How to grow lotus?

Lotus for Containers: Who knew exotic could be so EASY?

These astonishingly beautiful flowers are also astonishingly easy to grow. Also known as “Sacred Water Lily,” lotus (Nelumbo) hybrids come in a variety of white, yellow, and pink shades. True “bowl lotus” can be grown in containers as small as one or two gallons. Larger varieties will need larger containers, and a few big ones are really only suitable for pond plantings. It’s easier to find a “big enough” container for lotus than for water lilies, since many lotus varieties are happy in very shallow water. With water lilies for container gardening, a large potted plant gets sunk in a container of water large enough to cover the planting pot by at least six inches. A lotus, on the other hand, may need only a couple inches of water above the soil level, so that means lots more room for soil and roots in a given container.

Lotus tubers are only available seasonally, as they are nearly impossible to ship once they break dormancy in late spring. Now is a time for browsing online selections and looking for good sales on large no-hole containers. I like the double-wall plastic containers for their good looks and lightweight durability. If you change your mind about using the container for water gardening down the line, drill a few drainage holes through the bottom.

I found great prices and even better advice at a sale this year from Texas Water Lilies. Using their planting guidelines, I put a larger lotus (‘Pink Pretty Princess Payton’) in a 22-inch container, and it turned into this enormous bloom machine! The compact variety (‘Chawan Basu’) that I put into an 18-inch container has lots of leaves but no blooms yet. Maybe it’s waiting to bloom until after it has filled the container with roots. Next year, I will try some “bowl lotus” varieties in smaller two or three gallon containers and see what happens.

Hardiness can be tricky to estimate when plants are in containers rather than in the ground or in a pond. I decided to hedge my bet by digging my containers partway into the ground. I dug my hole, placed my pot, leveled it, and continued to check the level while filling in around the edges with loose dirt. To check the level, put a straight board across the top of the pot, and use a carpenter’s level on the board. If you don’t have a level, use a glass of water on the board and eyeball it. Lean on the edge of the pot to adjust the level, then firm up the dirt around the sides of the pot.

When your container is brim-full of water, you’ll be glad you took the time to get it as close to perfectly level as possible. I have heavy clay soil, so once I got that pot placed and filled with water, I knew it wasn’t going anywhere!

That same heavy clay soil is an ideal planting medium for lotus & waterlily tubers. (Who knew clay could be ideal?) Lilies do fine in pure clay, but for lotus you want to fill your pot with something closer to river bottom soil, a mix of clay and sand and good garden dirt. Fill your pot about ¾ full of soil, leaving several inches at the top for water. Lotus tubers tend to be long and knobby. They need to be planted cross-wise in the pot, not up and down like a carrot. Don’t plant your tuber too deeply, or it won’t find its way out of the dirt. You can even just lay the tuber on the surface of the soil and put a fist-sized rock on top to keep it from floating.

Fill the container with water, and you will think you have an unattractive container of muddy water. It’ll be attractive to mosquitoes, though, so add a piece of mosquito dunk or a few mosquito control granules. Give it a few hours, and the dirt will settle. Soon, little leaves will sprout and make their way to the surface. They’ll get bigger and bigger, and some leaf stalks will reach high out of the pot. When the leaves are as big as your hand (and not before), stick two or three pond plant fertilizer tablets down into the mud. Be sure to use the special tablets made for aquatic plants; other fertilizers can be damaging. Add a couple more fertilizer tablets every month or so for vigorous growth.

You’ll love the leaves on your lotus plant. They make a striking statement all on their own, catching your eye from the other side of the yard. After the rain, or when watering, be sure to notice the remarkable way water droplets sit on the leaves. They look like little drops of mercury, and they skitter at a touch. The blooms, however, are what will take your breath away! Enormous, elegant buds unfold into an exotic sculpture of petals around a unique center. When the petals drop, that center matures into the lotus pods that floral designers love to use in dried arrangements.

Like other hardy perennials, lotus plants enter dormancy in late summer or early fall. Their leaves fade or turn crispy, and you may think your plants are dying. No worries! They’re just getting their beauty rest. Repot them in fresh dirt next spring, and they’ll sprout up again, all fat and sassy and ready for another summer of spectacular blooms.

Maybe I had beginner’s luck this summer, but I will definitely be keeping my eye out for good deals on big containers and ordering more lotus tubers next spring. Give these easy beauties a try!

A big Thank You! to my nephew, Johnathon, whose photos really captured the play of light on the lotus bloom and leaf.

Growing Lotus outside the pond

Do I Need A Pond To Grow Lotus?

Most people think they must have a pond to plant a sacred lotus, the truth of the matter, is that you can grow lotus outside the pond, in a flower bed or on your deck or patio! Sacred lotus do not need a pond or moving water to grow and bloom.

What You Will Need

1.) You will need a container above or below ground.

2.)You will need a planting medium of part clay-part topsoil

3.) Access to water

4.) Sacred Lotus tuber

5.) Fertilizer

6.) Full sun

We recommend that you start your sacred lotus in the month of May. This will allow it enough time for growth and maturity to survive the winter.

