Lotus, The Queen Of The Water
Keep in mind that this was written with zone 10, south Florida climate, it will differ in northern zones but will be pretty much the same except when to plant the lotus.
No matter how you start your lotus, either from seeds, tubers or transplant you're going to need a large size water tight container. The smallest I would use is 15 gallons, a half barrel works great. You are only going to want 1 plant per container, they get very large. The 15 gallon plastic tubs can be painted or even better stack bricks or land scape blocks around it (I always wanted to use an eagle claw cast iron bath tub but the price of one of these is out of my reach). Don't morter the bricks in, you'll need to divide the lotus every year. You can sometimes find plastic tubs at the dollar store at a very inexpensive price but for some reason they are always some screaming bright color, but spray a little paint on them or cover with something of your choice. Actually when the plant is full grown and blooming no one is going to notice the container so you don't need to spend a lot on a fancy container. A word of advice, don't bury your container in the ground or put it in the pond, either will work but it is a lot easier to dump the container which will weigh upwards of 120+ pounds and wash off the dirt when you need to divide the tubers at the end of the season if it is above ground, but do as you please, you probably didn't listen when you were a kid either..
Once you have the tuber I find it is best to just float it in water till you are ready to plant it, you can be setting up your growing container at this time. Fill the container with compost, I usually use a mix of cow compost and 10% super special clay (cheapest kitten litter, small bag) and the lotus fertilizer tabs, I stock the tabs packaged in a full years supply for your lotus. I have also just used staight compost with excellant results. I use the very inexpensive home depot cow compost, about $2 for a 40 pound bag. This cheap compost will have weed seeds and floating things in it, but the seed won't grow under water and you can skim off anything that floats. Of coarse you could buy the Black Kow brand, it's very good and no weed seeds or floating stuff but expect to pay about $5 per 40 lb bag and you're going to need 3-4 bags for a 20 gallon tub. The compost alone will carry the plant through the first growing season without any fertilizer added, but I like to give them all the advantages I can so I add 2 of the slow release lotus tabs when I plant, just shove these down in the soil about 6-8 inches at the edge of the planter, one on both sides, then I add 2 more at the container's edge about 6 inches deep when I see the first flower buds coming up, that's it for the whole growing season, very little care, just keep the water filled. It ain't rocket science no matter what you have read, it's not some secret magic to growing super lotus, you can do it. That little bud will snake it's way up through the pads and be a very large flower bloom in about a week, you can see how far above the pads the bud is, what a show you'll get.
I also have gambusia mosquito fish that can be added to the water to control mosquitoes. The fish are free with any lotus purchase, pick up only.
Put the container where you want it, more sun = more growth and blooms. It will be very heavy when filled so give this some thought. The lotus will also extend it's pads which will be over 2 feet wide and 3 feet above the water a couple feet over the tub sides so leave room to get around it. Fill it to about 6" to 8" from the top with compost then to the rim with water. Let this settle in for a couple days, sometimes it will swell or settle and you'll want to make adjustments to the soil to keep the water depth where you want it, 4 to 8 inches, you can always remove soil as the lotus grows for more water depth, it will be way down in the compost within a month.
Once you are ready to plant the tuber just set it on the soil surface with the growing points up, you can make a shallow trench but it doesn't seem to really matter. Put a flat rock on the middle of the tuber to keep it from floating, you can remove this later but I never remember to do that, if you have given it time to put up pads before you plant they will just float on the surface. The tuber will root in very fast and will actually pull itself down into the compost, by the end of the grow season (November) it will be down to the bottom and will of formed a large number of tubers which can be divided when the plant is dormant for more tubers to plant next season or better yet as Holiday gifts to your friends that have marveled at you lotus all summer. Click Here for information on dividing the tubers. If you don't divide the tubers you may not get any blooms in future years. You can only divide lotus tubers when they are dormant, this is why I only offer them 1 time a year.
At this point all that is left to do is just keep the container filled with water. I also over flow the container every month or so just to keep the water fresh, but I doubt that that is really needed. Be ready for a summer show, the very large pads are something to see even before the flowers and seed pods. Know this, 1 lotus is never enough and in the next couple years you'll be looking for different ones or growing from seed to have a unique plant. Lotus don't grow true from seeds so you'll never know what the out come will be untill it blooms. I have started lotus from new mixed seeds, so check my lotus page as the summer kicks these into bloom to see what I'll have to offer.
I'm sure you'll be impressed with your lotus plant as will your visitors, the first few pads will just float on the surface of the water, but then the show will start with the pads well above the water and the blooms will extend above the pads, enjoy.
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