Nelumbo nucifera or sacred lotus is an aquatic plant with gorgeous white or pink flowers.
It has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years because of its beauty and as a divine symbol.
It is the national flower of India, Bangladesh and Vietnam.
The seeds remain viable for an exceptionally long time: 1300 years old seeds from a dried lake in northeastern China are the oldest known sacred lotus seeds to germinate.
It has long been thought that the sacred lotus was related to water lilies but molecular research has revealed that it is actually related with plane trees (Platanus) and Protea.
This plant thrives best in warm climates but is actually quite hardy. It prefers water temperatures of 23-27 °C for at least 5 months to develop well.
In warm climates, it can be invasive.
Nelumbo nucifera is a perennial aquatic plant with rhizomes that grow in the mud at the bottom of shallow ponds, lakes, lagoons, swamps and flooded fields.
The large, peltate leaves float or rise above the water surface on 1-2 m long petioles. The petiole is light green, cylindrical, bare and sometimes prickly. The leaf blade is 20-90 cm in diameter, soft green to blue-green. The leaf edge is intact and corrugated. The leaf blade has a central depression where the petiole and leaf blade meet. From this central point the veins radiate towards the leaf margin.
The leaf has an extreme hydrophobe property, called lotus-effect. Due to the complex nano-structure, water literally glides off the leaves and takes dirt with it, making the leaf self-cleaning.
The flowers are 10-23 cm in diameter, stand on long peduncles and emerge above the leaves. The petals are white or pink, oblong elliptical to obovate, 5-10 cm long and 3-5 cm wide. The numerous, yellow anthers are slightly longer than the receptacle, 1-2 mm long.
The receptacle is an inverted cone, 5-10 cm in diameter. When the seeds are ripe, the fruit hangs head down so that the seeds fall into the water.
Culinary: flowers, seeds, rhizomes and young leaves are edible. Older leaves are not eaten but used to wrap food.
Medicinal: all parts of the plant have been used medicinally for at least 1,500 years.
Decorative: the sacred lotus has been cultivated for millennia for its beauty.
Religious: in Buddhism, the lotus symbolizes beauty, purity and divinity. In Hinduism the sacred lotus represents the sun and it is associated with mother goddesses as a symbol of fertility.
Lotus, Hindu lotus, Indian lotus, oriental lotus, sacred lotus, bean of India
Nelumbium nuciferum, Nelumbo caspica, Nelumbo komarovii, Nelumbo nucifera var. macrorhizomata, Nelumbo speciosa, Nymphaea nelumbo
Nelumbo: new Latin from the Sinhalese nelumba
Nucifera: from the Latin nux (nut) and -fer (bearing)
Ponds, lakes, lagoons, marshes, shallow edges to 2.5 m depth
USDA zone 4-10
Nutritious loamy soil
Requires little fertilizer the first year. An established plant should be fertilized with tablets monthly during the growing season.
In the pond it is best planted near the border at a depth of at least 30 cm. Although in warm regions it can grow to a depth of 2.5 m, in colder regions it is best planted at shallower depths where the water warms up quickly.
Thrives best when it has a water temperature of 23-27 °C for at least five months.
If it grows at less than 15 cm depth, move the plant to a deeper part of the pond or overwinter it indoors frost-free, in a basin filled with water or moist sand.
Bring the plant indoors in the autumn, when the leaves turn yellow. Yellow leaves may be cut off.
- the seeds have a very hard coat, they should be scarified
- place the seeds in non-chlorinated water of 25-30 °C
- change the water daily
- throw away the seeds that float, they are probably dead
- once the seed germinates, repot in individual 10 cm pot filled with loam
- germination time: after scarification, seeds germinate in 24h
- place the pot in tepid water at 5 cm depth
- plant it outside when the water temperature is at least 15 °C, in a pot without drainage holes
- will probably not bloom the first year
The rhizome can be divided in late winter when the plants are in vegetative rest.
One must be especially careful not to damage the growing tip. Therefore it is useful to wash the rhizome thoroughly in order to be able to see the growing tips. Each piece of rhizome should have at least 1 growing tip.
Cuttings can be planted in individual pots and covered with at least 10 cm of loam.
The plants should be kept at 10-30 cm depth under water.