Introducing the Different Types of Lotus Flowers
Alright, I’m going to be honest with ya’ll here. I have written about hundreds, thousands of different tree and flower species so far in my career, and there is no other plant species as evasive and illusive as the lotus plant.
Nobody can really seem to agree on what is a lotus flower and what isn’t.
They are often confused with water lilies, some people mistake lotus flowers that only exist in video games as being real, and nobody actually really knows when lotus flowers were first discovered or where they came from.
If I may continue with my honesty, growing lotus plants is not a very popular endeavour in the western world. They have a lot more spiritual, culinary, and ornamental significance in the eastern part of the world, so finding information here has proven to be rather difficult!
What follows is the most comprehensive cluster of information on lotus flowers that I could muster. Consider this your one-stop shop for Lotus Flowers for Dummies.
We’ll go through some history, some spiritual significance, some species and cultivars, and fun little factoids along the way. Ready?! Me neither.
Parts of a Lotus Flower (Anatomy Diagram)
What is the History of the Lotus Flower Plant?
Lotus is an aquatic plant that belongs to the nelumbonaceae botanical family. There are only 2 known species that have survived the centuries: nelumbo lutea and nelumbo nucifera.
From these 2 species, humans have cultivated hundreds of cultivars. Lotus flower cultivation has been in practice for hundreds and hundreds of years across many cultures.
Where do they grow?
More than anything else, the lotus flower has cultural and spiritual significance to the areas that it grows naturally. The natural growing range of these plants extends across Australia, Russia, China, and Iran.
If you’re thinking that these are all very different climates, you’re right. This is the first sign that the resilience and hardiness of this plant is pretty extreme and it is not at all common in the plant world.
There are a couple reasons for this unusual resilience. Lotus’ are actually living fossils. They look and function pretty much exactly as they did in the prehistoric era; that’s right, they were right there next to the dinosaurs.
The difference between them and dinosaurs is that lotus plants actually survived mass extinction.
When growing wild, you can find lotus plants primarily in wetlands. They can grow in mud or water, but ultimately they need a ton of moisture if they’re going to grow.
Every other condition is pretty much irrelevant as long as their roots can stay growing in the mud. They tolerate clay, loam, and straight up sand, too.
*Here’s a cool factoid: lotus plants actually have a crazy tolerance to pollution as well. Why? Because they can control the environment around them. They have another nifty talent where they can actually purify the water that they grow in. Isn’t that the neatest thing you’ve heard all week!?
How are they so tough?
The reason why they were able to survive mass extinction – along with the rest of life of the planet at the time – is because of their incredible little seeds.
There are plenty of plant types out there that have seeds that can stay dormant for many years, but a lotus seed has been known to remain viable after over 1000 years of dormancy. This is unheard of.
There are 2 other main reasons why lotus flowers are so unfathomably long lived and can withstand extreme climates. Get ready for two long words here: ultrahydrophobicity and thermoregulation.
Ultrahydrophobicity means that lotus flowers are extremely good at letting water roll off. This is attributed to both the texture and the angle of the lotus flower petals. The texture is basically the same as your rain jacket, so water droplets just bead off.
The way that the flower petals are arranged on the plant also make it so that a water droplet can never actually linger for any given moment, so there is no opportunity for pooling.
Since water is where a lot of bacteria lives, a plant that doesn’t have issues with bacteria can last a super long time.
Thermoregulation means that the plant can actually generate its own heat, which is something that it has in common with both animals and humans. This is also unheard of in the vast majority of plant life on the planet.
With this nifty little talent, lotus plants are able to withstand incredibly low temperatures and survive in completely frozen lakes, and on the other side they can tolerate intensely hot temperatures and exposure to the scorching sun.
Lotus flowers can bloom in areas and times of year where other plants wouldn’t dare.
What is their spiritual significance?
In many cultures the lotus flower is considered as being a sacred flower. It is a prominent figure in food, medicine, and art. It is clear why people find lotus flowers to be so magical, since they are literally ancient beings who cannot be killed.
Each flower color has its own symbolism to it, and people will grow or eat them in order to manifest or set intention for a certain outcome or feeling. A lotus flower meaning is a language in its own right.
But more than anything, a lotus flower of any color has a powerful meaning and is known as being “the flower of life”, which correlates with rebirth.
This is because of the flowers’ incredible ability to withstand millions of years of evolution, a literal meteor shower, topped off with the horrific pollution and environmental collapse we’re experiencing today. It will continue to thrive regardless of the elements.
Lotus Flower Colors
The color of lotus flowers each has its own symbolism.
