Huge, round leaves attached at their centers to leafstalks rise above the water. Large, fragrant summer flowers form above or below leaves. Ornamental, woody fruit is perforated like a saltshaker and looks attractive in dried arrangements. Do not introduce into natural bodies of water, as plants can quickly cover the surface.
If you buy started plants in containers, put them in a pond, positioned so soil in pots is 810 in. below surface of water. If you acquire roots, plant them in spring, setting them horizontally and about 4 in. deep in a 1- to 112-ft.-deep container of fairly rich soil; then place container at the recommended depth in pond, as described above for started plants. Do not let roots freeze; where freezes are possible, cover the pond or fill it deeper with water. Beware of introducing lotus plants or roots into earth-bottomed ponds 34 ft. or shallower; plants will eventually fill in pond, and rhizomes are difficult to remove. Lotus also spreads via floating seeds.
N. lutea. AMERICAN LOTUS. Native to North America. Similar to N. nucifera but somewhat smaller in leaf and flower. Flowers are pale yellow.
N. nucifera (Nelumbium nelumbo). INDIAN or CHINESE LOTUS. Native to Asia, Australia. Round leaves to 2 ft. or wider are carried 36 ft. above the water's surface. Pink, 4- to 10-in.-wide flowers are borne singly on stems. Both the tubers and the seeds are esteemed in Chinese cookery, and entire plant has great religious signicance for Buddhists: It represents the human soul rising from the mud and aspiring to light and purity. White, rose-colored, and double-blossomed selections exist. 'Speciosum' is the classic, single, light pink lotus of Oriental art. 'Alba Grandiflora' bears large, very fragrant, white flowers. 'Empress' has single white blooms with deep pink edges. Dwarf forms (12 ft. tall) suitable for tubs and small ponds include 'Tulip' ('Shiro- kunshi'), single white; and 'Momo Botan', with double blooms in deep rose, fading to white.