If you would like to grow your lotus in a container in your flower bed, you must dig a hole a little larger than the container, then set the container in the ground. (You will need a container without holes) The following instructions are for container gardening above or below ground.


1.) Choose a wide shallow container for your lotus (the size of container will depend on the size of the lotus specimen that you purchase)

2.) Add loam and topsoil to your container

3.) Plant the lotus tuber in the soil, keeping growth tips exposed and being careful not to break or damage the growth tips

4.) Add water above the soil (water depth will depend on the size of the lotus specimen that you purchase)

5.) Place container OUTSIDE in FULL SUN! In a week or two your sacred lotus tuber will have sent up coin leaves to the surface of the water. DO NOT fertilize at this point.

6.) Once your coin leaves have turned to aerial leaves growing out of the water, you may fertilize your lotus. Use half the recommended dosage until your lotus is established. We recommend Landon Granular Fertilizer or PondTabs+Humates. We recommend that you fertilize every three weeks during the growing/blooming season (June through August)
This Exquisite of Bowl lotus is only 12 inches tall, the container we buried in the garden and added water almost every other day. We kept 2 inches of water above the soil in the pot. It is in full sun, the pot is 16 inches across and 7 inches deep. you would need a much larger container for a larger lotus as lotus use a lot of water. This size pot is great for the little lotus outside of a pond. You can see she is full of buds and ready to bloom!

Please Note:

The lotus you purchase from are true to name and certified by the registrar Dr. Diake Tian

Be assured that the sacred lotus that you order from will arrive with at least two growth tips

Pond lotus tubers can be stored in the crisper of your refrigerator until proper planting time in your area

Pond lotus can be over-wintered in their planting containers in moderate temperatures and colder climates. The tubers must stay protected in the pond or in the ground and remain under water a few inches below the freeze line, not at the bottom of the pond. Please see our article for overwintering pond lotus for complete instructions

Exquisite of Bowl Lotus next to soda can by Laura Bancroft
When using decorative pots / bowls, we put the planted lotus in a solid plastic pot, then place the planted lotus (in the plastic pot) inside the slightly larger decorative container. This makes it easier if you want to place the lotus in a shallow pond for winter, it is easy to remove the plastic pot from the decorative container and keep that decorative container empty over the winter without disturbing the plant, now safe in the pond.

Growing Lotus & Water Lilies

LOTUS PLANTS – Nelumbo Nucifer

Growing Lotus

The lotus flower is one of nature’s most beautiful creations. Nelumbo have existed on the earth for thousands of years and their distribution is widespread.They grow in a wide variety of climates from South America to Russia and everywhere between. In Asia countries such as India, China, Japan and Korea regard the lotus as sacred. In North America the lotus ranges from Southern California all the way to Canada. And in Australia you can grow lotus from the tropics of North Queensland to the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania.There are two types of lotus, the tropical and the perennial temperate varieties. Both species look almost the same, the main difference is the tropical type grows all year round and the perennial varieties go dormant during the cooler months and re-shoot in spring.

Garden Lotus

The lotus comes in a range of sizes with some varieties reaching 6 foot high (in dams and lakes) while other miniature varieties grow happily in a 6 inch bowl. In other words there’s a lotus to suit every situation. The lotus can be grown in a wide variety of ways from free standing bowls on your patio to a pond in your backyard, or a large earth lake on your property.


  1. Lotus need 6 hours sun a day.
  2. Keep Lotus away from flowing water or fountains.
  3. Don’t allow your pot or bowl to freeze solid in winter.
  4. Don’t submerge the growing leaves.
  5. Re-pot your lotus in a larger container.
  6. Protect your young lotus from birds & crustaceans.
  7. Fertilize in summer.


Lotus are perennial plants that shoot in spring, then flower during summer & autumn before going dormant in winter. Lotus need 6 hours of direct sunlight to flower, so when deciding on a position for your new plant, make sure it has plenty of sunshine. Secondly Lotus are water plants and if your growing them in a pot or bowl make sure you keep the water level 5cm over the soil, but DON’T submerge the leaves. Normal tap water is fine to use. It’s also important to re-pot your lotus into a larger pot or bowl after you purchase. We suggest bowls and pots wider than 40cm with a depth of 20cm for small varieties and 80cm wide with a depth of 30cm for larger varieties.

To re-pot your lotus carefully take the plant out of the nursery pot, DON’T disturb the ROOTS. Then place your plant in the middle of your new wide pot or bowl. Carefully put topsoil (good garden soil) around the lotus and fill the container 1/3rd with the soil, DON’T use potting mix. Then add 3cm of pea gravel over the soil and fill the pot or bowl with water, remember DON’T submerge growing leaves. Fertilize with special lotus satchels once a year between December and January. To fertilize push the satchel into the edge of the bowl or pot till it reaches the bottom of the soil. Now a guide of how much fertilizer to use is…

Bowl/Pot 40cm – 60cm wide: 1 satchel.
Bowl/Pot over 80cm wide: 2 satchels.