The Red Lotus – the red lotus flower is a symbol of love and passion, which is an obvious correlation as most red flowers signify something similarly romantic. They also signify compassion, sympathy, and selfless love.
The White Lotus – the white lotus flower is one of the most common and most popularly grown color of lotus flower. The white lotus signifies purity of mind and heart, as well as fertility, faith, grace, and knowledge. It has been nicknamed “womb of the world”.
The Yellow Lotus – the yellow lotus’ are another commonly grown types of lotus flowers. They obviously symbolize joy, but they also signify openness, curiosity and hospitality and for this reason are commonly grown on a front property.
The Pink Lotus – the pink lotus flower is the variety that is most commonly associated with Buddhism and it is known as being a very earthly symbol. A closed flower bud means following a spiritual path, whereas a bloomed flower signifies enlightenment.
The Blue Lotus – the blue lotus flower is known as “the perfection of wisdom” and it is a very important symbol in Hinduism. It signifies intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom, and represents victory of the spirit over the senses.
*Cool factoid alert: there is an extremely rare lotus species called the Changanassery which is known to have 1000 flower petals. It will bloom literally once in a blue moon, and has just bloomed for only a second time in a small town in Sri Lanka.
The owner of the flower was gifted a single Changanassery flower seed by a distant relative. Luckily he is an avid botanist and rare flower hobbyist, and he has managed to keep this flower in bloom for a baffling 10 months!
How are Lotus Flowers Used?
More often than not, folks first recognize lotus plants as being used ornamentally. Lotus is an aquatic plant, meaning that their roots grow at the bottom of small, shallow bodies of water.
This makes lotus plants the perfect option for growing in a pond or large water container. They have excessively beautiful flowers that can sometimes bloom for a significant amount of time.
Lotus plants, depending on the species and variety, will also bear rather interesting leaves. Very similar to the foliage of a water lily (hence the confusion between the two plants) they occasionally have leaves that are circular, flat, and float atop the surface of a pond.
The secondary purpose of lotus plants that people are aware of is as an edible plant. Nearly every part of the plant is not only edible, it’s both delicious and nutritious.
Lotus root can be eaten raw or cooked. Lotus root is often found as a garnish on ramen, but it can also be used as a starchy alternative to potatoes. They’re super rich in vitamins as well.
Lotus flower petals are very fragrant and fresh tasting and make for a lovely garnish for cocktails or salads. It is also used to make congee, which is a common porridge-like dish from China.
The leaves and seed pods of the plant are used medicinally and are known to have properties that help with issues like blood pressure and clean bowels. They are often made into teas.
As we mentioned earlier, lotus plants are capable of actually cleaning the water that they are growing in. They do this in two different ways: through sun blocking and rhizofiltration.
Because of the high density of leaves floating in the surface of a water body, sunlight is unable to reach the bottom. This counteracts the natural process that occur where there is a build up on minerals and nutrients (which causes algae growth).
Additionally, rhizofiltration helps keep water clean because the lotus roots actually filter contaminants in the groundwater. Because of this, the oxygen content in the water is on average 20% higher in lotus ponds than ponds without lotus.
How many Lotus Species are there?
Despite the variety of colors, petal arrangements, and sizing of lotus plants that you may have seen, there are actually only 2 species that are currently known and still surviving. These are nelumbo nucifera and nelumbo lutea.
From these two lotus species, humanity has practiced cultivation with them for thousands of years. Since then there have been hundreds of various cultivars and varieties in circulation.
There are a good handful of other lotus species that have been discovered but that has been through fossil records as they are currently extinct. In the next section, we will go through a small handful of the hundreds of cultivars that have perpetuated.
What are some Types of Lotus Flowers?
Species of Lotus
1. American Lotus (Nelumbo Lutea) – the American lotus is the most popularly grown and eaten type of lotus. It can grow in all sorts of different climates and is known also as the yellow lotus or water chinquapin. N lutea grows naturally throughout North America and the Caribbean.
N lutea has circular foliage that is either blue or green and grows lovely delicate flowers that are either white or yellow with 20 petals each. They can grow to be 5 feet in length and are suitable for deeper ponds.
2. Sacred Lotus (Nelumbo Nucifera) – the sacred lotus is also known as the water bean or the Indian lotus flower. Some people mistakenly call it a water lily because of their similarity in appearance, though they are part of different genus’.
The Indian lotus flower features a golden yellow centre and bright pink flower petals that sit high above an erect petiole, holding the cup shaped flower far above the water surface. These flowers close at night and open in the morning.
N nucifera is a native plant throughout eastern and southern Asia and there it is a symbol of longevity, both because the plant can grow roots over 8 feet in length and because the seed lotus can remain viable after over 1000 years of dormancy.
