Lotus From Seeds
Look how well the lotus pampers the future, she intends these to grow, either now or in a thousand years. Seeds must mature fully on the plant. Let the seed pod turn completely brown and get hard. The seeds will rattle in the pod when they are ready. This project started 10/10/08.
You'll need a few items to get this project started, for 10 seeds you'll want 10 plastic cups for sprouting and early growth, 10 plastic small pots for rooting the seedlings, a cup or less of peat moss (use the block type, it doesn't have any additives) a pound or so of fine clay and some sand paper or a nail file.
If you have collected lotus seeds or ordered a mix as I did this time you can easily get them started. I know everyone wants you to think there is some secrets only known to the lotus gods to grow from seeds, but anyone can do this. You'll read that lotus started from seed will not bloom the first season. I have found that here in zone 10 lotus can go from seed to bloom in as little as 6 months, not only that but we can start them any time of the year, it's not even the beginning of November and I know these will kick into fast growing plants when the new season starts here about mid January without any dormant season the first year. Once established they will continue to return every year, bigger and better. Keep in mind that lotus don't grow true from seeds, so the color you order may not be what you'll end up with. I think it's part of the mystery and magic of growing lotus from seeds and wouldn't change it. If you come up with a great plant you can divide the tubers for the exact same plant. Click Here to see how to divide the tubers.
Lotus seeds will keep for a very, very long time, so just store them away till you're ready to start this. When I built my faux boulders for the yard I put some lotus seeds in the time capsule in the boulders along with some other pointless stuff.. Lotus seeds found in tombs in pyramids actually were sprouted and grown, that's old seeds.. To get them to sprout when you want them to you have scrape through the hull, I use 80 grit sand paper to do this, they are very tough shells and it will take a bit to get through. I scrape mine on the side of the seed, you just want to go deep enough to see the inner portion of the seed, it will be a cream color. Don't go to deep but be sure to get through the shell. Don't start to many, they will need a lot of room, they are very large plants.
At this point all there is to do is water soak them and wait. I just use a small cup at the kitchen window so I can keep an eye on them. Change the water every day so fungus doesn't start to grow on them, use very warm, but not boiling water for this, it'll speed things up. I have also found that tap water with the chlorine left in also helps to stop fungus and seems to have no ill effect on the seeds or new plants. Don't worry about the floater seeds, they may surprise you, I know a lot of people say they will not grow but this is not good information, they are just lighter than the water at first but as they absorb water they will sink and sprout just like the rest of the seeds. The seeds will become lumpy as they soak up water, this is normal. I have found that the seeds that come from lotus pods that were for flower arrangements are worthless, I suspect they were picked early and dried in a kiln or something for fast use that has destroyed the seeds as far as sprouting them, this made me crazy when first trying to grow lotus. So if you have tried them don't be disappointed that they didn't grow, order some fresh on eBay or from me here, info is on the home page.. Be wary of using seeds from Asian stores that are sold to eat, they are from tuber lotus meant for food and the tubers will become to large for container growth and all the flowers will be yellow, been there done that. I don't eat lotus tubers or other wise, they are very starchy and bland to me and require a lot of sugar or honey to even swallow them. Tubers are sometimes sliced thin and fried then coated with powdered sugar, trust me there are better treats to be had.
In a week or so the first plant will be peeking out. They won't all germinate at the same time so don't toss the others out, some may take up to a month, just keep changing the water every day, use very warm water, and if you can keep them in the sun, that's a plus. Lotus are very strong plants and are not the frail seedling you may of been lead to believe.
The seed will split and the new growth will be coming out of the top. I'm not going to get into all the tech words here, actually I would have to look them up or make up my own, that sometimes works for me, but may confuse others . I let the seeds continue to grow out until the small new stems have uncurled and are pointing straight out of the seed. I separate the ones with new growth, each into a separate container. Just small cups that hold water so it won't get broken or twisted up with others. If you do happen to break off the growing tip, don't worry, it will make a come back, they are strong and determined to grow.
After they have a shoot about 6 inches long I prepare the first growing media for each of them, 1 per container. The shoots have been well above the water line for the past week or so. Use any small plant containers you have, the ones I use are only 2.5" x 2.5" x 2.5" deep, you'll be transplanting from these within a couple weeks, but the small containers use less space. I put a couple rocks in the bottom of the containers to keep them from tipping over, then I add maybe a spoonful of peat moss and fill the container about 3/4 of the way full with clay, push my finger down into the clay about the depth of the seed and place the seed in with the sprout pointing up. If you are using dry clay you will want to grind this into a very fine powder in a blender with water, pour it through a coffee filter or cloth to recover the clay. It takes forever to soften up just sitting in water. I don't fill in around the seed, although the clay will quickly fill in by itself. Then I place this in a tray with water only about 2" over the seed. I am still using city water at this time, but I don't think you'll have any problems with pond water at this point and I wouldn't worry about fungus from this point on. You'll have to do this with each seed as the sprouts grow to size.
