lotus pan and push 2 or 3 pond plant fertilizer tablets down in the hole. Pat the soil down to cover the tablet and replace the pan back in the pond.

Nearly all parts of the lotus are edible and are used in Oriental cooking. The hefty price of a lotus will surely discourage you from sampling your lotus though. This makes it ideal (safety) for people who have small children and pets that may endeavor to taste your pond plant.

In the fall after the frost has nipped the leaves, carefully cut away all of the foliage and lower the pan to the very bottom of the pond for the winter.

The following spring when you see new leaves coming forth, move the lotus up in the water so that it is at the proper depth.

Below is an interview with my good buddy Dr. Erick Johnson of koivet.com


Doc:"How do you use/treat the seeds to grow new Lotus?"
Bonnie:  I have an article here that will tell and show you just how to start a Lotus from seed. Click this link to see the article:  Starting a Lotus from Seed 
Doc: How hard is it to divide a Lotus?
 
Bonnie:  Glad you asked because I just finished a new article, complete with pictures that shows step by step just how to divide the Lotus. You will find that article if you click here  PLANTING LOTUS TUBERS SPRING AND FALL
Doc: "Since its leaves are generally aerial above the water, are they Koi Safe? Or does the Koi eat the leaves as they strive for the surface?"
Bonnie: The Koi rarely eat the leaves because they grow above the water but they sure do love to dig in the dirt. They are looking for worms and other “critters” that are found in the dirt. AND they love to eat the Lotus tubers. Over the years I have found that it is best to grow the Lotus pond side rather than in the pond. Two reasons; the fish won’t bother the plant. Lotus are heavy feeders so they need to be fertilized often. This can sometimes turn the pond water green. What I do is I dig a hole next to the pond that will accommodate the Lotus pan. Then I sink the pan in the hole. Make sure that you keep the pan filled with water because if the Lotus leaves wilt, they will not recover and you will have to wait for new leaves to grow back. If left dry too long, the plant will actually die.
 
Dividing tubers Newest article on planting lotus received in mail
How to grow Lotus Growing Lotus outside of a pond

 

 
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