Lotus Planting & Growing Instructions
Written by: TWL “Dusty Culp”
Lotuses are water plants that have their leaves and flowers rise well above the waters surface from just a couple of inches to sometimes as much as 6 to 7 feet. The leaves are green and round and the flower usually rises above the leaf height. Lotus blooms come in colors of red, pink, yellow, white or a mixture of some or all the colors. Lotus plants are classified in basically four size categories: Bowl Lotus (very small), miniature, medium or large. Make sure to consider the size when planting a lotus tuber. TWL has placed a brief description by each lotus photo stating the size, pot size, spread and water depth of each.
Lotuses are hardy water plants that once established can take the cold, as long as the rhizome or tuber doesn’t freeze. The lotus tuber will live through the cold winters as far North as Alaska. The lotus tuber will break dormancy once it is in sun, water and temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Lotus tubers can be planted once all hard freezes are gone or in warmer climates later winter or early spring. Lotus plants will usually grow for about 4-to-6 months throughout the spring and summer months. In late summer or early fall the lotuses’ leaves will start to look as though they are sick or burning. Do not be alarmed when this occurs. This is one of the life cycles of the lotus. It is a sign of the lotus going dormant for the winter. Lotus plants like direct sunlight in cooler or moderate climates. If one resides in a hot climate you may have to shade the plant a bit when temperatures rise above 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Texas Water Lilies can only ship the lotus tuber from January to the beginning of April while the lotus is in its dormant “Tuber” form. Once the lotus starts to grow, it becomes too fragile and finicky to ship bare root.
Texas Water Lilies is the largest grower and supplier of the lotus in the U.S. When April arrives, and although we state on our website we are out of lotus; well, it’s not exactly true. We have thousands, but it’s too late to ship. Lotus aquatic plants are shipped bare root. They are placed into a large zip-lock bag with added peat-moss for insulation and cushion. Then they will be put into a small shipping box, about the size of a shoe box or a little larger. Newspaper is utilized around the zip-lock bag for insulation and for a cushion.
Texas Water Lilies ships using US Postal Service priority mail for a 2-to-3-day service. We usually ship Monday-Wednesday so packages are not held up over the weekend. TWL takes great pride in the growing, picking, packing and shipping process. We grow all of our own plants and pick them fresh daily, keeping the water lilies at room temperature (warm in the winter and refrigerated in the summer months). We hand deliver the lotus tubes every afternoon to the local post office for shipping, to ensure the freshest plant. Once the lotus tuber is received, you can do one of three things:
The first and best thing to do is to plant the tuber in the place it is going to be planted and grown.
Second, if the planting area is not ready, the lotus tuber can be left inside the zip-lock bag the way that it was shipped. Store the bag in a cool, dry, dark place. A closet inside the house would be the most appropriate place. The tuber will last a couple of weeks stored like this.
Third, once the lotus tuber is received, it can be floated in a large no-hole container inside. One may use the actual growing container in which the lotus will be planted or a large mixing bowl from the kitchen. Place the container near a window for light and sun. Fill the bowl or pot up almost full of water. Then simply put the lotus tuber on top of the water. The tuber will float on the waters surface. Change water every 3-to-7 days. The lotus tuber will start breaking dormancy and some green leaves may open. This is okay just as long the tuber is planted within a couple of weeks once it breaks dormancy.
Never leave tuber totally exposed to direct sunlight without having planted it and never leave the lotus tuber outside when temperatures drop below freezing unless planted.
Most lotus like direct sunlight except in the hotter climates where shade is sometimes a blessing.
Lotus tubers can be planted two different ways:
First, if the tuber is going to be placed in an earth-bottom pond and lotus is wanted to take over the entire pond from 1-to-4 inches of water depth, simply plant the tuber in the bottom of the earthen pond.
Second, and as most of our customers prefer, the tuber can be planted in a container, pot, ornamental face or bowl, whiskey barrel, etc. Lotus tubers can be planted in almost any type of no-hole container. Make sure to ALWAYS plant the lotus tuber in a sturdy NO-HOLE CONTAINER. If the tuber is planted in a regular pot with holes it will find the holes and come out of the pot, which could cause a mess or cause lotus to not perform at all. This container you use needs to be at least 2 gallons on up to a 50-gallon or bigger depending on the size of lotus plant.
We have used 2-gallon mixing bowls from the dollar store before, for the smaller varieties, but they are not usually made of high quality so they are only good for about one year.
