Few species of pond plants can be compared to the striking foliage and blossoms of the Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera. The Lotus is native to tropical Asia where it is deeply rooted in cultural symbolism, history, religion and legend. Its large, round leaves and spectacular pink, cream or white flowers are produced by long, buouyant, fibrous roots called rhizomes. The foliage and flowers stand tall above the water’s surface, while the rhizome runs in long strands through the mud or substrate. These plants and their hybrids are prized by pond and water garden enthusiasts and can be show-stopping if cultured and cared for properly.
Lotus are fast growers under the right conditions. They are perennial in USDA zones 4-10 is wintered over correctly. They are sun-loving and should be placed in a location where they will recieve at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. While they will grow in some shadier locations, they need plenty of sun exposure to bloom. They also enjoy warm water temperatures; most of their growth takes place when water temps are at least 70 degrees. Lotus pots should be placed in a shallower area of the pond or raised up to the surface on a shelf so the plant remains warmer. Be sure the pot always at least 2-3 inches of water covering the roots. The plants should be sheltered from the wind to avoid damage.
In the spring, leaves appear first at the surface of the water then slowly emerge to stand above the water. Once the pland begins to show several leaves, begin fertilzing with root tabs, pressing the tabs into the substrate or soil but not directly against the root. As temperatures rise, the beautiful and often fragrant blossoms appear, standing above the leaves with varying numbers of soft petals that open in the morning and remain through the afternoon. The blossoms re-open for 2-3 days before the petals fall and the seed pod remains to harden. Fading, damaged, and yellowing leaves should be removed throughout the season by cutting the stems above the water. Seed pods may be pruned or left to grow as they are quite ornamental. Consistantly cooler temperatures send the plants into a dormant state. In ideal conditions, Lotus can quickly outgrow large pots or take over natural ponds if left unchecked.
Repotting and Dividing
If you receive a lotus tuber (as they are often sold) find the largest pot you can to plant it in. The pot should not have holes since the tubers may “escape” over time. Handle the tuber gently as it may easily be broken or damaged. Place a 1-2 inch layer of soil or substrate in the bottom of the container, preferably clay or pond plant substrate to avoid root rot. Lay the rhizome across the soil or slightly coiled if necessary and carefully cover it with about an inch of the same substrate. Any leaves should not be covered, but left above the soil. To keep the root in place you may also choose to layer pea gravel on top for added weight. It is recommended that the newly potted plant be placed in a sunny, sheltered area for a few weeks until new growth emerges and the plant is established before it is placed into your pond. New plants may not bloom in the first year.
Typically after year or two of growth potted lotuses may need to be divided and/or repotted. An indicator that your Lotus rootbound and in need of division or a larger pot is a lack of new growth or the appearance of sickly, stunted leaves from the pot. If you press your finger into the soil you should be able to feel how compacted the tuber has become or you may be able to see it on the surface of the soil. The best time to divide and repot will be in the spring while the plant is still dormant. Remove cuttings of new growth tips counting back from the tip at least 2-4 nodes. Each tip cutting can be potted in a new container and started like a new plant. The old plant can be potted again, now trimmed and given more room to grow.
In the fall when temperatures cool and the plant slows in growth, it will be time to winterize your Lotus. When the leaves sag and die off, trim the foliage of the died, dead stems and drop the pot to a deeper area of the pond. Do not trim green stems, wait until they have shriveled so the cut will be sealed, protecting the tuber. Drop the pot to a deeper area of the pond below where ice will form to preserve it through the season. If your pond is too shallow, lotus containers can also be wintered over, dormant, indoors to prevent freezing, or in a greenhouse if you’re lucky enough to have one. Wait until after the last frost in Spring to replace the lotus outside for the next season.
Please comment below if you have any experiences to share or questions about your Lotus.
Lotus image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Radomil
Lotus seed pod image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by KENPEI
Lotus root image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by westwind