Lotus are perennials beauties most commonly found growing in water gardens. But, did you know that you can also plant them in containers?
For gardeners new and old, these plants are a stunning addition to the home and certain to bring something special to your yard. Lotus flowers symbolize rebirth, strength, and resilience. We can all use some of that, right?
As with all plants, they need the right growing conditions to thrive. This article will give you all the information you need to grow, care for, and enjoy lotus plants at home.
A Bit About Lotus Plants
Lotus plants are part of the Nelumbonaceace family which contains only one genus: Nelumbo. Lotus plants are the species nucifera and lutea.
These types of lotus plants are also referred to as Asian lotus and American lotus, respectively. They can be found growing wild in Asia, North Oceania, and the eastern and southern parts of North America.
This beautiful plant is admired for its unique appearance, but it also has powerful spiritual significance. In the religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, the lotus plant is viewed as sacred.
When it comes to cultivated lotus plants, this plant is often divided into three categories: rhizome, seed, and flower. Rhizome types are grown as a vegetable, seed types don’t form large rhizomes but have large seed heads, and flower types are purely ornamental.
Lotus vs Water Lily
It’s not unusual for people to confuse lotus plants with water lilies (Nymphaea spp.) as they are aquatic and have similar petals. The main difference between the two plants is how they react to their water environment.
Water lilies float on the water’s surface. In comparison, the flowers and leaves of lotus plants rise above the water.
Despite their difference, nothing is stopping you from growing both water-loving plants at home.
Best Lotus Cultivars
Seeing that lotus plants have been cultivated for centuries, it’s no surprise that there are lots of options. Let’s take a look at some of the best lotus cultivars out there.
The name ‘Angel Wings’ comes from the beautiful white flower petals that unfold in the summer months. The petals of this N. nucifera species curl at the tips as they mature and become even more fragrant. You can expect to see this dwarf plant bloom from July to September. It
If you like to grow white, angelic-looking plants, then white lotus (N. nucifera ‘Alba Grandiflora‘) is for you. This lotus plant can grow as high as four feet and has large flowers. The best part about it is that it can produce flowers all year round, which is ideal if you want winter interest.
You might mistake this lotus for a tulip with its bright pink petals and orange center. The plant grows up to six feet tall, for a towering display. Because of its large size, ‘Carolina Queen’ needs a medium or large-sized pond.
With frilly, fully double blossoms in rose pink, ‘Double Rose’ is an eye-catcher. Add to that the fact that it can grow up to six feet tall and it makes for one impressive display. Blooms in July and August.
For picking a lotus plant to grow in containers, the Chawan is a perfect choice. It grows up to 30 inches in height which is great for small areas and won’t overcrowd other plants nearby.
Chawan also produces lovely white and pink petals.
No lotus plant is more eye-catching than ‘Curious.’ It can have 300-6,000 petals!
Curious is two-headed, and you get a striking color contrast, as well. The bottom head has pink petals. The top head has dark red petals that are also shorter than the bottom layer.
As this lotus plant blooms in autumn, it adds some warm, colorful tones to your garden.
Green Maiden Lotus
In contrast to the impressive ‘Curious,’ ‘Green Maiden’ is much more modest. It only grows three feet high and has soft, pink petals that gradually change to yellow. This tiny variety is ideal for containers or small water gardens.
Here are a few others work looking for:
- Baby Doll
- Chawan Basu
- Momo Botan
- Red Scarf
Just remember that these are only a few examples of lotus plants; there are many more to discover!
Propagating Lotus Plants
For propagating there are two methods, you can try. The most popular choice is propagating from rhizomes as the roots multiply like tubers which can be divided for multiple plants. Remember, not all lotus plants form big tuberous roots, however.
You can also propagate by seeds, but it’s not the most efficient method. Due to the high dormancy rate, the seeds are tricky to germinate. Unless you have the time, it’s better to propagate with rhizomes.
To plant seeds, file off the hard outer coating that protects the seed. Place them in warm water in a clear container and place the container in a sunny spot. Change the water daily and wait for the seed to sprout.
Once the seed has sprouted and you have a few inches of growth, you can plant it.