As outlined above in BOWLS & POTS, lotus need 6 hours of sun a day to flower.We recommend you re-pot your lotus into a larger pot before you place the plant into your pond. Follow the instructions in BOWLS & POTS on how to re-pot your plant.

Then place your lotus in a sunny spot in your pond. Make sure the water level covers the top of the pot, but DON’T submerge the leaves.

Keep your lotus well away from flowing water features or fountains.

To fertilize your lotus follow the instructions in BOWLS & POTS.

This is the most successful way to grow lotus. If the plant has the room to expand and spread, they will flower from December to early April. There are two ways you can plant your lotus in a dam or lake:

  1. Cut 150mm piece out of the side of the nursery pot, NOT THE BOTTOM. Then place the plant in a sunny in 30-50cm of still water near the edge of your dam. Push some mud from the dam against the side of the pot where section has been removed.
  2. Take lotus out of nursery pot very carefully trying not to disturb the roots. Place in a sunny spot in 30-50cm of still water near the edge of the dam. Push mud from dam around the plant.

VERY IMPORTANT: Place protective chicken wire around plant for the first 3-4 weeks if you have water birds, yabbies’ or crayfish in your dam. Your new lotus plant will follow the receding water line in your dam or lake once they get growing. Fertilize with special lotus satchels once a year between December and January.


Growing Water Lilies

Water lilies add beauty and tranquillity to any situation. They can be grown in a wide variety of ways from free standing bowls on your patio to a pond in your backyard or a large earth lake on your property.

The genus Nymphaea contains about 35 species of water lilies ranging from miniatures to large growing types.

All water lilies are rooted in soil in bodies of water producing large leaves that
float on the surface along with big beautiful flowers.

Water lilies require plenty of sun to produce lots of flowers and will grow in all of Australia’s climates. Some tropical species will even grow in Tasmania.

The colours of the flowers range from soft hues to brilliant primaries with hundreds of different combinations and shades.

At the Blue Lotus Water Garden we pride ourselves on having the largest range of water lilies in Australia.


Garden Water Lilies

  1. Water lilies need more than 4 hours a day of sunshine to flower.
  2. Tropical lilies need full sun all day.
  3. Keep lilies away from flowing water & fountains.
  4. Protect lilies from birds & crustaceans.
  5. Don’t fertilize in winter.
  6. Protect tropical lilies from frost.
  7. If growing tropical water lilies, follow extra instructions at bottom of page.


Water lilies are perennial plants that shoot in spring, then flower during late spring till autumn before going dormant in winter. Water lilies love the sun and need a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight to flower. So when deciding on a position for your new plant, make sure it has plenty of sunshine.
Water lilies like 15cm-45cm of water over the growing crown depending on the size and variety.

It’s very important to re-pot your water lily into a larger pot or bowl every 1-2 years. The best time to re-pot is during spring when the plant starts to sprout. We suggest your pot or bowl is wider than 30cm.

Carefully remove plant from old pot or bowl and the trim rhizome to one or two growing points, trim back the roots. Place 1 satchel of granulated waterlily fertilizer in bottom of your new container before you put the trimmed plant in. Then surround the plant with good garden soil with some clay mixed through. (The soil should have a pH between 6.5 – 8.0pH.). DO NOT USE POTTING MIX.

Then cover soil with 2cm of coarse sand or pea gravel. Place your re-potted lily in a sunny spot and fill with tap water 15cm – 45cm over growing crown depending on size of plant.

Remember to fertilize once a year with special waterlily granulated fertilizer by placing one satchel in the bottom of pot when repotting or push into soil at the start of the growing season. DO NOT FERTILIZE WHILE DORMANT IN WINTER.

Best varieties for Small Bowls: Helvola(cream), Little Sue(autumn), Tina (purple).


Place your new lily pot and all in the sunniest spot of your pond away from any fountains or flowing water features. Water lilies like 15cm-45cm of water over the growing crown depending on the size and variety. If your pond is too deep, elevate the pot.Re-pot your lily every 1-2 years and fertilize once a year. Follow the directions in POTS & BOWLS above.


This is the most successful way to grow water lilies. If the plant has the room to expand and spread, they will flower from early November – April. Find a sunny spot on your dam or lake that receives a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight a day and away from flowing water.

To plant your waterlily, carefully take it out of the pot and place it in 30-60cm of water near the edge of the dam or lake. Then push mud from the dam around the plant.

VERY IMPORTANT – Place protective chicken wire around plant until it becomes established to protect it from water birds & yabbies.

Fertilize with special water lily fertilizer once a year in spring buy pushing satchel or tablet into soil next to plant.


Additional to the tips above its VERY IMPORTANT you follow these extra tips to help keep tropical water lilies healthy in temperate climates. Growing tropical plants including water lilies is a challenge in cooler climates. Tropical lilies have a 25% mortality rate in temperate regions.

