Bonsai lotuses can be a beautiful addition to your pond and garden, but many people have the misconception that they are reserved for tropical climates only. This is not the case and, providing you can give your bonsai lotus at least six hours of sunlight daily, your plant will be thriving and happy.
They’re relatively easy to grow and yet their beautifully coloured flowers and leaves are sure to impress your neighbours and family. If you’re interested in planting bonsai lotus seeds, keep reading to find out how.
Choose the Right Time of Year
Bonsai lotus plants become dormant in winter and, if they are not mature by the time the colder season hits, they will not survive. On the other hand, planting a bonsai lotus too early means it will almost certainly die before it’s taken outside.
Before you even begin with planting your bonsai lotus seeds, you need to determine exactly when they need to be planted.
Depending on your location, you should start the process of planting bonsai lotus seeds anywhere from late April to mid-June.
Scarify the Seeds
Bonsai lotus seeds look similar to nuts and have three layers:
- The hard outer layer (dark colour, protects the seed)
- Cream coloured middle layer between shell and seed
- The actual seed/embryo
If the hard outer layer is not broken or “scarified” before planting, the seed will not germinate because it has no access to water.
Every bonsai lotus seed has two distinct sides, one pointed and one dimpled; the latter is a remnant of when the seed was attached to its mother plant, and where you should scarify it. You can do this in a number of ways, so choose whichever is most accessible for you:
- Filing (with a file or against a surface)
- Sanding (using sandpaper)
- With a drill bit
- Cutting (with a knife or blade)
No matter how you scarify the bonsai lotus seeds, the important thing is that you do not destroy the embryo. There only needs to be around 5mm of the cream layer visible in order to let the seed have access to water.
Let the Seeds Germinate
Before you officially plant the bonsai lotus seeds, they need time to germinate. Scarified seeds can be put into any glass or bowl with enough water to completely cover them (the water temperature should be 20-30°C). Whichever container you use for germination, make sure it’s clear so that you can easily see the seeds’ progress and amend problems quickly.
The water must be clean and dechlorinated, and should be changed 1-2 times daily (or whenever it becomes cloudy). Stagnant water will not allow the bonsai lotus seeds to germinate sufficiently.
If all goes well, after around a week the seeds will have swelled and sprouted into a shoot; at this point they are ready to plant (although if you wish, you can wait a little longer until the seed starts producing roots).
Prepare the Lotus Bowl
Ideally, you should have the bowl prepared before the seeds even begin germinating to give the soil time to settle. You can use any glass bowl as long as it’s see-through
First, fill around three quarters of the bowl with soil; there should be enough space for the bonsai lotus seeds to grow their roots. Garden soil or potting soil is not suitable for growing bonsai lotuses. Instead, use aquatic soil – this will be free from fertilisers and chemicals, and it is also heavy enough that it can retain water and nutrients without having them float to the water’s surface.
When the soil is laid, you should completely saturate it with water until the water reaches to two or three inches above the soil’s surface. This will allow your bonsai lotuses to thrive.
Plant the Seeds in the Bowl
It’s finally time to plant your bonsai lotus seeds! When planting, leave the shots exposed above the soil and make sure they are completely submerged in the water.
While the seeds grow, the bowl should be placed in an area that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day (in a pinch fluorescent lights can be substituted, but they aren’t ideal and won’t have nearly as much impact).
Keep in mind that bonsai lotuses grow in the direction of the sunlight and can only grow well in warm water (above 15°C and below 35°C). If these conditions are met, you will have a happy and beautiful lotus plant in no time.
Do Not Fertilise the Bowl Too Early
Within one or two weeks, you will begin to see coin leaves growing on your bonsai lotus plants; these are small rounded leaves that grow under the water, and are green or red in colour. You must not add fertiliser to the bowl at this stage of growth, or you have a high chance of killing your plant.
Ideally, you should wait until the coin leaves turn into aerial leaves (larger leaves that grow above the water) to start fertilisation. At this point, you can add fertiliser tabs to the bowl every three to four weeks.
Monitor the Water Level/Condition
Bonsai lotuses can only thrive if they grow in sufficient water of good quality. Throughout the growing process, you should continually check in on your plants and take action if there are any changes to the water.
- Water can evaporate quickly, especially in the hot conditions required to grow a bonsai lotus. At all times there should be enough water to cover the plant, but not enough to submerge the aerial leaves.
- If the water becomes cloudy or starts to smell it should be changed.
How to Care for Your Bonsai Lotus
When you have successfully grown a bonsai lotus, there are some precautions and steps you should take to keep it in good health.
Consider How Big You Want the Plant to Be
One of the reasons why bonsai lotuses are usually grown in containers is that they will grow to fill their space; this means that the bigger the space, the bigger the lotus (and they can grow out of control when planted in ponds).
You may decide at some point that you want to move your bonsai lotus to a bigger container to grow it more. If so, you should do this at the beginning of spring when the plant is just waking up from dormancy.
Stop Fertilising it by Autumn
Since bonsai lotuses fall dormant in winter, you need to give them enough time to use up the existing fertiliser within the soil before winter. If you continue to fertilise your bonsai lotus throughout autumn you risk over-fertilising the plant.
Don’t Let it Freeze
Bonsai lotuses will happily survive throughout winter as long as they are not in freezing temperatures. If you live somewhere that usually freezes during winter, you should bring your bonsai lotus inside at this time. Ideally, place it in a basement or garage (since it is dormant during this period it doesn’t need sunlight).
Keep it Trimmed
As winter approaches, the leaves and flowers on your bonsai lotus will die and turn brown, so you may want to trim them off. If you do this, you must not cut below the water level. This will allow water to enter the tubers via the stem and kill the plant.
Overall, planting bonsai lotus seeds requires a significant amount of care and dedication but it is also incredibly rewarding. If you’re beginning this journey, we wish you luck and the health to enjoy your beautiful water lilies! If you would like to read more about bonsai trees stay tuned to our blog!