Lotus are hardy plants that are extremely vigorous and imposing, but they are fragile at planting time and have unusual fertilizer and sunlight requirements. Lotus will grow anywhere in Western Europe, but they will do best in the regions with the most sun. Lotus should be planted in very early spring in at least 15 cm of good clay-rich topsoil (we advise against composted manure or compost mixtures because they can lead to rot). Contrary to what many initially believe, lotus are best planted in 30 cm of water, and never in more than 50 cm.
Planting is carried out in March or April, before the rhizome has started to push leaves.If conditions are good, lotus will rapidly take over the container in which they are planted, or the pond in which they are planted, as the case may be. Most people plant lotus in containers in order to manage them better. A good container volume for lotus is 50L. They can be grown in 20L containers, but they will need to be divided and replanted every year.
There are different planting methods for lotus. Here at Latour-Marliac we place the rhizome on the surface of the soil and weigh it down gently with a piece of stone or a clip fashioned from heavy wire (this is important, as otherwise the rhizome will float and be unable to root itself). Once the water temperature reaches 20 degrees, the lotus will put down roots and grow itself deep into the soil.
Because they grow so fast, and because they produce so much foliage, lotus are very heavy feeders. They should be fertilized in the same manner as water lilies, but at three times the dosage. Osmocote tablets work well. In 50L of soil, as many as 20 tablets should be used.
Lotus will need to be divided every one to three years, depending upon the size of the container in which they are planted. This is a delicate operation. Lotus rhizomes grow in what look like chains of bananas. In between each 'banana' is a watertight node, from which roots, stems and flowers grow. These nodes are very fragile. In order to divide the lotus, you first need to isolate the frontal runner/rhizome. You will want to leave one or two intact sections behind this runner/rhizome, which means that you will cut the third or fourth section in the chain a few centimeters from the node closest to the second or third section. The result is shown below. You must take great care not to break the sections and nodes. Also, the crowns, even more fragile than the nodes, must remain intact for viability. There should be multiple frontal runners/rhizomes in the container, of various sizes. Repeat this process for those, and discard the leftover roots. Plant them all in fresh soil, as below.
This rhizome is in position; it just needs to be held in place with a stone, piece of brick or clipped down. If you find your rhizomes floating after you have planted them, push them back into place very gently and reinforce whatever system you used to weigh them down.