Caring For Your Lotus
Lotus make a wonderful addition to any style of water garden. Looking somewhat like a large waterlily in the spring, it quickly becomes apparent that lotus are so much more, especially as they begin to grow aerial (non-surface) leaves that rise up to five feet in height. With just a few pointers, you too can successfully incorporate these spectacular hardy plants into your pond.
Water Depth - When adding a lotus to your water garden, you should know that this sun-loving plant actually requires a wide-diameter pot that’s placed in shallow water to be able to grow to its’ full potential. That means that during the spring and summer months, your lotus should be positioned in the pond so that it only has 2″-3″ of water above the top of the pot. However, to safely overwinter your lotus outdoors, they actually need to be ‘stored away’ in the deepest section of your pond.
Spring - As lotus are ‘late sleepers’ in the spring, the pond water needs to have reached a relatively warm temperature before lotus will begin to sprout new leaves (which could be as late as early May in our area). If you overwintered your lotus in the deeper depths of your pond, you should raise it to the proper shallow depth early in the spring to ‘jumpstart’ its’ growing season. Be sure to also remove any dead foliage from the previous year. If your lotus has outgrown its’ container, it should also be divided before the first leaves appear (usually before early May). Regardless if you simply reposition the lotus or repot it, you should fertilize medium and large varieties with six fertilizer tablets at this time of the year. Only three to four fertilizer tablets are needed for smaller lotus varieties.
Summer - Older lotus leaves might become yellow as summer progresses. These leaves should be pruned so that your lotus’ energy is focused towards more important activities such as producing aerial leaves and flowers. Your lotus should then be fertilized for the second time when the aerial leaves appear. The last fertilization of the season should occur when flower buds are present. As lotus are heavy feeders, you can fertilize them on a monthly schedule if you’d prefer. We’ve simply outlined the minimum amount of fertilization needed for the growing season. As aphids can become a problem for lotus during the summer months, you can easily control them either by physically removing them, spraying them off with a stream of water, or by using organic aphid repellent (e.g., garlic spray).
Fall and Winter - After the frost kills the foliage of your lotus, you should trim back the leaves and flower stalks. You can then place the lotus pot in the deepest area of your pond to keep the tubers from freezing solid. If you don’t have a deep enough (or wide enough) area in your water garden to overwinter your lotus, you can pull the entire pot out of the pond and allow it to go dormant by storing it in a cool location (e.g., an unheated basement) and keeping it moist. There’s no need to fertilize lotus during this time. Simply sit back and wait for the next growing season to start the process over again.