In the above picture you can see the development of the seed after about 3 weeks. Up until this point the seed has just been growing in a cup of water with daily water changes right from the tap. Once they have developed small roots at the seed, they are ready to transplanted into a small growing container. I use very small plastic pots at this time to save room, but this seedling could go right into it's final container also. If you got this far, you have won. From this point on it's just a matter of time to grow out, the water changes are no longer necessary, just keep the container either under about 2" of water or keep the final container, if that is what you choose, full of water over the potting mix, you will be very pleased at the rapid growth from this stage on. They will grow slower in the winter, but I find that there is no dormant season the first season even if you start them in the middle of winter, keep in mind that I am growing in zone 10 with no chance of even frost, in a northern climate you'll have to keep these in a heated area and may have to add additional light from a grow tube or whatever snow birds use. I would think you could keep them in a window sill for some time, but it would probably be better to wait to start your seeds in the spring and avoid all this extra work, remember they get very large, very fast and you will need some room.
As you can see I place the seed just below the surface of the clay, the small roots will grow very fast from here on and pull the seed down into the clay. The first couple leaves may fade rather quickly, this is nothing to worry about, the new lotus is using all it's strength to get rooted in and starting to form the tuber. In a week or so you will see the first floating pads and are on you way to a strong and healthy plant.
Place the potted lotus seedling into anything that will hold water and allow a couple inches of water over the soil level. I actually use a cement mixing try, but this is easier to show. A quart plastic food container like this will work as good as anything. You can probably skip the small inner container and plant right into the quart container in clay. I use separate small pots since I grow a number of these at a time and they are all in 1 water tray and I don't want to be breaking the roots apart from each other when transplanting to the next size container, which when for sale is a 10" pot or if I'm going to grow them for myself, they go right into the final planter after this stage. You can also get new snap top food containers for very little and they might actually be better since they are clear plastic and will let in more light. Your plant will only be in the small soil container for the next 3 - 4 weeks, so don't get into much expense for this step. Fill this up with warm water and set it were it will get the most sun without being disturbed by animals or whatever, they can never be allowed to dry out or all is lost. At this point I have just over a month into it since I scraped the seeds. It's 11/11/08 and if it were summer with hot long days these would be much further along, but still not to bad for this time of the year.
I have this sitting in a newly filled half barrel, that will have about 4 inches of water above the soil, in a couple days after the soil mix settles a little I'll just replant it at the same level it is growing in the small clay filled pot and just let it do what lotus do best, GROW. Try to place your final container where it will get the most sun, and be aware that even in a half barrel they will spread their pads out a couple feet on each side, so make sure there is room. Although I don't have one, it would really be great to have the container on a dolly so you could rotate it in the sun to get very even growth, just a thought. 11/26/08
After this gets going I'm changing the way I feed on this one. I'll be adding blood meal as soon as it gets going strong and when it starts to put up flower buds I'll be adding bone meal. You may want to check back as this progresses to see if it makes a difference. This one plant will be the only one I try this with, if it works for the best I'll explain later on this page.
I check the bottom of the small container every couple days and as soon as I see some small roots poke through the bottom holes I transplant this to the final container or a 10" pot if this is going to be offered for sale. This one grown even in November had roots showing at the openings in just 5 days and was transplanted to the final barrel on 11/30/08. I'll try to get pictures posted every couple weeks as it continues to grow, they are very fast. This small lotus will be huge by the end of February and into bloom early this season, since I started it from seeds I got from Thailand on eBay, only time will tell what it will turn into, but I have never seen a lotus I didn't like. If it turns out to be a very good plant, the tubers can be divided next fall to grow and share the same plant. This barrel had Sunburst lotus growing in it for just 1 year and I emptied it to move it. Just 1 year and there were 75 lotus tubers. Now scrape those seeds you've had laying around and get them started.
It's early January and the small plant has started to develop the first floating pads, by the end of January the pads will be well on their way, from this point on the plant will grow at a very fast rate. Looks like a lot of container for such a small plant, but just wait. These first floating pads will fade rather quickly as the ariel pads develop, this can be expected and nothing to worry about, I don't trim the small pads as they are spent but just let them fade into the water at their own pace.
If you have been here, this is that same planter that was on the brick patio, it is back by the wakin pond now and should do great here with more sun. Since this lotus was started from seed I have no idea of the flower color or form, something to look forward to. You can see some duckweed floating on the water, it would make a very nice water cover, but as the large pads develop there just won't be enough light to grow it. You don't really need to worry about mosquitoes, the water will soon be filled with tadpoles, 1/10/09.