Planting lotus from bare root stock is one of those gardening tricks that you should pay attention to if you want your lotus to survive.
Handle lotus tubers very carefully
To begin with, the lotus tuber is filled with air spaces and if you cut or bruise the tuber, those air spaces fill with water or soil and the tuber will likely rot.
Two Planting Systems
There are two schools of thought about how to plant lotus or handle them bareroot when they come from the nursery.
The first is to plant the tuber in its garden pot, keep it very warm (we’re talking 80F soil temperatures here) with the use of a soil warming pad or heat cable.
- No. The top of the frig isn’t warm enough.
- No. Regular house room temperatures are not warm enough.
You either use a heating cable or you won’t get the proper temperature.
You keep an inch of water above the soil line at all times and the tuber should respond with growth if it is healthy. Having said that, remember that soil and water temperatures are usually ten degrees colder than your room air temperature so you do have to find a way to heat up the soil/pot/water.
Do not bury either end of the tuber but cover the middle. If you have to cover one end, do not cover the pointed growing end.
The second system is slightly different from the first.
You take the same pot, fill it three quarters of the way full with garden soil and fill it with warm water. Then you float the tuber on the top of the soil.
This system only works if you keep the water warm!
If you let the water go cold, below 75F, then your tuber will likely rot and planting lotus will become a very frustrating gardening exercise.
When floating, the tuber will develop “retractor” roots and will pull itself down into the soil if you keep the water level a few inches above the soil line.
In either system, put the pot in the full hot sunlight or place a grow light a few inches above the tuber.
Once the tuber has started growing and the weather is warm, the pot can be put into the pond at the same depth as in the house.
Do Not Cover The Early Leaves With Water When Planting
Remember that lotus leaves do not stretch to the water surface (unlike water lily leaves) so do not cover those early leaves with water, put the pot so the leaves are just floating at the surface.
The new leaves will stretch above the water and you can then move the pot to deeper water.
I am told the Chinese who propagate a lot of lotus use the second method and find it more effective. While I would never argue with that data, I do think the key for home success in planting lotus is to use a heating mat and keep those tubers warm.