Make sure you place or plant your tropical lily in a position that receives FULL SUN ALL DAY LONG.

During winter move any tropical lilies planted in free-standing bowls or pots under cover. FROST CAN KILL THEM.

It’s very important you protect dormant corms from ducks and other water birds. This is the biggest cause of mortality with tropical lilies.If planting your tropical lily in a pot or bowl. Use a large container over 80cm wide. The bigger the area of water, the less it cools overnight meaning the plant will do better.

Fertilize twice a year, once in mid-January and again in mid-February. To fertilize use special water lily granulated fertilizer and place one satchel in the bottom of your pot or bowl when repotting. Or push into the soil next to the plant at the start of the growing season. DO NOT FERTILIZE WHILE DORMANT IN WINTER.

Advice on how to grow


Little changed from the Early Cretaceous period, 125 million years ago, water lilies grow from rhizomes, much like iris, but unlike iris they are rooted in the bottom of shallow ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers. Hardy water lilies will grow anywhere in Europe, and will survive winters even in northern Canada.

Choosing the Right Variety

Beyond aesthetics, the other important criterion to consider when choosing a water lily variety is the depth of the pond. The planting depth is the distance between the mud in which the lily is planted, be it in a pot or on the pond bottom, and the surface. We have classified our water lilies into 5 size categories that correspond to depth.

Planting depth per size (depth is determined from top of the soil to top of the water):

– Mini: 10 to 25 cm

-Small: 20 to 40 cm

– Medium: 20 to 70 cm

– Large: 40 to 100 cm

– Extra large: 40 to 120 cm

Large lilies should be planted at a depth of 40 to 100 cm; medium lilies at a depth of 20 to 60 cm, and small lilies at a depth of 20 to 40 cm. Lilies classified as very small or very large may be planted in as little as 10 cm or as much as 1.5 m of water, respectively. If your pond is very deep, or too deep for a small or medium lily, you can easily raise the level of the planting container using bricks or cinderblocks.

Planting Water Lilies

In Europe, hardy water lilies may be planted from March through November, and they will flower off and on from May through October.

1) Choose the right spot : water lilies need full sun. A minimum of 6 to 7 hours a day of sun will ensure that your lilies flower to their full potential. Don’t forget to take into account the surrounding vegetation so that colours and bloom times are complementary.

2) Choose the ideal planting container and earth : In our exhibition ponds we use 14L black, round planting containers with no holes. These are made to our specifications and are available for sale through this website. There is nothing wrong with using the perforated “aquatic planting” containers found in garden centres, but they offer no special advantages to the plants and they make division difficult (and they usually break during division). We’ve found that 14L pots hold about as much material as one person can safely manipulate. The ideal soil to use is a simple clay-rich topsoil. Avoid compost and other light planting mixtures.

3) Planting water lilies:

The rhizome should be planted more or less horizontally, such that the stems are at a 90 degree angle with the soil. The crown of the rhizome, the point where the leaves and stems protrude, should remain at or near the surface of the soil. Make sure to water down the pot before submerging it to eliminate air bubbles. Insert three fertilizer tablets a finger-length into the soil in a triangle around the rhizome.

Caring for Water Lilies

In order to maintain your water lilies you will need to fertilize them once a year (if they are planted in containers) and divide them every three years. Neglect in either of these areas can lead to diminution of leaf size and a lack of flowers, and in the worst case the death of the water lily from overcrowding.

Fertilizing : We recommend using a chemical fertilizer in tablet form. Organic fertilizers can in some cases exacerbate certain diseases. The tablet form allows you to insert the fertilizer into the soil, where it will not diffuse into the pondwater. We use and sell a nitrogen-rich formula of Osmocote in tablet form. These have the advantage of being slow-release (application once per year), whereas the tablets marketed as specifically for aquatic plants need to be reapplied every 4 to 8 weeks.

Dividing : Every three or four years you will need to remove the lilies from their planting container and divide them so that they don’t choke each other out. Dividing lilies requires some work, but it’s not complicated. Isolate and remove the rhizomes. Keep any healthy rhizome that has a crown pushing leaves and buds. Cut away excess rhizome, leaving 6-8 cm of rhizome behind the crown. Replant these in fresh soil. The best time to divide is in April or September, but it can be done at almost any time.

Water Lily Troubleshooting

Fungus-based Diseases

– Brown or red spots on the pads usually indicate the presence of Ramularia nymphaearum. Affected leaves should be removed, and the remaining leaves should be treated with a fungicide. This disease is not fatal, but it should be treated as it is unsightly and can act as a gateway for more serious problems.

