Pond Plants 7: Lotus
by Mandy Anders
The ornamental lotus are typically hybrids of the North American native Nelumbo lutea and the sacred lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, of Asia. These plants are hardy in East Tennessee and overwinter with ease. The lotus is the definitive star attraction of water garden plants. Large-leaved with showy, fragrant flowers, this beautiful plant towers over water lilies. The gigantic leaves, often up to a foot in diameter, provide copious amounts of shade for the pond. The majority of the plants leaves and flowers are held high above the water surface, with some smaller leaves floating at the water’s surface. Lotus will typically tolerate depths of as much as 2 to 3 feet of water, and grow to heights of 2-5 feet, creating dramatic displays in the middle of a pond. Dwarf and bowl varieties are also available, offering a miniature version of the lotus that is suitable for container and tub ponds.
Lotus leaves are superhydrophobic, which causes water droplets to bead up on the leaves and helps to keep the leaves clean of debris and disease. The leaves are circular, lacking the distinctive notch of water lily leaves. The large spectacular flowers last about three days, leaving behind a shower head-shaped seed pod. Lotus typically bloom during summer months, especially July and August. They can have multiple flowers on one plant, and will often re-bloom during the growing season. Lotus flowers can be white, yellow, pink, lavender, pale green, dark pink-red, or changeable.
Lotus grow from a large, white, sweet potato-shaped rhizome. The interiors of these long tubers contain hollow vascular chambers. Lotus should be planted similarly to hardy water lilies, preferably during early spring for best results. Pot lotus tubers in as large a solid bottom container as possible, preferably Laguna’s Plastic Lily Tub (HA8906). The tuber should be placed lengthwise with the growing tip pointed upwards. Place a layer of pea gravel in the bottom of the pot, then add Hoffman’s Water Gardening Soil, the tuber, and fertilizer tablets. Two to three fertilizer tablets should be used every month during the growing season to encourage the formation of foliage and blossoms. Next, add another thin layer of Hoffman’s to secure the tuber, leaving the growing tip exposed, and top off with a layer of pea gravel. A layer of larger stones can also be used to prevent koi from uprooting newly potted plants. Like tropical water lilies, lotus can be placed in shallower water to sprout and can then be moved into a deeper area of the pond. To over winter lotus, simply trim all greenery before a major frost and place the pot in a deep area of the pond.
Some varieties of lotus available at Aquarium during the summer pond season include:
– Mrs. Perry D. Slocum: A pink and yellow lotus with large double flowers
– President: A dark pink lotus with extra large flowers
– Perry’s Giant Sunburst: A yellow lotus
– Lavender Lady: A large lavender-pink lotus
– Momo Boton: A miniature lotus with pink double flowers
– Baby Doll: A miniature, free-flowering, white lotus