Barbara Earl Photo
Winter Care For Lotus
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The following suggestions for winter care of lotus are from
members of the Victoria-Adventure
email discussion list. Growing situations vary from zone
to zone so you need to adapt accordingly.
Basic Guide To Growing Lotuses
Babs Ellinwood, Hernando, Florida, USDA Zone
Here in Central Florida you can just leave your lotus in their
regular environment. Don't panic because of wilted, browning
leaves when the cold weather sets in. Most times unless the lotus
are in ice covered, frozen solid containers they will be OK by
just allowing them to acclimate to the water and air temperatures
We run into a problem with lotus in winter because we get
tooooooooo enthusiastic with the clippers and start removing
leaves to make them "look good". This destroys the
delicate balance that the plant has established to maintain the
tuber in its beginning dormant state. Do not cut off your leaves.
Let them shrivel and sag. Then it is safe to cut them off above
the water line. You don't want water getting into the green stem
and having it sucked into the tuber by the air channels. If this
happens, you have just "drowned" your prize tuber.
We do cover our ponds with plastic if the temperatures are
predicted to drop below 32°F. The plastic should not touch
your plants, and a PVC pipe structure can easily be constructed
to prevent that from occurring.
Linda (Patience) Siler, Springfield, Missouri,
I cut the lotus that I have left over from the season back
after the pads and stems have turned completely brown. I then
drop them in the bottom of ponds that are at least 24 inches
deep. For the ones I have growing in a bog area, I cut those
back the same way and then mulch them over with bags of leaves.
Then about a month before it's time to uncover them (usually
about mid-March) I dump the old leaves over them. The rotting
leaves feed the plants.
I pull the plants that are in the deeper ponds about mid-April
and repot if needed. If I can't get to them on time I postpone
repotting or dividing until the next spring. However I will cut
the extra growth runners any time. I hate repotting or dividing
when I see very active growth because it's so easy to break those
brittle grow points, no matter how careful I try to be. I would
like to do it earlier, but sometimes the weather is still just
too cold to work in.
Sheila Tierney, Queensland, Australia:
Here in Southeast Queensland, I just leave them where they
are when they go dormant until I see them start to shoot. Then
I either fertilise those in pots or transplant the larger ones.
Soni Forsman, Eagan, Minnesota, USDA Zone
In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I drop the lotus to the
bottom of the pond -- depth about 28 inches. This is our biggest
pond with about 2,800 gallons of water. I do this the third week
of October. By that time, they have been nipped by frost or freeze
several times. All foliage has died and the wind has broken much
of it. The remaining I cut back. This area of the pond is where
I also winter some of my hardy water lilies. I have been doing
this for at least five years and have been successful at least
through last winter.
John K. Wyman, Durham, North Carolina, USDA
I am speaking for myself as well as for Duke Gardens where
I am a volunteer. At the Garden we have two 60,000 gallon ponds
with at least seven 25-30 gallon lotus pots in them. We have
been raising hardy lotus here for some time very successfully.
We just leave them in the water for the winter but make sure
the tops of the pots are about 5" below the surface of the
water. The deepest freeze we've had here in the last 10 years
was a 5" thickness of ice. Our lotus winter over in the
pond as long as the tubers are considerably below the freezing
ice. They do fine.
We must repot every two years and make sure we fertilize properly
in the spring and summer. It is extremely critical that in the
repotting process we do not break the growing tips - this is
not easy. They must be handled with "kid gloves".
James Horne, Ontario, Canada, USDA Zone 4:
Basically I have two approaches: 1) letting the plants die
off in the cold outdoors before draining the water and bringing
in the pots to store in a cool room without artificial light
supplementation; 2) bringing in the plants quite early in the
fall and growing them indoors while gradually inducing dormancy.
This second method allows a longer growing period and presumably
more vigorous tubers. In either case I never
remove leaves until they are fully brown and dead. That lets
the plant maximize the amount of growth energy and sustenance
it receives from each leaf.
The first method is the simplest and allows nature to basically
take its course, and avoids letting the tubers freeze. Where
I am, that means bringing the plants in around the end of October
or early November. They have been exposed to several hard frosts
by this time, but the pots and water haven't frozen with more
than a light skim over them. Then the water is drained out and
the "wet" soil pot is placed in a plastic container
in a cool (50 degrees F) room without artificial light. "Wet"
means that the soil has drained so no more water runs out, but
it hasn't been dried any.
Before restarting in the spring I repot the tubers carefully,
picking out the obviously dead/dying ones which tend to be dark
and feel soft. The plants will start to grow when exposed to
longer daylight cycles and warmer temperatures. This will happen
naturally in a room with outdoor light. Once growth starts (around
February in my area) I fill the containers with water to cover
the soil again.
The second approach, bringing in the plants and using artificial
light to grow them is what I do with most of mine. I do this
especially with smaller weaker plants that didn't get well established
in my short outdoor growing season. So bringing them in and letting
them continue to grow is a good way to extend the season and
boost the plants. But I don't want the plants to grow all the
way through the winter without at least a short down time to
recover. This is forced with gradually decreasing day length
and temperatures. As that happens the growth of new leaves slows
and they get fewer and smaller. Eventually forming of leaves
stop, as the plant becomes dormant. These plants may still have
leaves on them, but they shouldn't be removed, as they still
contain significant resources for the plant.
Again I do any repotting/dividing and move the lotus back
into warmer areas with better, longer light cycles in February
to get them really going well before the summer comes and I can
move them outdoors. This is done with grow lights on timers and
moving them from cooler rooms to warmer ones. I have several
rooms in my house that are kept either warmer because they are
often used (or have a woodstove) or are cooler because they seldom
get used, so they don't need to be as warm.
I have noticed that my indoor lotus respond very well to the
Victoria Cocktail on a weekly basis while temperatures are over
75. Leaves are larger and stems thicker and stronger on plants
fed the cocktail than on those that aren't. Details on the cocktail
recipe and dosages are listed in Weakly