– Crown rot, caused by Phytopthora, is the most serious disease to afflict a water lily. Symptoms include a uniform and premature yellowing of the leaves, which then detach from the rhizome. On close inspection, the rhizome will smell like sour milk. If the disease is not treated, the principal rhizome will die. Powerful antifungal products exist today that will clear phytopthora while reinforcing the plant’s immune system to prevent subsequent infections. Manufacturer instructions should be followed closely. Feel free to contact us for more information


– The black water lily aphid (Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae) can be a nuisance beginning in early summer, and it will attack other aquatic plants as well. Aphids pierce the leaves and stems of plants in order to eat the sap. If left untreated they will cause leaves to yellow and can render the lily vulnerable to other infections. Aphids can be drowned by dousing the lilies with the garden hose, or by spritzing them them with any viscous mixture, such as water and liquid soap. There are also a number of effective treatments available at your local garden centre.

– The China Mark Moth (Nymphula nymphaeata) is easily recognizable because the caterpillars will cut out pieces of the pad in order to make their cocoons

– The water lily leaf beetle (Galerucella nymphaeae) is 5 mm in size and black in colour. It carves unsightly trails over the lily pads

Both the china mark and the leaf beetle can be effectively treated with products containing the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The bacteria disrupt the insects’ digestive sytems,causing death within a few days. It is sold at most garden centres under various brand names

Other pests include Coypu (Myocastor coypus), which are aquatic rat-like creatures the size of small dogs. Coypu were introduced to Europe from South America, and they need to eat 25% of their body weight per day in aquatic plants in order to survive. They pose a problem mainly for those with natural ponds and waterways. Crayfish can also harm water lilies, as can turtles and certain kinds of plant-eating carp.

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A Lotus seems to be the plant that every water garden owner yearns for. They tend to be sun loving, dramatic plants that can be the exotic centerpiece of your water garden.

The species known as Nelumbo nucifer (AKA the “sacred lotus”) is native to The Philippines, Egypt, Australia, and the Orient. The Nelumbo lutea is a Native American Species. Both have many different varieties with varying sizes, colors, and bloom sizes.

They are a perennial plant that needs a sunny warm home. Lotuses like 5 to 6 hours of sunlight a day and a water temperature of between 75 to 87 degrees.

Most likely you will receive your lotus as a tuber. The tuber needs to be handled carefully. The tips of the tuber (or eyes) are where the leaves will grow. If the tips are broken off, there is a good chance that the tuber will not grow (sometimes they do grow another tip).

The tuber needs to be kept warm, about 75 degrees.

You will need to pick a pot to plant your tuber in and keep in mind that a lotus will grow to the size of the pot. Choose a deeper pot so that they are less likely to jump over the side and grow where you don’t want them.

This is how I like to plant my lotus:

  • Put a couple inches of sand in the bottom of your pot. Add a couple inches of top soil. The depth depends on the size of your pot. Do not use potting soil. The light weight potting soil will float out of your container. The best is soil with clay in it.
  • Make a slight indentation for your tuber. Lay your tuber roots down and growing tips up. The roots will expand as it takes root, pulling the tuber into place.
  • Lightly cover the tuber with more soil. Do not push down on the dirt, like you do with other planting. You might break the eyes off.
  • Slowly add water, not too much, you want wet mud. No standing water on top of the mud.
  • Keep the planted tuber warm. If your house is too cool, a trick is to set the pot on a heating pad set on low.
  • Sunlight is not important until leaves appear. When you spot the leaves lying flat on the dirt then make sure the pot is getting all the sunlight possible. (8 plus hours per day)
  • As the leaves start to grow, a few inches of water can be added.

When you are ready to move your lotus outside to your pond, the first thing is to make sure that your water temperature is at least 70 degrees. Add more sand around the lotus, making sure the soil is covered before you submerge your pot into your pond. Some people like to use gravel. Others use kitty litter, but with all the additives, I don’t like to do that.

Your planted lotus should be located in a sunny spot in your pond, in relatively still water. Your container should be 6 to 12 inches below the surface of the water.

Lotuses don’t start blooming as early in the season as water lilies. A lotus needs several weeks of hot weather to start blooming. Sometimes they won’t bloom until their second summer.

But when they do bloom…. WOW! For me, they’re incredible.

Lotus plants are a beautiful addition to a backyard pond

Question: My husband built us a good-sized backyard pond a few years ago. We have some fish in it and a few plants. I’m interested in adding some lotus plants to the pond. Will they survive the winter here? How do I care for them?

Answer: Aquatic lotus plants ( Nelumbo nucifera) are striking additions to a backyard pond. These Asian perennials grow much taller than water lilies, with flowering stems and leaves that eventually extend several feet above the waterline. Even dwarf varieties grow to a height of 3 or 4 feet.

Lotus flowers are typically pink or white, though yellow and magenta cultivars exist. The flowers are fragrant and bloom in July, August and September. Each flower can be up to a foot across.

Because of the plant’s large stature, make sure you have plenty of room before including lotus plants in your pond. Also, lotus can become invasive if allowed to spread to natural waterways. Be sure your lotus is confined to your pond, and never plant tubers in the wild.