Cultivars & Hybrids
3. Yellow Lotus of the Sunshine – this is a white flower blossom that has dark crimson borders along each flower petal and a bright yellow centre. Each flower is around 6 inches in diameter and has over 20 petals per flower.
4. Perry’s Giant Sunburst Lotus – Perry’s giant sunburst lotus is quite a sight to see. The stems can grow to be over 8 feet long, and it bears double flowers. Each yellow flower can be over 12 inches in diameter!
5. Vietnamese Lotus – the Vietnamese lotus is a important staple when it comes to culinary traditions in certain parts of Asia. It is often grown as an edible plant and bears huge, showy white flowers or pink flowers.
6. Angel Wings Lotus – this plant variety is most recognized by its leaves that are very similar to the foliage of water lilies. They are large, circular, and float on the water surface. Accompanying these leaves are huge white flowers.
7. Momo Botan Lotus – the Momo Botan was one of the first lotus varieties that was brought from Asia to North America. It is a dwarf variety that only grows to be about 2 feet in height and it bears bright pink flowers.
8. Lotus of Lace Gem – the lotus of lace gem is a more rare variety that has purple petals that are pointed at the ends. They have a golden centre to them and grow to be about 4 feet length. These prefer warmer climates.
9. Carolina Queen Lotus – this lotus variety is grown because of its incredible cold hardiness. Some have said it can bloom over pure ice. It grows to be about 6 feet tall and bears rose pink flowers.
10. Green Maiden Lotus – this is a smaller variety of lotus plant that is best known for its production of double headed flowers. It only grows to be 1-3 feet tall and bears creamy white flowers with yellow tinged edges.
11. Asiatic Nelumbo – this plant is known for having aerial leaves that stand high above the surface of the water. They’re also known for their unusual seed pods that are often used in dried flower arrangements. They bear huge and showy white cup shaped blossoms.
12. Lotus of Golden Wheel – Lotus of golden wheel is a delicate flower with only 20 white petals that are rounded at the tips. It has a bright golden centre that kind of looks like a buttercup!
13. Chawan Lotus – the Chawan lotus is a dwarf variety that is perfect for growing in containers. It bears small double flowers with white petals with light pink margins. Its flower shape is that of a small rice bowl, hence where the name comes from.
14. Lotus of the Clear Moon – lotus of the clear moon is a favorite amongst lotus hobbyists. It bears lovely glaucous foliage that gathers water beads. It bears huge flowers 10 inches across that can be white, pink, or yellow.
15. Cherry Lotus – the cherry lotus plant is a gorgeous variety that bears flowers with 18 petals each. Each flower petal begins white, then fades into pink then purple. Each flower is about 8 inches in diameter.
16. Sunflower Lotus – the sunflower lotus despite its name actually bears dark pink flowers. These are huge double flowers that have yellow centres and they tend to grow most prosperously in warmer climates.
16. Japanese Lotus – the Japanese lotus flower is a smaller variety, only growing to be about 2 feet tall, but it is very well suited to colder climates. It bears gorgeous showy flowers with bright pink petals.
17. Little Green House Lotus – this is a particularly charming lotus variety. It bears double flowers of bright white, a yellow centre, and interesting bright green sed pods that sit in the centre, hence the charming name.
What are the Ideal Growing Conditions of a Lotus Plant?
If you’re feeling curious about growing lotus on your own, here are a few tips and tricks on how to keep them as happy as possible in your very own water garden. Remember, these are aquatic plants, so they grow in water!
Lotus plants really are not picky when it comes to the soil that they grow in. The earth below your chosen water garden can be sandy, loamy, or even clay! Because of the hardy lotus tubers, these plants are capable of growing in all sorts of crazy conditions and be perfectly happy.
It is also important that you choose the correct lotus variety according to how tall it will grow, and choose its growing medium accordingly. A dwarf plant won’t be happy in a super deep pond, and on the other side, a very long plant won’t be ecstatic about growing in a super shallow pool.
One thing that lotus plants are a little bit particular about is receiving the right amount of sunlight exposure. Lotus’ are sun loving creatures and should be planted in an area that receives full sun for at least 6 hours of the day. Less sun can sometimes result in a less enthusiastic growing period.
The temperature that a lotus plant prefers will also depend on what variety it is. Lotus varieties that are native to the east tend to be more cold hardy and can survive through some pretty serious winters! On the other hand, they are also capable of handling some seriously hot summers too.
Do lotus flowers grow in the mud?
Lotus flowers can grow in mud, but their roots can still adapt to a mixture of soils like sand, silt, and clay. The sand and silt prevent clumping while clay helps hold water and provides nutrients for the roots.
