Lotus Love

When August arrives we all take a moment to reflect on the gardens as the heat forces us to slow down a bit. I am so grateful for our tropical plant collection when the intense heat and humidity sits heavy in the air. It reminds me that there are plants that love this weather and need it in order to flourish. The lotus, for example, are just coming into bloom now. We stored the lotus tubers in the basement of the greenhouse for the cold winter months. In May, we brought the plants out and sunk them in pots of water for the summer growing season. They had a bit of a slow start due to the cool spring weather and cold nights that persisted. There were a few lotus that did not enjoy the transition to cool outdoor temperatures. We brought those into the greenhouse for rehab.

Several cultivars of lotus spent the winter outdoors. Their containers are sunk in the ground in our Sill Garden. This protected them from winter exposure. They were the first to reward us with blooms this summer. (If you have the space in your garden for a sunken tub for lotus, I highly recommend this method.)

Lotus growing in the Sill Garden

We also sunk a potted lotus into the pond in the center of the Idea Garden. Overwintering lotus in a pond is another excellent method.

Pollinators seemed overjoyed at the return of these giant blooms. Honey bees were especially active in their gathering of pollen.

The final bit of advice I will offer for those looking to grow their own lotus is this: don’t forget to fertilize. Our garden volunteer Rick Burt, who originally inspired us to grow lotus at Blithewold, has taken on the task of fertilizing the lotus every couple of weeks throughout July and August with aquatic plant fertilizer tabs (NPK is 10-14-8 for those curious). Once the heat arrives, lotus become heavy feeders. Without fertilizer, the plants will peter out quickly.

For more information on how we cared for the lotus last year, check out my blog ‘Lotus Appreciation’ here.

Our shaded sitting area by the greenhouse is also home to some of our tropical container collection. Elephant ears of all shapes and sizes reside here for the summer months. Elephant ear is a term that seems to apply to a variety of plants – from Caladium to Colocasia to Alocasia. We have all three here on display. Colocasia and Alocasia are similar in form save for one big difference – Colocasia foliage points downward and Alocasia foliage points upward.

The two cultivars pictured above originally came from my own container collection and I had lost a bit of hope for them. They were relegated to sitting outside my apartment on pavement in the hot sun all summer, which is most definitely not what they would prefer. After I repotted them this spring and gave them a cool, shaded home they have come back big time. I’m so glad I didn’t throw them away!

I hope the tropical-like weather we are having has found you with a cool place to sit and relax. There will always be a spot for you in our shaded container area here at Blithewold.

I will leave you with this image of one of our miniature lotus seed pods. Here’s to a fun and happy August!