The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), also referred to as sacred lotus and Indian lotus, is revered in Buddhism and Hinduism as a sign of divinity, fertility, and purity of mind and body. The plant has been widely cultivated in China for more than 3,000 years for food and medicine. The plant also produces edible seedlike nutletsthat can be utilized to make conventional mala prayer beads. The plant most widely recognized attribute is its big, beautiful blossoms.
As an emergent aquatic plant, then the lotus plant produces flowers and leaves straight from its roots. The smooth, waxy leaves have been supported over the water by a very long petiole that’s attached to a stem, which frequently lends the appearance of floating on the water’s surface. The leaves generally reach as much as two feet in length and remain poised 3 to 6 ft above the surface, while thick rhizomes burrow in the mud beneath. The lotus is native to Asia and northern Australia, and is cultivated as an ornamental in shallow ponds, marshes and other wetland habitats throughout U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 5 through 10
The lotus blossom is cup-shaped, ranges in colour from white to pink and reaches an average length of 8 to 12 inches. Each blossom comprises about 15 petals and starts in the morning and closes at night. After about three days, then the fragrant blossom goes to yield a fruit that resembles a nut. The fruit, which includes several chambers that hold individual seeds, is embedded in the surface of a 3-inch broad receptacle that looks to be an upside-down ice cream cone. This special structure has worth in floral arrangements because it takes on the appearance of a wasp’s nest when dried.
The lotus is a fast plant that thrives in tropical and temperate climates in shallow aquatic environments up to 8 feet in thickness, although it is winter hardy as far north as USDA zone 4 as long as roots do not freeze. For cultivation in small garden ponds, it is helpful to plant roots in suspended containers for ease of management. In larger ponds, roots may be secured directly to the bottom in close proximity to the water, where plants can become established and colonize from seed.
American lotus (Nelumbo lutea), also referred to as yellow lotus and water chinquapin, is a North American species that produces yellow blossoms equal in size to the Indian lotus. N. nucifera cultivars, such as “Momo Boton,” create smaller leaves and rose-colored blooms.