What is Nelumbo?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2019
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Nelumbo, also known by its common name lotus, is the genus name for two species of aquatic plants: Nelumbo lutea and Nelumbo nucifera. Native to the eastern portion of North America, the northern part of Australia, and parts of Asia, these perennial water plants are often found at the shallow edges of ponds or along the muddy banks of tropical pools of water. Because of their wide leaves and fragrant flowers, they are commonly cultivated in many tropical and subtropical areas as well.

Nelumbo lutea, also known by its common name, American lotus, is an aquatic perennial with circular greenish-blue leaves that are somewhat concave. The leaves can grow to about 20 inches (50.8 cm) wide with prominent veins on their underside. The leaves of these plants are typically attached to stalks that can be as long as six feet (about 1.8 m). The yellow flowers look similar to large roses and can be about 10 inches (25.4 cm) in diameter. Interestingly, this aquatic plant is threatened or endangered in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but considered an invasive, noxious weed in Connecticut.


Sacred lotus, also known by its Latin name, Nelumbo nucifera, is also an aquatic perennial. It has wavy, green leaves that are circular and slightly concave. The leaves can grow to about 32 inches (81.3 cm) in diameter and typically grow on prickly stalks that may reach lengths of six feet (about 1.8 m). The double white or pink flowers resemble peonies and are quite fragrant. It is common for the blossoms to grow to about 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter during the summer.

The flowers of both Nelumbo species make them popular in indoor or outdoor tropical pools as well as in water-filled container on patios. If they are grown in an outdoor pool, the containers usually must have manure and loam mixed into their soil. In addition, the plants should be placed in full sun, since they generally require two to three months of sunny weather and temperatures greater than about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) to bloom. Generally, the blooms stay open for three days at a time and some Nelumbo varieties may change colors during that period.

In the fall, if the temperatures are going to dip, it is important to gradually reduce the water level in the area where the Nelumbo plants are growing. Once the water level is reduced far enough, the container holding the plant may be removed from the water feature. In the alternative, the plants can be lowered to the bottom of the body of water, below the ice line. Beneath the ice line, they may have a decent chance of surviving the winter.



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