Lotus are among the most difficult water plants to cultivate, yet when given the right circumstances, they can become a nuisance. There is a lot of misinformation on this issue out there, most of it false. Indeed, there is so much misinformation that many well-meaning, passionate individuals fail repeatedly and finally abandon in despair. The following is an open and honest discussion on Lotus culture.
First, some background on the plant. Lotus is plainly connected to water lilies, although there are considerable variances. The main distinction is in the root system. Instead of rhizomes like sturdy lilies and bulbs like tropical lilies, the lotus produces elongated tubers that look like bananas. This is what you get when you buy a lotus plant. Your success or failure is determined by the status and treatment of this tuber.
In order to cultivate lotus, you must first choose a place. It should be bright, ideally without moving water, and proportionate to the lotus variety to be produced. Perry’s Giant Sunburst will not grow in a hatful of dirt. Large varieties need large (25-50 sq.ft.) pond areas or tubs with a minimum volume of 45 gallons. You should also not anticipate a dwarf variety to do well in a big environment. Choose a tiny lotus if your space is restricted. The plant must be enclosed if it is to be cultivated in a pond. You should look for the biggest, roundest container that will fit in the given area. Lotus plants have the ability to stray away from their pots and generate long runners throughout the season. As a result, give the plant the deepest container possible. This reduces the likelihood of the runner jumping over the top of the pot. It has also been suggested that the deeper the soil, the healthier the plant. The pot should be positioned such that the top of the container is 6″- 12″ below the water’s surface. Any less and the plant will topple and blow over; any more and goldfish and koi will invade and destroy the entire thing, something no one wants.
Fill the container to within 3″ or 4″ of the top with modified soil. Fill a free-standing container halfway with soil if growing the plant in it. Fill the container carefully with water after covering the soil with 2″-3″ of sand. If the lotus is in a container inside a pond and there are koi or goldfish present, use less sand at first, followed by at least 2″ of black lava rock, then capped with the remaining sand. We detest doing this to lotus, but we equally despise seeing them dug up by fish.
Lower the tank into the water after the dirt, etc., are in place. Instead of placing the tuber in the soil, as many instructions suggest, we always place it ONTO the substrate, gently burying it in the sand and weighing it down with stones. The plant is then allowed to plant itself. The developing plant will intuitively bend downward into the substrate and will make the most of it once it is there. Burying the tuber in the soil from the start nearly always results in rotting due to bacterial activity in the soil. This is particularly true if you follow the directions and apply manure to your soil.
This is also when the tuber’s state comes into play. Many firms provide sprouting tubers, either in leaf or root form. We constantly check to see whether the plants have produced roots and leaves. This guarantees its survival and contributes to its success by allowing it to overcome the first major obstacle of sprouting roots and starting to develop in earnest before deterioration from the cut end catches up with the growing tip. The cut end of the tuber will almost certainly rot. It is just a question of the plant using the strength contained in the tuber before the bacteria do. Stronger, pre-sprouted plants have a better chance of succeeding.
The first few leaves will drift away. These are followed by emerging leaves at some time. If we need to, we will start feeding the plants with fertilizer pills at this point. For the first season, new soil may not need extra feeding, however second-year plants would. To push blooms, we use Gro-Power pills, 12-8-8 at first, then 3-12-12. For very rapid development, we prefer to add a whole 12-8-8 and 12 of a 3-12-12 pill for each new standing leaf. You can overfeed them, and you should stop feeding them when they fall dormant.
Dead leaves would be removed around one inch above the water level. Pots should be reworked every two or three years, i.e., emptied, dead tubers removed, fresh soil added, and so on.