Do lotus flowers have stems?
Lotus flowers have stems called rhizomes which act as food storage and anchoring organs. Fibrous roots grow from the stem internodes. The roots are about 5 inches long and turn from purplish, brownish, or whitish in mature stems.
Do lotus flowers grow in water?
Lotus flowers are majestic and exotic and do well in any water garden they occupy. They blossom in the sunlight and fill the water with warm fragrances and vibrant colors.
Do lotus flowers grow on Lily pads?
Lotus flowers do not grow on lily pads but in muddy and wetlands. Provided their roots remain submerged in mud or water, they can survive even for years under the ice.
Moreover, lotus flowers can bloom in the sun, and high temperatures as their roots can also adapt to different types of soils.
Are water lilies and lotus flowers the same?
Water lilies and lotus flowers are different. For example, lotus flowers are papery and thin, while lilies are waxy and thick. The lotus belongs to the family Nelumbonaceae while the water lily belongs to the family Nymphaeaceae.
The flowers and leaves of lotus rise above the water’s surface while the flowers and leaves of water lily float on the water’s surface.
How big are lotus flowers?
Lotus flowers are larger than water lily flowers, reaching up to about 30.5cm. The “dwarf lotus” species might have beautiful flowers up to 25 cm wide, resting atop 180cm stems above the water surface.
Is lotus root from lotus flower?
Lotus roots are formed from lotus flowers and are a staple in most Asian dishes. They can be sliced, peeled, cooked, or even eaten raw. I use lotus root in soups, salads, and many snack foods.
Can you grow lotus flowers at home?
Lotus flowers can be grown at home in a bucket, cement tank, plastic tube, etc., which should have at least 20-inch water. It is easy to pot lotus tubers. The right selection of the correct pot and fertilizer can help grow your lotus flowers successfully at home.
Lotus flower tubers look half-dead and wilted, but this is common. Ensure you pot them immediately after you bring them home from your local nursery.
What animals eat lotus flowers?
Lotus flowers are mainly eaten by humans, fish, deer, and birds. All parts of the lotus are edible. The flower is attractive to observe, scrumptious to taste, and fragrant to smell. Its beauty of flavor, fragrance and form is particularly appealing to koi, herons, and whitetail deer.
How do lotus flowers reproduce?
Lotus flowers reproduce using water tubers that spread from their root systems. Plus, lotus flowers can be asexual or sexual because lotus flower species can use their root system or seed dispersal for reproduction.
Can you plant lotus flowers indoors?
You can plant lotus flowers indoors in a large container that can house their roots and provide the necessary water depth. Make sure you place the container in a sunny position where the plant will receive at least seven hours a day of sunlight.
Keep in mind that lotus are water plants, and if you are potting them, ensure to keep the water level 7cm over the soil, but do not submerge the leaves.
What is the lotus of the absolute reality?
The lotus of absolute reality is not a plant, but is actually a philosophy. The ten suchnesses come from the Buddhism school of Tiantai which is derived from the Lotus Sutra texts.
This schooling characterizes the “ultimate reality” of the Dharmas, and this concept is known as the “Lotus of Absolute Reality”!
Where should you grow a lotus plant?
Lotus’ are aquatic plants, so this means that they have to live within a body of water. Their roots grow in the waterlogged earth below ponds. This makes them the perfect plant for a water garden.
Is a lotus leaf the same as a water lily leaf?
Novice plant identifiers may characterize a water lily as the same plant as a lotus because they bear similar leaves. They are both aquatic plants and therefore use the same mechanism to photosynthesize.
A lotus leaf is large, flat, round, and floats on the surface of the water. Leaves are usually light green in color and flowers will bloom from the flowering stem growing from the lotus leaf.
Do Native American communities use lotus?
The American lotus is a species that is native to North America, and Native American communities have for a long time grown and used lotus roots as a starchy edible plant.
Does lotus grow from a rhizome or a tuber?
A rhizome and a tuber is basically the same thing! Lotus tubers are specialized root systems that are usually rounded and fleshy. Lotus tubers act as storage facilities for everything that a plant needs to survive harsh conditions.
What do tropical water lilies look like?
You can tell the difference between a water lotus and tropical water lilies by their petal shape. A water lotus has more rounded flower petals, whereas water lily petals have pointed tips.
Where is lotus a national flower?
Lotuses are actually the national flower of India since it is such a long time sacred symbol, and it grows very prosperously in the wild there, especially in Sri Lanka.
What is a celestial lotus?
A celestial lotus is not actually a plant at all, but is more an ethereal looking image of a lotus flower with surrounding designs. It is meant to represent the life cycle.