LO­TUS PO­SI­TION

THIS EX­OTIC AQUATIC BEAUTY IS ONE OF THE MOST RE­WARD­ING AND EAS­I­EST PLANTS TO GROW

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

Surely one of the most beau­ti­ful and ex­otic of all flow­ers is the lo­tus. There are two species, nelumbo lutea (the Amer­i­can lo­tus) and nelumbo nu­cifera (the Asian lo­tus). The Asian lo­tus is na­tive to a huge area from In­dia to China, in­clud­ing north­ern Aus­tralia. The huge leaves, like gi­ant nas­tur­tium leaves, are borne on strong, thick stems that rise up to a me­tre above the wa­ter. They set­tle and rest on the wa­ter after a few days. The gor­geous plump buds emerge on long, straight stems, ris­ing above the leaves be­fore open­ing to re­veal the ex­quis­ite flower. The per­fectly ar­ranged petals open each morn­ing and close in the evening. The cen­tre, or heart of the flower, is a disk-shaped cone that holds the seeds. When the petals fall, this cen­tre hard­ens and the seeds form, so the spent flower re­mains very at­trac­tive in its own right. Lo­tus blos­soms are in shades of white, yel­low, pink and red. Bees love for­ag­ing in the flow­ers. The lo­tus is an aquatic peren­nial, ac­tive through­out sum­mer and com­pletely dor­mant in win­ter. The roots and rhi­zomes grow in the mud at the bot­tom of a pond, river or lake, but if you don’t have one, a large bowl or pot will do per­fectly well. Lo­tuses will grow in full sun to part shade. They have vig­or­ous run­ning rhi­zomes, so they need a wide con­tainer and about 15–20cm of soil. I pre­fer to grow my lo­tus di­rectly in the bot­tom of large wa­ter bowls, although you can just place a plas­tic con­tainer con­tain­ing the plant in the bot­tom of a wa­ter bowl if you pre­fer. A layer of gravel on top of the soil helps keep the wa­ter clean. You can add some na­tive fish to deal with mos­quito lar­vae. Lo­tuses are vig­or­ous grow­ers and heavy feed­ers, and need to be fer­tilised ev­ery 4–6 weeks dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son with wa­ter plant food tablets. Even though they are dor­mant for 3–4 months of the year, I still think lo­tuses are one of the most re­ward­ing – and eas­i­est – plants to grow. Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

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