Lotus plants need a sunny, warm location where the temperatures are between 45-70℉, and 5-6 hours of sunlight a day. Lotus grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10, though there are some that will grow outside of this range.
There are two ways to plant lotus: in a container or a pond.
You’ll need a water-tight container that is large enough for the plant. Ideally, you want a container that is at least 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep.
Fill your container with a couple of inches of sand. Then, add soil, preferably something with some sand and clay in it. Even better, you can purchase soil especially made for aquatic plants. Regular potting soil has lots of organic matter that will just float, so don’t use it.
Place the rhizomes into the prepared bed, being extra careful not to damage the lead growth tip.
The shoots must be pointing towards the sky. After placing the rhizome, cover it with a bit of soil. Next, pour in an inch of water. You’re good to go! You can grow your container lotus indoors so long as it receives enough direct sunlight.
Planting lotus in a container outdoors is not that different from indoor growing. The only thing to change is the size of the container. Many gardeners choose a barrel or a recycled trash can as it is the easiest way to provide sufficient space for your lotus.
You can also grow your lotus indoors when the temperatures are low and then move it to a pond when the weather changes.
To place a potted lotus plant in a pond, add more sand to the container and ensure the pot is submerged 6-12 inches below the surface of the water. That’s it!
Planting in a Pond
Many times when you purchase an aquatic plant, it comes in a container that the plant is meant to stay in when you plant it. If yours came in one of these, follow the directions listed on the plant’s nursery tag.
Otherwise, place your rhizome or plant in a sunny spot with calm, still water. The plant should sit 6-12 inches under the surface of the water.
Caring for Lotus Plants
As the plant is underwater, all you have to think about is checking the water levels during the growing phase. As the plant grows, you’ll need to add water to the container to accommodate the longer stem. If you plant is in a pond, you don’t need to worry about the water level as much.
Don’t worry if in the first year you only see leaves and no blossoms. This is totally normal. Your plant will bloom in its second year.
Add some 10-26-10 aquatic plant fertilizer when the leaves become aerial. Aerial means the leaves aren’t sitting on top of the water anymore but are growing above it.
If some of the leaves turn yellow, trim them away.
Fertilizing your lotus plant indoors is easy. All you have to do is add one 10-26-10 aquatic plant fertilizer tablet into the soil during spring and summer. Fertilize your plant once a month during this time of year.
You should monitor water levels daily to ensure your plant is in enough water. There should be a minimum of six inches at all times. Replace or treat the water if it develops a smell.
Remove the dead flowers to improve the appearance of the plant. When growing lotus inside, it’s normal for the plant to lay dormant during winter. If this happens, you can remove the leaves and stems until it begins growing again.
Common Pests and Diseases
Pests can be problematic for lotus plants as their fragrant odor attracts sap-sucking insects, which enjoy nibbling away at these aquatic plants.
Waterlily aphids (Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae) feed on the leaves causing them to wilt and curl. Treat them as you would other garden aphids, or spray plants with a 1:4 mid of liquid dish soap and water.
Whiteflies are also known for feeding on the undersides of the lotus leaves. It’s hard to spot whiteflies, which look like teeny, tiny moths, because they’re so small. Instead, you see yellowing leaves and a cloud of tiny insects when you walk past your plant.
Leafhoppers are not as common, but you might see these insects feeding on the leaves of your plant. Head to our guide to learn how to identify and deal with them.
The most damaging pest to indoor plants is fungus gnats. These insects can transfer fungal infections. Head to our guide on fungus gnats to learn what to do.
There are several fungal diseases that can strike when growing lotus. Fusarium, pythium, and verticillium can all be debilitating for your plants. All of these can be treated with copper fungicide.
Look out for signs of discoloration, wilting, necrosis, or an overall unhealthy appearance, and act quickly if you notice anything.
Harvesting Your Lotus
The last stage of growing lotus plants is harvesting, assuming you want to use the plant for more than ornamental reasons.
Dig up the plant, rhizomes and all, and cut back the stems. The rhizomes should be stored in a cool, dark spot until you’re ready to use them. Wash the roots before feasting on them.