Care & Feeding of Bowl Lotus

About Bowl Lotus:  Bowl lotus are the miniature lotus of the Nelumbo family.

Handling:  Lotus tubers are shipped while in dormancy.  The tubers are very fragile and must be handled with care.  DO NOT remove any wilted or dead material from the tuber.  This will protect your lotus from unwanted water seeping in through broken areas, which can kill your lotus.  Handle the lotus tuber like it is blown glass – the growing tips must not be broken or disturbed.

Storage:  The best thing to do with the tuber is to begin breaking dormancy immediately; however, the tuber can be stored for a couple of weeks if necessary.  The tuber can be stored in a cool, dark place wrapped in damp newspaper.  Be sure the tuber does not dry out or freeze, both will kill the tuber.

Breaking Dormancy:  The tuber needs water, warmth, and sun to break out of dormancy and begin to grow.  To break dormancy:

  1. Float the tuber in a container of well-aerated water in sunlight.  Water around 70 degrees Fahrenheit leads to a higher success rate.
  2. Change the water every 3 to 7 days.
  3. When the first leaf or two opens and the growth points have developed some short roots, it is time to plant the lotus.

Planting:  Lotus can be planted in almost any sturdy container that does not have a hole.  It is recommended that the container not have an interior lip or rim.  Emerging leaves can hit the container lip, stop growing, and die.  A “good rule of thumb” for a lotus container is that the depth is half the diameter.  For example, if the pot is 6″ deep, it should have a 12″ diameter.  Shallow wide pots are best for lotus.  To plant:

  1. Lotus will grow in as little as 4″ to 6″ of soil.  Lotus will grow in any dirt, from clay to good garden dirt, or a mixture of the two; however good garden soil is recommended.  Do not fill the container with soil.  Leave at least a couple of inches at the top of the container.  Wet the soil.
  2. Place the cut end of the tuber against the side of the pot and the growing end toward the center.  Make sure the growing tips are oriented up to the sun.
  3. Make a shallow trench in the soil with your finger.
  4. Carefully, place the tuber in the shallow trench and place a small rock on the tuber.  The goal is to have the tuber in contact with the soil, not floating.  DO NOT cover the growing tips with dirt.
  5. Add 1″ to 2″ of water over the tuber.  The tuber and growing tips will be under water.
  6. Place the container in a warm, sunny location, and watch it grow.  It is important to try to maintain a constant temperature and maximize sunlight.
  7. Be patient!  Do not move the lotus outside until it is consistently warm.  If it is too cool (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit) the lotus could experience shock, which will set back growth and eliminate any chance of first year blooming.

Growth:  All lotuses need lots of full sun to grow and bloom.  For maximum growth, it is recommended to have at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day.  Once the weather cooperates, put the lotus outside in full sun and enjoy.

  • Early:  The first leaves float on the surface of the water.  Once there are established leaves, fertilize the lotus.  Be careful with fertilization – these lotus are in small containers; therefore it is easy to overdo it.  A “good rule of thumb” is approximately one plant tab per square foot of surface area.  If there is more room in the container, increase the water depth a little.
  • Mature:  Arial leaves will raise 4″ to 6″ above the water surface and blooms rise above the leaves.  Fertilize ever 3 to 4 weeks.  Spray off aphids with water.  Do not apply any liquid spray bug killers to the lotus – it will kill them.  Lotus will grow, bloom, and be beautiful all summer.
  • Fall:  Blooms and leaves begin to brown and dry out in the fall.  This is the beginning of the dormancy process.  The dried seedpods are as interesting as the blooms.  Once again, DO NOT remove brown leaves and stems.  Lotus stems are hollow and it is possible for water to get in the cut stems and drown the lotus.  Do not fertilize lotus in the fall.
  • Winter:  Lotus are hardy and like many other perennials, require a dormancy period.  The lotus can be left in the container and put in a cool, protected place (like a garage or basement).  Bowl lotus act more like a Zone 6 plant rather than a Zone 5; that is why it is suggested to bring them indoors to a protected place.  Make sure there is water in the container all winter.  Lotus tubers cannot dry out or freeze.  Next April, take the container out of the garage, fill with water, and begin the process all over.

Some great lotus reference books are:

The Lotus, Know It and Grow It by Kelly Billing and Paula Biles

Water Lilies and Lotus by Perry D. Slocum

Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants by Greg Speichert and Sue Speichert

This article was originally written by Janet Bathurst, previous Vice President of Colorado Water Garden Society with advice from Enery Water Gardens.

Enery Water Gardens, Diane Ross, 303-359-1783, Arvada, CO

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About dorothym

I am the Secretary of the Colorado Water Garden Society.
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