Preferring full sun, lotus plants will gladly take over the pond if not contained. To control the spread of lotus, plant the long tuberous roots in a large and wide, but shallow, container without holes. A 24- to 36-inch diameter black plastic tub works great. Fill the pot with about 6 to 8 inches of garden soil or topsoil (do not use peat-based potting soil as it’s too light and will float away) and plant the tubers into the soil. They should not be planted deeply.

Set the container into the pond so the top of the soil is 6 to 10 inches below the water’s surface. You can put the container on top of rocks or bricks to raise it up off the bottom of the pond, if necessary.

The plants may take a year or two to produce their first blooms, but the wait is worth it. Lotus flowers are spectacular.

Lotus plants are fairly hardy and typically don’t have a problem overwintering in Pennsylvania. However, to give them some added protection, you can lower the pot into deeper water for the winter and then raise it back up again when spring arrives.

Lotus go dormant in the winter, and the stems and leaves will turn brown and die back every autumn. Because of this, early each spring, you’ll have to cut back the dead growth to an inch or two above the waterline. The seed pods are quite decorative and can be used in dried flower arrangements.

Every few years, your lotus will need to be divided and repotted. This is best done in the spring. Simply lift out the pot, pull the tubers out, and cut them apart. Replant some of them in the same pot, using new garden soil. You can use the remaining tubers to start new pots or share with friends.

The flowers, tubers and young leaves and stems of lotus plants are edible and are often used in various ethnic cuisines.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., Third Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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    Genus Nelumbo; species N. nucifera, N. lutea, and hybrids

    Lotus are beautiful and surprisingly winter hardy aquatic plants. Here are a few care tips:

    Light and heat

    Lotus will handle some shade, especially in warmer climates, but to grow and bloom their best they prefer full sunlight. The main exception is in hot desert climates, where some shade cloth is desirable. Lotus require temperatures of at least 75 degrees F. for at least three months in summer to do well.


    Standard lotus cultivars can grow 5’ or taller. In order to do this, and to also maximize the size and frequency of bloom, they should be potted into a container a minimum of 2’ across. A container of 3’-5’ across will create a striking display specimen. While some people use plastic or ceramic pots on their deck or patio, others use bathtubs or small pre-formed ponds in the landscape, or create a header pond above the main pond, fill it with pea gravel and lotus, and use it as a beautiful plant filter for the main pond. If using lotus in the main pond, a container without holes, and much wider than it is high, is best. Use a good garden soil with a low organic content, either sandy or clay or anything between (a mix of clay and sand is ideal). Do not use a commercial house plant or garden mix, as the ingredients float. Only 4” of soil is required, leaving room for the soil to push upward as it is filled with runners and tubers. Aquatic containers for lotus are available that are about 2’ across and only 7”-10” deep.

    Most dwarf lotus cultivars are capable of getting 3’ to 4’ tall. They can tolerate smaller containers, but will also perform better in containers about 24” across.

    Moving lotus into a larger pot is most easily accomplished in the spring when lotus are just waking up. However, if you just purchased an actively growing lotus, the best time to up-pot it is now, because a larger plant performs and over-winters better; if you don’t do it now you may never get around to it. Just place the lotus and its pot inside the larger pot. Slip your hand inside the pot between the pot and the root mass of the lotus. While gently gripping the root mass and pulling on it with one hand, use your other hand at the opposite edge of the smaller pot to gently lift and draw away that edge of the smaller pot. This will effectively separate the lotus root mass and soil from the pot with minimal trauma. Place the mass in the center of the larger pot, put the fertilizer around the root mass on the bottom of the pot; gently fill in the pot with soil around the root mass so that the soil level in the new pot is about the same as in the old pot. If some of the leaves don’t stand as upright as before, you may stabilize them with string if you like, but the new leaves that grow will be vertical and stable.

    Setting lotus loose in ponds

    Lotus love this and it works well if you don’t mind the entire pond filling with lotus, which is what will most likely happen. For a more balanced pond with open water areas and/or other pond plants (including waterlilies), keep lotus contained. Containers must have no holes, and the occasional runner may still “jump the pot” and need trimming.


    Use a good aquatic plant fertilizer, either fast or slow release, and follow the instructions. Because lotus grows vigorously, use double the amount of fertilizer per gallon of soil that the label recommends for hardy waterlilies. In the spring, lotus will make floating leaves first, then standing leaves. It is best to begin fertilizing when the lotus is starting to make standing leaves, because it is hard to over-fertilize a fast growing lotus, but it is easy to over-fertilize them when they are just beginning to sprout. In the autumn, stop fertilizing so that lotus can exhaust the fertilizer in their pot in preparation for dormancy.

    Water depth

    The soil in the container should have at least 2” to 4” of water over the top of it, so that the soil is always under water. Taller standard lotus can grow in water up to 18” deep or even deeper, but it takes more energy, and in spring and in cool climates lotus benefit from the extra warmth in shallow water. Dwarf lotus should be grown in water between 2” and 12” deep.

