As a symbol of creation, the lotus stakes its place as a sacred flower in Buddhism and Hinduism. To be sure, lotus is one of the most exotic and beautiful creatures in the plant kingdom: the big, dramatic stalked leaves are attractive, and they shed droplets of water like quicksilver — gorgeous! The buds and blossoms are utterly magnificent, and the large, unusual seedpods are decorative in their own right.

Despite their big size, lotuses grow from a surprisingly delicate, banana-shaped rootstock. Get one in spring and handle it exceedingly gently, especially when potting it. Favorite lotus varieties include ivory white with hot pink margins 'Chawan Basu,' yellow-to-cream 'Perry's Giant Sunburst,' and rosy pink 'Momo Batan.' Here are the growing requirements:

  • A big, big planting tub, full of heavy garden soil (and no drainage holes): A tub that measures 24 x 9 inches, such as a laundry tub, is reasonable.
  • Enough space: Not every water garden can hold a lotus. Some varieties can spread 10 or 12 feet or more, with those leaves rearing up on 7-foot stalks. Submerge the potted lotus in an inch of water to start; then move it to 4 or more inches over time — less is better, though.
  • Sun: Lotuses need at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. (A lotus will tolerate some shade if the air temperatures are warm and if you aren't banking on getting it to bloom.)
  • Plenty of food: Poke fertilizer into the pot often, and carefully, to avoid disturbing that fragile rootstock. Four to six waterlily-fertilizer tablets monthly is a typical dose, but get exact information from the place where you buy your lotus.
  • A long growing season if you want the flowers and pods that follow:

A short summer won't do — lotuses really need two or even three consecutive months of temperatures over 80°.

^ Patience: Lotus often spends its first season just getting used to life in its tub and in your water garden. Lush growth and — maybe, just maybe — those sensational flowers usually happen the second season.

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