Nelumbo nucifera is commonly called sacred lotus in reference to the sacred and symbolic status the flower holds in Buddhism and Hinduism. It is native to Asia and Australia. It is a large-flowered lotus that typically grows 3-6’ tall in shallow water and spreads by thickened rhizomes rooted in the mud. This is a marginal aquatic perennial that features rounded, parasol-like, upward-cupped, waxy green leaves (to 2’ across) that appear above the water on long petioles which attach at the middle of the leaf underside (peltate). Large, cupped, fragrant, pink or white flowers (8-12” diameter) appear in summer on stiff stems above the foliage. Each flower blooms for about three days, opening in the morning and closing at night each day. Flowers are followed by nut-like fruits that are imbedded in the flat surface of a turbinate (inversely conical) receptacle (2-3” diameter) which resembles the shape of a watering can rose. Receptacles acquire a woody texture when dried (suggestive of wasps’ nests) and are highly prized for dried flower arrangements. The rhizomes, leaves and seeds of lotus are edible and are sometimes used in Asian cooking.
Easily grown in organically rich loams in calm water margins in full sun. Winter hardy to USDA Zone 4 as long as the roots do not freeze (i.e., water does not freeze down to the roots). For water gardens or small ponds, plant roots in large containers or planting baskets with up to 24” of water covering the crowns. Container grown plants are easier to control and, if desired, to move to other locations. For naturalizing in larger ponds, roots may be anchored directly in the muddy bottom near the water margin where, once established, they will spread and colonize. In fall, containers submerged in very shallow water (less than 6”) should be moved into deeper water or brought indoors (basement, root cellar or other frost-free area) for overwintering. Garden Uses. Flowers, seed receptacles and foliage are all unique, attractive and interesting additions to a water garden or pond. Hardy in zones 4-11.
Scarify the seeds with a file or with sandpaper and then soak the seeds in water. Leaves the seeds in the water for several days to several weeks until they start to germinate. Change the water in the cup occasionally so that the seeds have clean water. After the seeds have germinated, plant each seed in a pot that is at least 8 inches wide and is filled with heavy loam. Water the seeds regularly. When the seedlings are large enough, they can be planted outdoors.