Sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, the Lotus is the national flower of India. This hardy aquatic plant is native to southern Asia and Australia, but they can be grown in nearly any temperate climate under the right conditions. You can grow lotus from seeds or from tubers. If you grow lotus from seeds, they typically will not flower in their first year.
EditGrowing from Seed
- Scrape the seed with a file. Using a standard metal file, scrape the hard seed casing to reveal the cream-colored core. Do not file any of the core away or else your lotus will not grow. Filing away the outer casing allows water to reach the core.
- If you don't have a metal file handy, you can use any sharp knife or even rub the seed against concrete. Just be careful not to scrape away too much of the seed.
- Place your seeds in warm water. Use a glass or transparent plastic container so that you can see when the seeds start to sprout. Fill the container with dechlorinated water between .
- After a day of soaking, the seeds will sink to the bottom and swell to nearly twice their original size. Seeds that float are almost always infertile. Remove them or they will cloud up the water.
- Change the water daily, even after the seeds have started to sprout. When you remove the seedlings to change the water, treat the sprouts with care – they are very delicate.
- Fill a container with of deep soil. This size typically provides enough room for a young lotus to grow. A black plastic bucket will retain heat to better warm the seedlings.
- Ideally, your soil should be 2 parts clay and 1 part river sand. If you use commercial potting soil to topsoil for houseplants, it will float to the surface once you submerge your tub in water.
- Make sure the container you choose does not have any drainage holes. The plant may gravitate toward the drainage hole and begin growing outside of it, causing the plant to underperform.
- Remove seedlings from water once they are long. Your seeds should start to sprout after 4 or 5 days of soaking. However, if you transfer them to the potting container to early, they will likely fail.
- If you wait too long, your seedlings will start to grow leaves. You can still plant them – just take care to keep the leaves free of the soil.
- Press the sprouted seeds into the soil about apart. You don't have to bury the seeds in the soil. Set them just on top, then brush a light layer of soil over them to secure them. They will take root on their own.
- It can be a good idea to wrap a small amount of modeling clay around the bottom of each seed to anchor it with a little weight. When you lower your container into the pond, an unanchored seed may find its way out of the soil and float up to the surface of the water.
- Lower the pot into your pond. Lotus are aquatic plants, so the soil should always have at least of water above it. If you have taller plants, the water can be up to deep. Dwarf lotus need water between deep.
- The water should be at least . If you live in an area with a relatively cooler climate, shallower water will provide extra warmth for your lotus.
- Lotus grown from seed rarely bloom in their first year. You should also keep fertilizer to a minimum during this first year. Allow your lotus to acclimate to its environment.
EditGrowing from Tuber
- Purchase tubers in early spring. You can buy lotus tubers online, or at a local nursery or garden center. Because of difficulty shipping, they are typically not available after they break dormancy in late spring. However, you may be able to buy some that have been grown locally.
- For rarer hybrids, you may have to shop online. If there is a water gardening society with a chapter near you, ask them for recommendations. Some societies also sell plants themselves.
- Float the tuber in a bowl in water between . Place your tuber gently on the surface of the water. Place your bowl near a warm, sunny window, but out of direct sunlight.
- If you're planning on moving the lotus to a pond, use water from the pond (as long as it's warm enough). Change the water every 3 to 7 days, or if it starts to appear cloudy.
- Choose a round container in diameter. If set loose, a lotus will grow as large as the area in which it is planted. Your container reins the lotus in and keeps it from taking over your whole pond.
- A deep container will decrease the chance that your lotus spills over the top and spreads across the pond. Round containers keep your lotus from getting jammed up in a corner, which can stunt or kill the plant.
- Fill your container with dense soil. A good potting medium for lotus is a soil mixture about 60 percent clay and 40 percent river sand. Leave about between the top of the soil and the rim of your container.
- You can also use amended soil, with a separate layer of sand deep on top. Make sure there is still sufficient space between the top of the sand layer and the rim of your container.
- Press the tuber into the top of the soil. Embed your tuber slightly in the sand, then carefully weigh it down with rocks so that it won't float up to the surface of the water before it takes root.
- Do not bury the tuber completely in the soil – it will rot. Make sure it's embedded only slightly at the surface.
- Lower your container below the surface of your pond. Choose a sunny spot for your lotus that is away from flowing water and will give your lotus enough room to grow. Once your tuber is secured in place, you can lower it into the location you've chosen to plant your lotus.
- Once seated in the pond, the tuber plants itself by turning downward into the soil mixture and growing roots.
EditCaring for Your Lotus
- Maintain a water temperature of at least . Active growth begins when the surface water reaches this temperature. Your lotus needs warm water to grow to its fullest potential. Ideally, the air temperature should be at least as well.
- The lotus will start to send up leaves after a few days in water above . It blooms after 3 to 4 weeks in water above .
- Check your water temperature every other day. If you live in a cooler climate, you may need a heater for your pond to maintain the appropriate temperature.
- Keep your lotus in direct sunlight. Lotus plants thrive in full sun, requiring at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If your pond is partially shaded, you may want to prune or remove surrounding foliage that blocks out the sun.
- In North America, the lotus typically blooms from mid-June or mid-July through early autumn. The blossoms open early in the morning and start closing mid-afternoon. Individual blossoms last 3 to 5 days, then molt. The process repeats through the remaining months of active growth.
- Prune dying blossoms and yellow or damaged leaves. If your lotus starts to take over your pond, you can also cut away new growth, but keep in mind it will grow again until the lotus is repotted in spring.
- Never cut flower or leaf stems below water level. Roots and tubers use stems for oxygen.
- Use pond tabs to fertilize your lotus. Pond tablets are fertilizer made especially for aquatic plants. Wait until your tuber has developed at least 6 leaves before fertilizing it, and don't place the fertilizer directly against the tuber itself.
- Small lotus varieties only need 2 tablets, while larger varieties may need as many as 4. Add fertilizer once every 3 or 4 weeks, stopping in mid-July. If you continue to fertilize your lotus past this point, it won't be able to prepare for dormancy.
- If you grew your lotus from seed, don't fertilize it during its first year.
- Watch for pests. While pests vary depending on your geographic location, aphids and caterpillars may be attracted to lotus leaves. Applying a small amount of powdered pesticide directly to the leaves will protect your lotus plant from these pests.
- Liquid pesticides, even organic ones, have oils and detergents that can damage your lotus.
- Move your lotus to deeper water in the fall. Lotus plants can spend the winter in ponds as far north as Michigan or Minnesota as long as the pond is deep enough to protect the tubers from ice. The tuber should at least be below the frost line, a depth that varies depending on where you live.
- If your pond is relatively shallow, you can remove the container and leave it in a garage or basement until spring. Mulch around any above-ground pots to keep the tubers warm.
- Repot the tuber every year. In early spring, when you spot the first sign of new growth, give your lotus fresh soil and return it to the original container (unless the container is damaged). Replace it in your pond at the same depth it was before.
- If your lotus took over your pond the previous year, inspect the container for cracks. You may want to get a larger container to better hold the lotus, if it grew over the rim.
- Lotus tubers are very delicate. Handle them with care, and don't break off the pointed tip (the "eye" of the tuber). Your lotus will not grow if the eye is damaged.
- Try organic fertilizers made from sea kelp or fish meal if you want to stay away from chemical fertilizers.
- Lotus flowers, seeds, young leaves, and stems are all edible, though they may cause slight psychedelic effects.
- Lotus seeds can be viable for hundreds – even thousands – of years.
EditSources and Citations
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