The lotus flower
The flower of an aquatic plant native to Asia and America, called Nelumbo, is called lotus flower; only two species belong to the genus nelumbo: nelumbo nucifera, of Asian origin, also called sacred lotus; and Nelumbo lutea, or American lotus. In Italy, specimens of the Asian species are generally found in the nursery, together with some hybrids, which are often more resistant and vigorous than the botanical species.
Nelumbo are large plants. They produce a large semi woody foot, made up of rhizomatous roots, which tend to sink into the ground; vigorous cylindrical stems rise from the roots, rigid and erect, bearing large cordate or rounded leaves, and large pink or white flowers. The leaves of the lotus are greyish green, and are covered with substances that make them completely water-repellent; they are quite leathery, and often, like the flowers, rise above the surface of the water, and it is difficult to see them all completely submerged or floating, unlike what happens with water lilies. When the flower fades, a large pod remains on the stiff stem for days, which over the days becomes woody, funnel-shaped, which is often used, dried, in floral compositions.
These plants, despite their exotic beauty, are easy to cultivate, especially if you have a small, fairly deep pond, at least 30-40 cm; they can also be grown in large hydroponics pots, or other containers, as long as they have a good amount of water and space. They are resistant and vigorous plants, which do not fear frost, as long as they remain in non-frozen water; if we live in an area where winter is very severe, with very intense and prolonged frosts, we can cover the pond with non-woven fabric, or grow our flower in a pot, to be moved indoors in case of intense frost; in any case, if the water is not completely frozen, they can remain outdoors even in the event of sporadic and slight frosts. In Italy there is a huge lotus flower pond in the spectacular garden of Villa Taranto, in Verbania, where winters are certainly not mild, even if warmed by the proximity of the lake.
The semi woody tubers must be buried at the bottom of the pond; to do this, let's equip ourselves with a grilled pot, place the tuber, with the sprout at the top, and cover the whole tuber with a sufficiently compact compound, so that it remains in place once the vase is sunk in the water. If we want to plant the lotus in a large pot, place the tuber on the bottom, and then cover with suitable soil for aquatic plants, until it reaches the base of the shoot, which will be left outside the soil. Then we cover it completely with water, or we place the vase anchored to the bottom of our pond. If we have a small pond in the garden, we avoid planting the lotus outside a pot, because it tends to become invasive over time, and the presence of the pot will help us to keep the tuber compact over the years.
These plants do not need further care, if not periodic fertilization with specific fertilizers for aquatic plants.
The lotuses in winter
these exotic plants can withstand short, mild frosts; they can survive in the garden even when temperatures drop below -7 / -10 ° C, as long as the water remains thawed; the freezing of the entire pond obviously causes the death of the tuber, and therefore we control the water temperature, and cover the pond in case it tends to freeze. Obviously, during particularly harsh winters, it can happen that the leaves are damaged by frost; when spring arrives, it is advisable to remove them, to encourage the development of new shoots, and avoid them being a vehicle for rot or other fungal or bacterial diseases. The stems bearing flowers and leaves are hollow, and are in direct contact with the rhizome, to prevent these stems from filling up completely with water, sometimes leading to asphyxiation of the tuber, when we remove a ruined leaf or flower let's stop with the cut above the surface of the water, for at least 5-10 cm, so that the water cannot enter the barrel.
Lotus Flower: Propagation
Inside the thick woody capsule there are large spherical or oval seeds, generally fertile; these seeds are very vital, and remain so for centuries. This is possible thanks to the fact that they are covered with a thick and hard cuticle, which does not allow external agents to penetrate inside. So if we simply go and sow a lotus in the ground at the bottom of our pond, we will have to wait several months before the water is able to penetrate the seed, causing it to germinate; to speed up this process, the outer part of the seed is usually wiped with sandpaper, in order to slightly thin the cuticle that encloses it. Obviously we act with caution and delicacy, to avoid irreparably ruining the contents of the seed. The flowers that we can find in the nursery are usually hybrid plants, so it will be highly unlikely that a plant identical to the mother plant will grow from our seeds.
To get a plant just as we want it, with flowers identical to those we have admired in a pond, we will have to get a portion of the tuber, or rather a lateral shoot of the same. Lotus flowers are vigorous plants, which tend to propagate independently with great abundance, in fact, those who have been able to admire them in nature can almost always assure us that they have enjoyed an expanse of lotus plants, and not two or three small plants. . So, if our neighbor has lotus flowers in the garden, she will almost certainly be happy to give us a sprout of her tubers, which generally, every two or three years, must be cut, to prevent the plants from proliferating excessively. .