How to Grow a Lotus from Seed
So you’ve been to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, you’ve delighted in the fragrant and showy blooms of the lotus, and now you’re at home, wishing you had a piece of that paradise to enjoy every day. Well, this post is for you. If you’ve got a sunny spot, a large pot, and a handful of lotus seeds, you can grow your very own mini oasis of lotus with these instructions below. We’re going to teach you, step by step, how to prepare and grow your own lotus from seed!
The lotus we provide in our seed packs and the lotus you are most likely to find available for purchase are the Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera. These are tall, blush pink flowers with large fan-like leaves that rise out of the water. It’s an ancient flower, native to a broad region of Asia and beloved by many Asian cultures, as a symbol of purity, peace, and resiliency. These lotus are cyclical and die back with the seasons, only to reemerge in the spring when the water temperature increases!
Fortunately, lotus are easy growers, provided you’ve satisfied the very few needs they require to thrive. You’ll need just a few things to get started:
- A sunny spot. Lotus like full sun and need at least 6 hours of light per day.
- A warm area. Lotus thrive at a water temperature around 75 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A large, deep pot with no holes in the bottom. Try to get one at least 12” deep and 24” wide.
- Lotus seeds! You can purchase yours from us at the Visitor Center at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens or search seed companies online.
- Some sand and soil. We recommend soil rich in clay rather than regular potting soil, as that will float in the water. Get enough to fill 3-5 inches of your pot or pond.
- A small cup for sprouting.
- A knife or file to prepare your seeds.
- If desired, aquatic fertilizer. A 10-14-8 aquatic fertilizer works best.
Preparing the Seeds
Your lotus seeds should be dark brown and hard, similar in size to a tiny acorn. This dark brown layer is a protective cover and allows the seeds to lay dormant for many years (scientists have sprouted lotus seeds over 1000 years old!). It’s essential to file off this outer layer or cut the seed carefully until the cream-colored layer is visible so that the water can penetrate and activate the seed.
Drop your seeds into warm water in a clear container and set them on a sunny windowsill to germinate. Keeping the water warm and clean will ensure a quick sprout. Change the water if cloudy to prevent bacteria growth. You should see sprouting in a week, roughly.
When the stems of your sprouted seeds are roughly four inches long, you can place them in a shallow bowl with a few inches of your soil mix and more warm water to top off. When the plant has established itself in the shallow bowl, it’s time to transfer it to your pot!
Lotus thrive in warm water but need room to grow, so finding the right pot is the key to success. We recommend that the smallest vessel for your lotus be no less than 12” deep and 24” wide. And good soil is essential in making sure your new lotus roots thrive rather than rot! Be sure to have a mixture rich in sand and clay with little organic matter. Regular potting soil is rich in organic material and will float to the top of your pot or pond rather than settle to the bottom.
When your lotus have sprouted a few leaves and established a healthy tuber, it’s time to transfer your baby lotus to their final home! Layer 3-5” of soil mixture to the bottom of the vessel and plant your lotus tubers into the soil. Fill with warm water to just barely top your leaves! As the lotus leaves grow, you can slowly add more water until they reach the top of the pot. Be sure to check back often to ensure the water level doesn’t drop too much due to evaporation.
And then it’s only a matter of time! Once your lotus has aerial leaves (i.e., rising above the water), your plant has begun to mature! Expect blooms in the second year of growth, and enjoy your small oasis right in your backyard or porch!
Other Tips and Recommendations
Growing lotus can be an absolute pleasure but does come with a few tricky spots. Here are some recommendations and reassurances to help guide you through the growing process.
- In the first year of growing your lotus, it’s normal only to have the leaves, as the plant is busy establishing those tubers. Expect beautiful blooms next year! If growing lotus from tubers, you should expect flowers in your first year.
- You may notice your leaves turning yellow and wilting in after a growth spurt in your plant. Have no fear! Your lotus is going temporarily dormant to thicken up the tubers. After they have grown sufficiently, the leaves will begin to grow again.
- Fertilizing your lotus after a few leaves are aerial (i.e., no longer sitting on top of the water) can help boost your plants. A 10-14-8 aquatic fertilizer is typically best.
- Overwintering your lotus can be aided by taking your pot inside during the coldest months. Lotus grow back easier when the water does not freeze over completely.
- It’s essential to consider the temperature of the location you live in to ensure you’re starting your seeds late enough to have warm weather outdoors constantly. Typically, the mid and northern United States can start their lotus seeds by May and be able to plant outdoors in pots and ponds by mid-June. Southern US can begin seeds in April, typically.
*Note, it is against National park Service rules to take anything from the park! Please purchase your lotus seeds from Friends to support this park or source your seeds from an online retailer.
References and Further Reading: