Nelumbo or Lotus
Lotus belong to the genus Nelumbo. Nelumbo lutea refers to the native lotus grown in the eastern and central states while Nelumbo nucifera is a native of Asia, Philippines, Egypt and Australia.
Lotus Flowers may be classified by the number of petals. Single blooms have 25 or fewer petals, while semidouble and double flowers have more than 50 petals. Flower colors include pink, white, yellow and changeable. There are no blue lotus. Reference to blue lotus is a reference to the blue water lily, Nymphaea caerulea. Flowers are open for 3 days. They generally open early in the morning and close around noon. On the fourth day the petals drop off. If the stem is allowed to remain, a seed head develops. It looks like a shower head and eventually tips toward the ground and expells the seeds if the flower was pollinated.
Leaves are round with smooth edges and range from quite small to over two feet across. They are green or bluish green and water resistant. Any water that splashes on the leaves, beads up and runs off. If the leaf is held under water small air bubbles develop from the area where the stem attaches. This is the breathing tube for the plant and if air movement is inhibited the plant may drown.
Lotus tubors are critical to success with lotus. The tubors resemble a string of light colored sausages. Roots, leaves, and flowers grow from the nodes between the tubers. This area is very fragile as is thegrowing tip and if nicked or bruised may doom the plant.
Tubers grow aggressively and easily cover a body of water in a year. Growth may be controlled by planting tubers in round pots of an appropriate size for the plant. Pots with corners such as a square or rectangle do not contain the plant as the tubers will ascend at the corner of the pots and escape.
Culture: Lotus require 5-6 hours of sun daily and a consistent temperature of 75-85 degrees F. for three months to bloom. They also require frequent and heavy fertilizing and water to keep the potting medium wet. They do not thrive in climates that are very hot and dry, or in cool climates.
Grooming is required to maintain appearance. If you want the decorative seed pods, do not remove the stem of spent flowers. If you do not want the seed head cut it off above the water line to prevent drowning the plant. When leaves deteriorate, cut them off above the water line at any time.
Pests are usually limited to aphids and require a stream of water to wash them off the plant. There have been some reports of diseases. For a further discussion see the Speichert book listed below.
Kelly Billings & Paula Biles. The Lotus: Know It and Grow It. International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society, 2007. www.AboutTheLotus.com
Perry D. Slocum. Waterlilies and Lotuses: Species, Cultivars, and New Hybrids. Timber Press. 2005.
Greg & Sue Speichert. Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants. Timber Press. 2004.
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