Contrary to popular belief it is perfectly possible to grow some varieties of these beautiful aquatic plants in at least the southern counties of the United Kingdom. They require warm summer weather in order to bloom and lay down tubers for the following year so may not do well in regions with cool summers, but are fully hardy through the winter anywhere if planted properly. We have been growing them outside here in East Anglia totally unprotected from frost since 1998. We experimented with different varieties until we found three which grow in our climate year after year (there are around a hundred lotus varieties available in Europe but all the others simply need more heat than the average British summer can provide). All tubers are our own, grown on the premises here; we do not sell imported lotus, which are difficult to establish.
They do however need quite specific growing conditions in order to succeed. Firstly, if you are north of a line stretching from the Severn estuary to The Wash, if you are growing right on the coast, or if you are growing at high altitude, then they may not get enough summer warmth to make their tubers and return the next year (although this will depend on the conditions in your own particular garden). Similarly, we do not recommend them if you cannot supply them with at least 6 hours direct sunlight per day from April to late September. The ideal spot is a very warm, sunny, sheltered location, such as you might grow outdoor tomatoes in.
Thirdly, the tubers should always be planted in round containers, as the growing points may be damaged by growing into corners, and this damage will cause the plant to die. For the same reason, do not use open mesh baskets such as traditional aquatic baskets, as the growing points can get stuck in the holes in them and die - use solid containers. The growing container also needs to be large - we would recommend something at least 45 - 90cm (18 - 36 inches) in diameter and at least 15cm (6 inches) deep. Black containers are best, as these absorb sunlight and warm up the plants in spring more quickly. (Because of these requirements, many people choose to plant their lotuses straight into very large round water-tight containers which in effect become a small pond in their own right). If you contact us, we can suggest where to buy planting containers.
The growing points on lotus plants, where the shoots emerge, are extremely fragile. If these get damaged they will not re-sprout and if none of the growing points can sprout the plant will die, so please unwrap and handle your lotus with great care at all times. Plant the lotus in heavy loam or special aquatic soil, and add a slow-release fertiliser tablet. Place the tuber itself horizontally just under the soil surface, and then just 5cm (2 inches) of water over this - the plants need as much sun and warmth as possible in order to put on sufficient growth to make tubers for next year. The plants do better in rain water than tap water.
Flowers appear August to September (although this may not happen in the first year). During the winter leave the tuber where it is, below the frost line, and it will be fine. It does not need extra protection from frost nor to come into a greenhouse or garage.
Please note there is only a very short window to ship lotus tubers - usually 10 days somewhere between late March to late April/early May, depending on the weather. This is because a tuber has to be visibly sprouting before it can be sold (to confirm that it is a living tuber with growing points) but as the shoots grow further the plant becomes simply too delicate to dig up and post. We will put them back in stock on the site when they are ready, but if you have any questions about what we expect to have available and when, please contact us and we can advise you further.
We usually have many more people wanting lotuses than we can supply; if you would like to buy one we would recommend putting yourself on the 'notification' list by clicking the link on each plant's page. We will offer plants first to those people who have been waiting on the notification list for the longest.