    Water chemistry

    Lotus are extremely adaptable to different water chemistries. However, if your water source has very hard and alkaline water full of minerals, growing lotus in above ground pots can result in a harmful accumulation of minerals in the water over time; when water evaporates, the minerals stay behind, and more are added each time water is added. To prevent this, it is important to occasionally flush out (over-fill) the pot with fresh water while re-filling to replace evaporation. This is less likely to be a problem in a larger pond, but occasional over-filling may still be beneficial. Lotus don’t tolerate much over 1000 ppm water hardness.


    When pruning or trimming, never cut flower or leaf stems below the water level, as roots and tubers use stems (even dead ones) to help provide oxygen. When lowering lotus for winter, prune after lowering.

    Living with koi and goldfish

    Goldfish are not normally a problem with lotus. Larger koi can disturb the soil, and even pick on the floating leaves. We generally recommend using enough plants in a koi pond that koi do not focus all their energy on just a few plants, and that usually works. You can also place the pots close to the surface and place rocks on the soil that are too large for the koi to move easily. For extremely large and determined koi, rocking off a corner for the lotus will work.


    Lotus can over-winter in ponds even in Michigan or Minnesota, so long as the tubers are protected from ice. In colder climates (zone 5 or lower), this is usually provided by dropping the lotus to the bottom of a deeper pond (below the frost depth), then raising it again in the spring; or move into a frost-protected garage. In zones 6 or 7, we recommend mulching around above-ground pots in winter; pots in even a shallow pond are fine. In zones 8 or above (and often in zone 7), even lotus in above ground pots may be left outside unprotected. In all zones, our lotus will go dormant in winter; they form overwintering tubers with growing points that send out runners each spring.

    Tropical lotus

    There are also lotus adapted exclusively to tropical climates. These tropical lotus do not require a winter dormant period, but can only grow where it is warm year round. We do not sell these varieties, and to our knowledge neither does anyone else in the U.S.


    Insects may differ according to geography. Because lotus leaves have fine hairs, insecticides (even organic ones) with oils or detergents will harm (even kill) lotus. For aphids, white fly and spider mites, use diatomaceous earth powder, either dry or mixed into a water solution and sprayed on (the systemic pesticide Marathon also works extremely well, but should not be used with any aquatic animals and is not labeled for aquatic use). For China mark moth, which takes big chunks out of the floating leaves, use Dipel or another brand of Bt for caterpillars. Once several standing leaves are up you may remove all floating leaves, which eliminates mark moth as a problem and also slows down aphids. If slugs or snails can get on your lotus, try moving them farther from the pond edge.


    When lotus just begin to show leaf spikes in the spring, their tubers may be carefully divided for making new pots. This may also be necessary every few years for older pots that are overcrowded and have exhausted their soil. The growing points on lotus tubers are very fragile and easily snap off. While there are usually a couple of growing points on each tuber, if you break them all off the tuber will not sprout, no matter how big or fat it is.

    Springtime hints

    Lotus love warmth. If you pull your lotus container out of the pond and place it in full sun in the spring (after frost danger is over), the lotus will grow faster because it will warm up more. Keep some water over the soil, and return it to the pond by early summer, once warm weather is here to stay. For even more accelerated growth, you may cheat by placing a small wattage (say 50 or 100 watt) submersible aquarium heater in the container for a month or so. This will cost almost nothing to run and will really speed up the growth. With dwarf lotus, you may even use a 70 watt ThermoPlanter for a container, and leave it in the pond. The ThermoPlanter is an electrically heated aquatic pot (about 2.75 gallons capacity). It is thermostatically controlled and inexpensive to operate.


    In various cultures, most of the lotus plant is eaten, including the tuber, seed, stem, and leaf. Leaves are also used as wraps in cooking. While the tuber of ornamental lotus may be eaten, various cultivars grown specifically for tuber production are superior for this purpose.

    Article supplied by Oregon Aquatics, Inc. and Southwest Aquatics, LLC.

    Lotus Plant Care – Learn How To Grow A Lotus Plant

    The lotus (Nelumbo) is an aquatic plant with interesting leaves and stunning flowers. It’s most commonly grown in water gardens. It is very invasive, so care has to be taken when growing it, or it will quickly take over its environment. Keep reading to learn more lotus plant information, including lotus plant care and how to grow a lotus plant.

    How to Grow a Lotus Plant

    Growing lotus plants requires a certain amount of diligence. The plants will spread quickly and easily if grown in the soil, so it’s best to plant them in containers. Make sure your container has no drainage holes – lotus roots can easily escape through them,

    and since your container will be underwater, drainage is a non-issue.

    If you’re growing lotus plants from rhizomes, fill a container with garden soil and lightly cover the rhizomes, leaving the pointed tips slightly exposed. Submerge the container in water so that the surface is about 2 inches above the soil line. You may have to put a layer of gravel on top of the soil to keep it from floating away.

    After a few days, the first leaf should emerge. Keep raising the level of the water to match the length of the stems. Once the weather outside is at least 60 F. (16 C.) and the stems extend several inches, you can move your container outdoors.

    Sink the container in your outdoor water garden no more than 18 inches from the surface. You may have to raise it up on bricks or cinder blocks.