Another container that we use a lot for the bigger varieties is large black cattle feeder containers, which were used to haul molasses for cattle to eat. They can probably hold about 30 to 40 gallons. These containers can be seen out in the country where ranchers and cattle owners use them and are usually more than happy to get rid of some of the extra. Horse feeding containers can also be used; as well as: oil catch pans, old large kitchen pots, regular five-gallon buckets, or what ever you come up with. Just remember to be sure that they are sturdy and will not crack or break while the lotus plant is growing.
One may also purchase a lotus pot from about any water garden store. We carry the lotus containers that are specifically designed for growing lotus. Whatever type of container is used, it needs to be at least 6 inches deep and at least 12 inches wide.
Take the lotus-growing container and put in the dirt. We use regular old dirt, topsoil, yard dirt, ditch dirt, etc. The best dirt to get is river bottom dirt, which usually will have a lot of nutrients in it. One can usually get free dirt somewhere like in a yard, or near a ditch, or construction site, etc. The best ratio is about 60% clay and 40% sand, but almost any type of soil will work. The more sand in the dirt, the more it will have to be fertilized. Place the dirt in the container almost filling it up but leave about 1-to-4 inches from the top depending on the size of the container. Then, install the container in the pond. Be sure to place the container in the pond before adding water because it will sure be a lot lighter. Once water is over the dirt go ahead and plant the tuber.
The lotus tuber should be planted in the horizontal position with the cut part or back part of the tuber next to the wall of the container letting the beginning, or growing point, of the stem go in the direction of the center of the container. The tuber should be eased down into the mud just enough to anchor it—the higher, the better. Leave the growing points sticking straight up. Ideally, one will have the main part to the tuber submerged in the soil and the growing tips exposed just above the soils surface. The water surface level should be just above the growing tip, if the lotus tuber is desired to break dormancy as soon as possible. Once the plant breaks dormancy and starts showing leaves, the pot container may be eased down to the proper growing depth of the plant.
Smaller varieties will grow in 1-to-6 inches of water. Medium and large varieties will grow in 4 inches to 3 feet of water depending on the variety. Never plant the tuber at the bottom of the container. Some people simply place the lotus tube on top of the soil and use a rock or brick to anchor the lotus tuber down. If the tuber is not properly anchored by the soil or weight, it will float.
It is not recommend fertilizing the lotus before it breaks dormancy and starts to grow. Add the fertilizer pond tabs once the leaves grow to about the size of a human hand. The rule of thumb is one tab per gallon but for lotus it is recommended to use 2 tabs for smaller varieties and 4 tabs for larger varieties every 3-to-4 weeks.
Pond tabs are specifically made for aquatic plants. Any old type of fertilizer is not recommended. We have tried that and lost out big time and I mean big time, loosing entire crops using the wrong fertilizer. Some other no-no’s are over-fertilizing and fertilizing the lotus before breaking dormancy. They just are too finicky and fragile while in the dormant state.
Okay, now you have a growing lotus. The lotus leaves are going to grow well above the water surface and the blooms will rise above the leaves. When the lotus is growing, a fertilization and bug control program is in order. Fertilize every 3-to-4 weeks while the lotus is growing. Lotus leaves attract aphids and caterpillars. So we dust our lotus plants with Sevin Dust Bug Killer. Frequent light applications are the way to go. Do not ever put liquid spray on the lotus leaves. This will fry the leaves just like pouring gasoline on them.
When lotus leaves grow, it is really cool to spray some water drops on the leave and watch the water bead up. It will look as though the water has turned into mercury.
The plant may need some shade if located in a real hot climate. Once temperatures get above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the leaves do not like it if in direct sunlight. The lotus will usually grow until the end of summer. Then the plant will appear to be dieing or drying up. Don’t be alarmed when this occurs. It’s just one of the lotus’s life cycles. They need to go dormant to survive. At this time is when the lotus starts “tubering” up for the winter.
When the leaves go down, all that will be left is a lotus pod where the flower used to bloom. People use the lotus pod for all kinds of decorations. If lucky, there will be some fertile seeds left in the center of the pod. One can do all sort of neat things with the seeds, Oriental Tee's, Indian Bread, or one can grow the seed out for next year. No telling what you are going to get, maybe a new variety.
People eat the lotus tubes as well. Every spring, the lotus should be repotted. There is nothing like virgin soil and the root system of the leftover lotus will have taken over the entire pot causing the lotus just not perform well unless it is repotted yearly.
Good luck with your lotus and if you have any further questions please email us at email@example.com or call us at 936-931-9880.