Lotuses tend to spread to the size of an
available area on runners, so any pot choice
ought to be as wide as possible; lotuses
need to spread to grow well. A container
that is 3 to 4 feet ( 91 to 122 cm) wide
works nicely, and some nurseries have
wide, shallow lotus trays for this purpose.
If you wish to contain your lotus, use a
deep pot with no drainage holes and fill it
only partly to keep a high edge and prevent
it from escaping.
A round container is also recommended
to prevent tubers and runners from
compacting in the corners and potentially
stunting or killing parts of the plant. If
you do not need your lotus contained,
allow it to roam free in the pond for a
healthy, large plant.
Every few years, or if you notice a marked
reduction in growth and flowers, dig up old
tubers and prune any deteriorating roots or
black, rotting sections. This is also a good
time to refresh the soil with a suitable mix.
Lotuses like silt, and adding a fine mix
of clay and sand can help if considerable
organic mulm has built up in some areas.
Draining the pond is usually wise for this
if feasible, but stay on guard for escapees—
never release any captive plants or animals
into a natural waterway!
Overwintering hardier varieties is
possible in cool climates. Many hybrids
with varying climate tolerances are now
available, so be sure to check with local
nurseries or suppliers before buying a
lotus to check if it is suitable for cool or
freezing winters. A sheltered area or winter
cover option for your pond is also key for
maintaining lotuses in subtropical climates.
Submersible heaters can warm up shallow,
freezing ponds and protect against snap
freezes while the plant goes into dormancy.
Pruning foliage when temperatures drop
can help ease the plant into dormancy,
and lowering it progressively deeper to the
bottom of a pond that does not freeze over,
ideally below 3 to 4 feet ( 91 to 122 cm), will
assist it in surviving freezing temperatures.
The pot or tubers can then be raised
again—slowly—when temperatures climb
in the spring.
Due to the sheer size of lotus plants and
leaves, goldfish pose little to no threat, and
they look beautiful swanning about among
the long stems shaded by large aerial leaves
and flowers. Koi, however, can present a
bigger risk by nibbling on fresh growth,
digging around tubers, and disturbing
growing stems. Lightly stocking koi in a
pond with lotuses that are well established
may work so the plants can stay ahead of
any damage. Alternatively, shield plants or
fish in a separate section with submerged
netting or ornamental rocks and hardscape.
You can also try putting lotuses in a
“prefiltering” pond with water pumped from
the koi pond up to a separate pond for the
lotuses to obtain nutrients from the organic
debris. The water can then flow through a
waterfall, creek, pond filter, or other feature
and return to the koi pond. Creative options
abound! Tropical pond fish, frogs, and most
other livestock will be safe with lotuses, and
they can be skillfully used to create excellent
environments that attract local wildlife.
With careful planning and a suitable
climate, you can ensure that your lotuses
will thrive in a medium to large pond,
creating a thick mat of lofty dinner-plate-sized leaves with stunning, fragrant flowers
to match. Lotuses truly earn their place as
the jewels of the water garden and their
association with divine beauty. D
The North American lotus (N. lutea) sports
pale yellow to white flowers with smaller
blooms than its sacred cousin produces.
Flowering N. lutea abound at Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee.