Growing "sacred lotus" (Nelumbo nucifera) from seed

I searched a bit and there are a few posts about pond lotus, but nothing specific to growing from seed. I’m hoping for some tips to germinate and grow these effectively. I purchased dried seeds from EFN, and it says in the listing that their seeds were sourced from India by “Sheffield’s Seed Company in Locke, NY”:

Here’s the germination instructions they provided, which I’ll be following unless anyone here has other suggestions:

When attempting to start seed, you’ll need to carefully file through the seed coat so water can reach the seed. Soak in warm water, changing the water twice a day, and continuing this until the seed begins to sprout. Sow in pots 1/2" deep and then submerge completely in fresh water. Allow water to just cover the pot, and raise water level as the plants grow. Change water often to ensure it doesn’t go stagnant.

I have a small pond (180 gal) that I’m hoping to grow them in. The pond never freezes, other than maybe a thin layer on the coldest nights, so I think they should overwinter fine, but please let me know if that’s not true.

My questions:

  • Once I’ve started them and they’ve grown a bit, should I keep them in sunken containers, or plant directly in the bottom of the pond? The pond is a buried 180 gal “Tuff Stuff” plastic tub that is rain-fed and has been recirculating and accumulating sediment for about two years.
  • Racoons have regularly attacked this pond, eating the goldfish and pulling out the pump to play in the water. Has anyone had racoons eat or kill lotus plants? Do I need to try to protect them somehow? Any suggestions on how to do that?
  • Any other tips or things to know for a first-time lotus grower?

If grown lotus before.

Filing the seed till you barely see a white spot. And then if just put them in water.

If grown them as an experiment in a soda bottle in the windowsill. And tried to grow them in the pond.

The lotus seeds for me germinated easily (without the warm water soak. Just file and plant)

My main issue was growing them in a container first and than transplanting. The stem length on the leaves seems to be fixed. And thus if you grow them in a container with a low water level and than transplant to a deep pond. The leaves are submerged and the lotus does not do wel.

if i remember correctly the first 3 leaves are from the seed. And grow roughly 1 leave per 4-7 days. After that they slow down a bit.

if i where to try again (still got some seeds left) i would likely direct sow in a container in the pond in the summer. Or i would pay extra attention to keep the planting depth-water level the same when transplanting.

you can also grow them in buckets. Since lotus tends to at some point form leaves above the water.

And there are also cold hardy lotus
Nelumbo nucifera ssp. komarovii


I’ve grown lotuses for many years, though mainly from rhizome sections instead of seed.

As long as the pond doesn’t freeze solid, the lotus will be fine. If you plant it directly on the bottom, it will take over the entire thing in one growing season. You will get more flowers that way. I would plant out the seedlings in buckets (individually; you only need one to fill the pond, keep any others as backups) when it has a few leaves, wait until it has filled the bucket, and plant it out in the pond when water temperatures are consistently in the upper 60s-70s. Warmth is important. If the water isn’t warm enough, the plant will have trouble establishing. In my experience, they aren’t too bothered by cool nights (high 40s-50s) early in the season as long as it warms up considerably during the daytime.

I don’t know if you are able to control the water level in the pond, but when I start lotuses I usually add just enough water to cover the growing point by a few inches. The first leaves will float on the surface and have some capacity to elongate with changing water levels, but I wouldn’t try to test that, especially with a seedling. As leaves form, I gradually increase the water level until the container is full. Lotuses don’t need deep water. 4-5 inches is enough. The amount of soil is more important.

Raccoons will definitely pull and eat lotuses. I have lost many newly planted tubers over the years. I will usually put a sheet of wire mesh over the entire container and weigh or pin it down until the plant is well rooted and there are multiple leaves. Usually at that point they are more difficult for raccoons to pull out, but I have had raccoons decide to go for a swim in my lotus tubs and tear up all the leaves.

Lotuses are heavy feeders, but can be damaged by fertilizing too early. Don’t apply any chemical fertilizers until the first above-water leaves appear. I have had good results with 3-4 inches of composted cow manure topped with 12-18 inches of topsoil. There’s no need to mix in the manure. The lotus will find it as the rhizome explores the container. I follow up with waterlily/lotus fertilizer every couple of weeks once flowering starts.

It’s best to think of the growth pattern of a lotus like Bermuda grass or bearded iris. Most of the growth occurs from a single growing tip, which will extend for many feet if allowed. Periodically, a new growth point will branch off, but prior to that, damage to the growing tip will likely kill the lotus. If you’ve seen lotus “roots” (actually rhizomes), the joints between the fleshy sections are the nodes where you’ll have a leaf, the actual roots, and an axillary bud, Flowers and new growth points arise from the axillary bud where the leaf attaches to the node. Some varieties will flower with every emergent (non-floating) leaf, others are less floriferous. Since flowers only occur at leaf axils, the rhizome needs to keep growing to produce more nodes and subsequently flowers. They’re perfectly content to grow in circles around the edge of a tub, however, as long as their nutrient needs are met.

Sun is important. They need at least 6 or 7 hours of full sun exposure to grow and bloom well. Don’t underestimate the amount of water they transpire as they grow. They can take summer temps in the low 100s for weeks at a time but will suck up enormous amounts of water, so make sure to keep an eye on the water level.

It’s important that you don’t plant lotuses in containers with sharp corners, as the growing tip can get stuck there and die.

If you’re growing them for seed production, you will want to hand-pollinate the flowers unless you have a lot of carpenter and bumble bees around. Honeybees seem too small to be very effective pollinators in my experience. Most flowers will last three or four days. The stigma is receptive for the first two days while pollen is shed on the second and third days. I generally harvest the seeds when they are fully grown but before they turn brown. Once the seed coat hardens, it’s very difficult to shell them.

For root production, there are varieties bred specifically for that available. The roots/rhizomes/tubers/whatever you want to call them of regular varieties tend to be fairly small and fibrous. The varieties for root production devote most of their energy towards vegetative growth and flower minimally, if at all. Unless you have a fairly large pond, its unlikely you will get enough of a harvest to be worth it. I grew one of these once, and the harvest process isn’t really something I care to repeat again.

Sorry for the rambly post. Hope this helps and let me know if you have any further questions.


Absolutely don’t apologize, that was very helpful! I’ll need to think more about the raccoon problem. They are relentless and managed to pull out the pond pump even after I weighed it down with concrete blocks. They also stripped the banana plant next to the pond of its leaves one time. I posted a photo here:

I’ll plan to keep a few growing in buckets in my greenhouse as backups, but maybe I can come up with some kind of deterrent system for the pond that will work. I want to allow birds to access the water, but keep out raccoons… probably not possible?


I’ve found lotus don’t love being in a greenhouse. I think the water gets too warm.


Maybe I’ll plant them directly in the rain barrels, those things never really warm up much even in summer.

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They do seem to like warmth above water so I’d make sure they get plenty of sun. It just seems to be the rhizomes which don’t seem to like getting too warm. If the rain barrels are in full sun, but don’t get too hot then the lotus will probably succeed there.

The biggest problem I’ve had with lotus is getting them to come back strong after winter. Although they can easily handle the level of cold in Western WA winters, the problem seems to be that they don’t complete their dormant tuber formation before killing freezes hit. During the growing season they produce long thin rhizomes which do not store a lot of energy. At the end of the growing season they begin to form thicker sausage like rhizomes with lots of stored energy in preparation for winter. My experience has been that a fair number of varieties simply do not pack away enough energy before the cold hits and so even though they technically overwinter fine they have very little energy left to push growth in the spring.

I’ve killed A LOT of lotus over the years, but have a hand full of varieties which are proving to handle the climate alright (I suspect they start preparing for dormancy a little earlier than average for the species). Regardless, whatever the overwintering rhizome size is supposed to be for any given cultivar you can expect it to be smaller here.

