Lotus Plant: A Care Guide

Garden

Last Updated - June 29, 2022

The lotus plant has an almost otherworldly beauty about it, and it plays a symbolic role in various eastern religions and philosophies. This high status of the lotus plant can make it seem intimidating for the home gardener to grow, but they really are easy to care for! And they're a great plant to start with if you want to learn water gardening. Below, we'll tell you everything you need to know to grow lotus plants successfully.

Botanical Name

Common Name

Plant Type

Mature Size

Sun Requirement

Soil Type

Hardiness Zone

Pet Friendly

Nelumbo Nucifera

Sacred lotus, Indian lotus, lotus

Perennial

3 to 8 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Full sun

Clay

5-10

Yes

What Are Lotus Plants?

The lotus plant appears to be a water plant, but it actually grows its roots in the mud of freshwater wetlands. It features large round leaves and a beautiful variety of flowers. Lotus flower colors can be yellow, white, and all shades of pink. Bowl lotus, a term given to the smallest growing lotus, also comes in various colors and several petals. They bloom longer than other species of lotus.

Lotuses are incredibly adaptable aquatic plants, surviving in both ice and scorching sun and handling many different soil types.

Lotus Plants vs. Water Lilies

Lotus plants and water lilies are often confused with each other. It's understandable - they look and grow similarly, and the common names of the plants will sometimes call something a lotus when it's really a lily!

Botanical Taxonomy

The best rule of thumb is to look at the botanical taxonomy. The Nymphaea genus is water lilies, even if the common name uses the word "lotus." The Nelumbo genus is a lotus plant and only has two varieties. Nelumbo nucifera or "sacred lotus," and Nelumbo lutea is "American lotus."

Physical Characteristics

  • Lotuses will continue growing upwards, even after they reach the water's surface. They can reach heights of 8 feet! A water lily will rest atop the water.

  • Lotus leaves are circular with no splits, and the stem connects to the leaf in the center. Lily leaves have a split, and the stem connects at the base of that split.

  • Lotuses have notable seed pods. They are cone-shaped and full of holes. Water lilies don't have these seed pods.

Lotus Plant Care Requirements

You can grow lotus plants either directly in the ground of a pond or water garden or in a container without any drainage holes. Their care requirements are similar. Keep in mind that lotus plants grown as pond plants will spread rapidly. If you'd like your lotus to grow in your pond but not take over, consider planting it in a container and then placing that container in the pond. As long as you clip the seed pods before the lotus seeds drop, you'll be able to keep your lotus plants under control.

Light

Choose a sunny spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. This will keep the water in the ideal temperature range. Lotus can handle direct sunlight and hot temperatures, but if you start to see the leaves burn, consider moving the container to a location with a bit more shade.

Water

This aquatic plant is not particularly about its water conditions, other than its temperature. In fact, the large lotus plants will clean the water. The water will become remarkably clear in time, regardless of how murky it was before the lotus was introduced.

Temperature

The water should ideally be 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air temperature doesn't matter as much as the water temperature. Consistently warm water will give you the most bright pink flowers.

Soil

Lotus plants may seem like water plants, but they do require their roots to be in the soil. If you can, work up mud with a neutral pH and ample levels of clay and loam. You can add compost to it for nutrients, but in doing so, you may be introducing algae to your water garden.

Avoid using garden soil or anything with peat moss as they will float in the water. Soil that is too high in organic matters can make your newly planted seeds or lotus tubers rot.

Fertilization

It's best not to fertilize the soil with compost. Instead, use pond tablets to add nutrients to the water.

Propagation

It is easy to harvest both lotus seed and tuber roots, and lotus flowers can be propagated from both.

Propagating From Seed

  1. Crack the outer shell of the lotus seed by tapping it slightly with a hammer.

  2. Fill a glass with a bottle of water and add four seeds. Place the glass in a well-lit area, and change the water daily.

  3. In a week, you will have sprouts and leaves. Fill a container with 1.5 inches of soil, and saturate it with water. Plant the seeds an inch deep, and cover them with pea gravel.

  4. Place the small, seeded container into a larger container, and fill with water.

  5. Once you have aerial leaf growth, transplant it into a bigger pot!

Propagating From Tuber

  1. Fill a wide and shallow container with 4 inches of mud.

  2. Gently bury the tuber partially into the mud, exposing the growth tips.

  3. Add a layer of pea gravel, then add water to cover the growth tips. Leave the container in an area with full sun.

  4. When aerial leaf growth happens, you can lower the container to the ground.

Overwintering

In warm zones, the lotus can be left out to overwinter in standing water, as long as their roots are below the freeze line of the pond. Let all the growth turn brown, then prune them back to just above the water surface. This will trigger them to become dormant. 

If you live in colder zones, transplant your lotus plant into a container and move the container inside a garage. Doing so will protect them from frost. Ensure to replenish the water in the container as the dry air sucks it up! If you don't have room to store a container, you can always dig up the tuber roots and store them until spring.

Common Problems

It can be tricky to treat pests that come to eat your lotus plant because the leaves are easily damaged by insecticides with detergents and oils.

  1. For aphids, whitefly, and spider mites, thinly dust the leaves with diatomaceous earth.

  2. For China mark moths, use DiPel.

  3. For slugs and snails, move the lotus further away from the water's edge.

Are Lotus Plants Pet Friendly?

Absolutely! All parts of the lotus plant are edible and even highly beneficial.


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About the author

Bella Zinti

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener with extensive experience building homes from scratch. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui, as well as helping clients create year-round sustainable organic gardens.

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