A flowering water plant, the lotus (Nelumbo spp.) is a perennial plant that will produce blossoms from spring through fall. While the blossoms only last a few days, new blossoms will appear quickly and regularly during the flowering period. Lotus leaves, often confused with the leaves of water lilies, grow above the surface of the water, unlike water lily leaves, and they are rounded and saucer-like in appearance. The lotus thrives in United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10.
With blossoms that can be either pink or white, the Asian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) reaches between 5 to 8 feet in height. While pink is more common than white for these delicate blooms, a yellow seed pod with a flat top and yellow stamens are common to both blossom colors. The blossoms, once open, are between 8 and 12 inches wide, and their dark green, glossy leaves can reach up to 2 feet in diameter at their widest point. While they are not native to the United States, Asian lotus can be successfully cultivated in water gardens.
Slightly smaller than the Asian lotus, the American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is sometimes called the yellow lotus as their blossoms are yellow-white in color. Similar to the Asian lotus, the American lotus also features a seed pod with a flat top and yellow stamens, and they also have dark green, glossy leaves. While the leaves can reach more than 1 foot in diameter, they are not as large as the leaves of the Asian lotus. American lotus can reach up to 6 feet in height, and are commonly taller than 3 feet.
In various East Asian religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, the different lotus blossom colors have different meanings. In both religions, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and innocence. A pink lotus flower is a symbol of the history, lesson and persona of the Buddha. Also in Buddhism, a yellow blossom will indicate achieving a state of enlightenment, while a white blossom is a symbol of pure thoughts and a pure spirit. Lotus flowers are commonly used in both religions to symbolize rebirth and enlightenment through suffering, as the beautiful lotus blossoms rise out of the muddy waters. In both religions, a closed blossom indicates a pre-enlightened state, while an open blossom indicates individual awareness and enlightenment.
While a water plant, lotus still requires soil to grow, as well as full sunshine. It is best to plant lotus plants in individual containers and then submerge them into the body of water, as otherwise, the rhizomes of the plant may spread rapidly, deterring or killing other vegetal growth. Use a closed, wide, relatively shallow container. Using 1/4 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer per gallon of soil will provide sufficient nutrition to the potting soil for the lotus to thrive. Weight the container with the rhizome with gravel at the top to prevent the container from floating up. At first, grow the lotus in 65-degree Fahrenheit water that is no more than 6 inches deep. As the plant matures, the container can be moved to colder and deeper waters.