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I meant the two rain barrels inside the greenhouse, though usually the water level is pretty low in those by the end of summer, so that probably won’t work now that I think about it. Since the sun wouldn’t shine down where the water surface is, even with the top removed.

That’s good to know. For lotus in containers, have you tried bringing them in a greenhouse in the fall to prolong the season?

Raccoons are definitely one of the worst pests to have when trying to grow aquatic plants. Far too clever for their own good. Maybe a mesh enclosure around the entire pond could work? I’ve used branches pruned from roses and blackberries as a deterrent before, and it does help but makes maintenance a little difficult.

True, lotuses don’t love being in a greenhouse, but I don’t know if it’s an issue of water temperature. I used to grow miniature lotuses in 3 gallon containers in the Central Valley, and they were unfazed by temperatures in the hundreds as long as I kept the water level up. I think sun exposure is more important. Even in a completely exposed greenhouse there is some reduction in light intensity. If you look at a lotus pond with trees nearby, you’ll see that they pretty much don’t grow into shaded areas at all.


Here’s one of mine from last summer at peak bloom grown in a 180 gallon stock tank.

This is what the whole plant looked like.


That’s the exact same tank I have buried to make this “pond” and I would love to see something like that within a couple years!

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Most of the varieties I’m growing are too large to move since they’re in large tanks to allow space to grow. I have a dwarf one in a bucket that I left in the greenhouse all last year (including the previous winter) and it did poorly compared to the same clone growing outside.

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I finally opened my seed pack tonight, and one thing that jumped out at me was how different one of the seeds looks from the rest:

Any thoughts on what might be the reason?

I’ve grown lotus from seed lots of times. After many successful attempts to germinate the seeds I’ve never had any of them successfully mature enough in our PNW short growing seasons to actually form large enough overwintering rhizomes to survive. You might have a better chance at succeeding than me being as you are closer to the Puget Sound which might help, but I’d recommend fertilizing heavily and pushing as much growth as possible as fast as possible. I’ve lost count of how many time’s I’ve failed with lotus seedlings and even mature rhizomes so I’m just glad to have five or six varieties now which actually survive from year to year…

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My plan was to keep most of them in buckets or portable tubs the first year, so they can go into the greenhouse over the winter, other than one planted in the outdoor pond this year. Hopefully with this many seeds, I can get at least one to make it through the winter in a bucket in the greenhouse, and the best looking one can go into the pond next year if the first one dies.

I bought Nelumbo lutea seeds once that looked like that. Smaller and glossier than N. nucifera. Maybe there was a mix up.

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I was thinking it might be something like that. I’ll try to keep it separate to see if it grows any differently.

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I have had good luck deterring raccoons and blue herons by haphazardly stringing (like a widow spider web) monofilament line of a pretty high test. Zig zag it heavily across the pond and anchor it about 12” back from the waters edge as much as possible. I have used large flagstones and cinder blocks and nearby vegetation as anchors. I have even drilled small anchor points into the lip of ponds. They have a hard time seeing the monofilament in the dark and will often pass once “tangling” with the line in the dark.

Also, clients with ponds have noticed that raccoons absolutely adore floating hyacinth plants. I was told by a mentor that they enjoy methanol the hyacinths secrete in their floats. I have made a sacrificial pond/bucket nearby that the fast growing and cheap hyacinth up as an offering. It would be easy to keep a few mother hyacinth in the greenhouse to keep you and the raccoons supplied.

Kids or family every had thoughts of a family dog?? Terriers are what come to mind.

When I was just out of college one of my roommates did a double red lotus in a half whisky barrel. He had stapled down animal wire over the top to keep them out. It bloomed great but I don’t think he had active problems. His screen was just in case.

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First sprout!


Just shelled them and discarded 2 more showing rot, but all the rest had small green sprouts and went into submerged soil pots. Here’s the tally:

  • Failed float test: 1
  • Shattered by my clumsy hands holding it in pliers: 1
  • Rotted while soaking: 2
  • Successfully sprouted & planted: 6