How to Grow Nelumbo Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Lotus and Waterlily

Nelumbo are half-hardy perennial waterplants.

They have large circular leaves that may reach 90 cm (3 feet) across, and bloom in the summer with beautiful pink or yellow fragrant flowers.

Some of the common names for Nelumbo include Waterlily, Sacred Lotus Flower and American Lotus

They are ideal plants for water gardens.

Nelumbo nucifera photograph by Bárbol, CC.

Lotus Flower
Lotus Flower image by Bahamutzero, cc.

Nelumbo Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Lotus, American Lotus, Sacred Water lily, Sacred Lotus, Rose of India.
  • Life Cycle: Half-hardy perennial. Aquatic.
  • Height: 36 to 72 inches (90—180 cm).
  • Native: Northern America, Asia.
  • Growing Region: Zones 4 to 10.

  • Flowers: Summer.
  • Flower Details: White, Red, Pink, Yellow, Blue. Fragrant. Artichoke-like.
  • Foliage: Large round floating leaves up to 36 inches (90 cm) in diameter.

  • Sow outside: Wrap chipped seeds in clay then drop into a pond/water feature in the spring. As these plants can spread uncontrollably it may be best to first put into a wire basket to ensure that they can easily be removed.
  • Sow Inside: First chip the seeds then soak in water at a temperature of 75 to 85°F (24 to 30°C). Change the water twice a day if you cannot maintain the temperature. Germination time: 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Transplant Outside: Transfer seedlings to the pond once temperature has reached 50°F (10°C) and there is no chance of frost. Locate the 85° Nelumbo plants at a depth of 3 to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm); ideally in a basket/wire frame for easy maintenance. Spacing 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 cm).

  • Requirements and care:Water-plant. Full sunlight slight shade. Requires monthly feed with specialized aquatic fertilizer. Remove leaves once they fade. If growing in a cold area, use containers and bring indoors in the winter. Alternatively cover your pond with canvas to prevent freezing. Or bring tubers indoors and store in damp sand in an area that is frost free. Divide every three years to maintain vigor. Propagate: by dividing tubers in the spring. Does not always grow true from seed (species dependent).

  • Family: Nelumbonaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Previously included in the waterlily family: Nymphaeaceae. But their only relationship is through convergent evolution, where plants evolve comparable forms as a result of growing, adapting, and responding to similar habitats and stimuli.
  • Miscellaneous: Many religious uses in Buddhism, Hinduism and ancient Egyptology. Can be identified as a true Lotus by the fact that there is no split in the leaves (as is found in Water lilies (Nymphaea).

How to Grow Nelumbo Lotus Flower Plants and Waterlilies

Water lilies, lotus plant, and other Nelumbo can be grown from tubers or seeds.

It is probably best to plant from tubers as this will maintain varieties. Tubers should be planted about 3 cm (~1 inch) deep in soil that is beneath 60 cm to 1.4 m (2 to 5 feet) of still water.

Alternatively, plant waterlily tubers in a container, and sink the container.

When growing water lilies from seed, the easiest way is to roll the seed in a ball of clay and drop into a pond that is of the required depth.

Ideally the pond should be located in a sunny or partially shaded area as waterlilies thrive in these conditions.

If you want to germinate the waterlily seeds indoors, then first chip the seeds and soak in hot water (25 to 30 degrees Centigrade). Every 12 hours or so the water should be replaced with fresh hot water.

It may take from two to four weeks for the Lotus seeds to germinate.

Lotus Flower

Caring for Waterlilies and Lotus

Nelumbo such as the Sacred Lotus require a little bit of looking after, but at least you don't have to water them!

They should be given an aquatic fertiliser once a month. Once leaves begin to fade remove them to allow new growth.

In cold areas, where the pond is likely to freeze over, it is important to cover the pond in the winter to stop it from freezing. As freezing may result in elimination of waterlilies.

Alternatively tubers can be removed and stored indoors within wet sand.

It is necessary to divide Lotus that are grown in containers every three years or so, this can be done in the spring; dividing the waterlily tubers is also a way of propagating more plants.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Nelumbo plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ pond and water plant growing guides: How to grow Menyanthes, Lythrum plant, Aronia melanocarpa, and Water Crowfoot plants.