    Lotus Plant Care

    Caring for lotus plants is relatively easy. Place them in a spot that receives full sun and fertilize them moderately.

    Lotus tubers can’t survive freezing. If your pond does not freeze solid, your lotus should be able to overwinter if placed deeper than the freeze line. If you’re worried about freezing, you can dig up your lotus tubers and overwinter them indoors in a cool place.

    Beautiful, tropical looking, it’s actually easy to grow a lotus plant. Cold hardy to zone 5, you can grow and leave a lotus outdoors in Chicago!

    How To Grow Lotus

    Lotus flower colors include white, red, pink, yellow, lavender and blue. Blooming from early to late summer, they are one of the most majestic aquatic plants you can grow. Lotus is not surprisingly the national flower of India.

    Lotus plants are closely related to water lilies but distinct from lilies in that the flowers and foliage are held on stalks above the water whereas the flowers and foliage pads of water lilies float on the water’s surface (with the exception of tropical water lily flowers which also bloom above the water line).

    Lotus is hardy from zones 5-10 which covers most of North America.

    Lotus flowers are available in many colors.

    Growing Lotus In Ponds Vs. Containers

    It’s best to keep lotus planted in a container, even if you plan on placing it at the bottom of a pond. This way you can move it at will and fertilize it much easier.

    Soil And Sun Requirements

    Lotus plants need at least 6 hours of sun per day to bloom properly and thrive.

    For soil you can buy soil made especially for pond plants, or use a heavy topsoil or clay. Do not use garden soil or anything with peat moss or too much organic material because some of this material will float in the water and soil too high in organic matter will tend to make your newly planted seeds or tubers rot.

    You can however use a small amount of compost in your soil. Try a mix of 80% clay or topsoil with 20% composted soil. Blend well before adding water.

    How To Plant Lotus Tubers

    The bottom part of a live lotus plant including the roots is called a tuber. When you purchase a live lotus plant online or from a mail-order nursery, you will get a tuber or tubers.

    The tubers will look somewhat wilted and half-dead but this is common and it’s easy to bring them to life. Be sure to plant them as soon as they arrive or as soon as you bring them home from a local nursery.

    The parts that look like lobster claws growing from the tuber are called ‘growth tips’. This is where leaves and flower stems grow from.

    Note: Be very delicate with the growth tips when planting as breaking or damaging them can kill your new lotus plant.

    Planting Procedure:

    1. Use a water-tight container without drainage holes. This will be your planting container.
    2. Fill container with at least 4 inches of soil.
    3. Fill with enough water just to wet soil (no standing water).
    4. Gently place tuber on the surface of the wet soil.
    5. Now cover tuber with a small amount of soil, about 4 inches, with growth tips pointing upwards. The growth tips should remain slightly above the soil with the rest of the tuber buried. (leave growth tips slightly out of the soil).
    6. Cover the soil with a thin layer of sand or gravel. This keeps the tuber in place and the water from becoming muddy when you place this growing container into a larger pond or container pond.
    7. After you have your tuber planted in wet soil, fill with more water to cover the tuber above the tips. The growth tips should be covered with water at all times, as water evaporates, replace daily or every other day with more water.
    8. Place in a sunny spot.

    Once you have some aerial leaf growth (leaves that stick up above the water line) you can transfer your growing container into a pond or a larger container such as a half whiskey barrel or large ceramic container without drainage holes (you can fill any drainage holes with silicone caulking).

    How To Grow Lotus From Seed

    How To Get More Blooms

    Proper planting is important.

    Make certain your lotus is receiving at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.

    Fertilizing is necessary for prolific blooms. Wail until you have some aerial pads (leaves sticking out of the water) before applying fertilizer for the first time.

    A “10-14-8” or similar fertilizer made specifically for aquatic pond plants is recommended for the best looking foliage and flower production. Pond plant fertilizer usually comes in the form of small tabs which you push down into the soil of your potted lotus plant. Always follow the package directions to ensure best results.

    Where To Buy Lotus Plants

    You can find lotus plants at your local water garden nurseries, and online retailers.

    I provided links below for everything mentioned in this article for your convenience.

    As a disclaimer, our website is an Amazon affiliate. This in no way affects our recommendations to our valued readers.

    Besides local nurseries, Amazon, Ebay and Etsy, I would also recommend Pond Megastore if you live in the U.S. and Canada, and Waterside Nurseries if you are in the U.K.

    Growing Lotus Resources


    ‘Pink China’ lotus seeds (

    ‘Sapphire Blue’ lotus seeds (

    Assorted colors pack of lotus seeds (

    Tubers (live plants):

    Oriental lotus tubers ‘Beautiful Dancer’ pink flowering live plants (

    Red flowering lotus tubers, live plants (

    Fertilizer for best blooms:

    Pond plant fertilizer 10-14-8 (

    Planting containers and growing media:

    Potting soil for pond plants (

    19.5″ pot planter for growing lotus (

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