The lotus plant is an aquatic perennial, native to Southern Asia and Australia. It is most commonly cultivated in water gardens. The pink lotus is the national flower of India. The lotus (Nelumbonucifera) is known by a number of common names, including sacred lotus, Indian lotus, East Indian lotus, Oriental Lotus, Lily of Nile, Bean of India and Sacred water lily. It symbolizes purity, beauty, majesty, grace, fertility, wealth, richness, knowledge and serenity.The American Lotus(Nelumbolutea) is native to a region stretching from south-eastern part of North America to the northern part of South America. It is smaller than the sacred lotus; bears scented, pale yellow flowers.
USES OF LOTUS:-
- Lotus flowers, seeds, young leaves and rhizomes are all edible.
- In Asia, the petals are sometimes used for decoration, while the large leaves are used as a wrap for food.
- Various parts of the sacred lotus are also used in traditional Asian herbal medicine.
- The tender seeds are munched happily in north-east India.
- The lotus stem is eaten almost in all parts of India, and pickled too.
- Young lotus stems are used as a salad ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine.
- The distinctive dried seed heads, which resemble the spout of watering cans, are widely sold throughout the World for decorative purposes and for dried flower arrangement.
- The rhizome is used as a vegetable in soups, deep-fried, stir-fried and braised dishes.
- Lotus rootlets are often pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, chili and garlic.
- 10. The stamens can be dried and made into a scented herbal tea in Vietnam.
- 11. The lotus seeds or nuts can be eaten raw or dried and popped like popcorn.
- 12. In South Indian states, the lotus stem is sliced, marinated with salt to dry, and the dried slices are fried and used as a side dish.
- 13. In Sri Lanka, the sliced lotus stem curry is a popular dish calledas”Nelum Ala.”
- 14. A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced in Mayanmar.
- 15. The leaves are used as a flavouring agent and to wrap sweet and spicy mixtures (rice, meat, fruit etc.) for steaming.
LOTUS CULTIVATION METHOD
Growing from seed
Lotus flowers are beautiful aquatic plants that represent beauty and purity, and they are available in a range of sizes and colours. The common most colours are red, pink, yellow and white. The plants can be grown from seeds or tubers, but seeds will not produce a flower in the first year while they develop into tubers.
- Scar the seeds: - File the pointed tip of the seed down to one layer using a standard metal file. If you do not scar the seed, it will not grow and may rot.
- Place the seeds into a glass of warm water: -The water should not be chlorinated and must be changed every day until the lotus seeds sprout. After the first day of soaking, the seeds should swell to nearly twice their original size. Seeds that float are almost always infertile. File any floating seeds down until you see a hint of the white meat on the inside of the seed. If these seeds do not swell like the others, discard them to avoid letting them cloud up the water.
- Continue changing the water daily even after the seeds sprout:-you must be more delicate than before to avoid disturbing the growth; however, growth should start after four or five days of soaking. But you will need to wait a few more days until the seedling is at least 6 inches long before transferring.
- Pick the right pot: - A 11 to 19 litre container should provide a young lotus plant with enough room to grow. A black plastic bucket works best because of its ability to retain heat and warm the seedlings. You also need to choose a bucket that does not have any drainage holes. The plant can actually gravitate toward the drainage holes and begin growing outside of them, causing the plant to under-perform.
- Anchor the seeds: - Lotus seeds without an anchor may find their way out of the soil and end up floating on the surface of the water. Gently wrap a small amount of modeling clay around each seed, but do not cover the sprout.
- Fill your pot with dense soil: - The ideal soil is about two parts clay and one part river sand. Fill the pot with about 6 inch of this potting medium.
- Gently press the seeds into the top of the soil: - The seeds should rest near the top of the soil, but you should brush a light layer of soil over the seeds after you press them in.
- Lower the pot into shallow water: - The water should be a maximum of 18 inch deep and at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.10C).
Growing from tuber
- Float the tuber in a large bowl: - Fill the bowl with warm water until it is nearly full and rest the tuber on the surface of the water. The tuber should float. Place the bowl near a warm window and change the water every three to seven days. Do not expose the tuber to direct sunlight or freezing temperatures. Plant the lotus within a few weeks after the tuber sprouts.
- Select the right container: - The right size container will depend on the type of lotus you chose. Bowl lotuses are very small and can fit comfortably inside a 7.57 litre container, but a large lotus may need a 189.27 litre container. Make sure that your container does not have holes. Your lotus may begin growing out of the holes, creating a mess and causing it to perform poorly.
- Fill your container with dirt: The best dirt is about 60 percent clay and 40 percent river sand, but most dense soils will work sufficiently well. Leave about 1 to 4 inches of empty space in between the top of the soil and the rim of the pot.
- Place the pot in a shallow pond or tank: - For now, the surface level of the water should only be about as high as the pot.
- Set the tuber on top of the soil: - Place it in a horizontal position with the back part next to the wall of the container and the growing point toward the centre. The growing points should stick straight up. Gently press the tuber into the soil just enough to anchor it, but do not bury it too deep. The surface of the water should only be slightly higher than the top of the growing tip.
- After few days, place the pot into your pond: - Your plant will be ready for deeper water once the growing tips show leaves. Smaller types of lotus only need 1 to 6 inches of water covering the top of the soil, but larger varieties may need upto 1 metre of water.
- Place a rock on top of the tuber to weigh it down: - If you do not weigh the tuber down, it will float to the surface of the water.
- Repot the tuber every year:-Only repot in the early spring when new growth has just begun developing. Use a soil made of clay and river sand, and transfer it to a container that is the same size as its original container, planting it at the same depth.
DAILY CARE OF LOTUS PLANT
- Maintain a water temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). The plant only grows at temperatures that high or higher.
- Give your lotus as much sun as possible: - Lotus plants thrive in full sun, but if your pond is not located in full sun, you should at least give the plant as much sunlight as possible by removing any foliage from other plants that may block out the sun. After temperatures rise about 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35oC), you should consider adding some shade to prevent the delicate leaves from burning.
- Prune your lotus as necessary: - Snip away yellow leaves, but only cut the stems off above the surface of the water.
- Your lotus using pond tabs: - Pond tablets are specially made for use with aquatic plants. Small varieties only need about 2 tablets, but large varieties may need 4 tablets.
- Watch for pests: - Aphids and caterpillars are known to be attracted to lotus leaves, so you may need to apply a small amount of powdered pesticides to the leaves in order to kill these pests.
- Before the first frost, reposition your lotus: - Move the pot into the deepest part of the pond to protect the top of the tuber from ice that develops on the surface of the water. You can also remove the pot and sit it in a garage or basement until the weather warms up again.
- Lotus can winter over in the pond if the pond depth is below the freeze line for your area.
- If you lift the tubers, store them in a cool, frost free location until late spring.
- If growing your lotus from seed, do not fertilize during the first year of growth.
- Begin fertilizing after a lotus tuber sprouts six leaves.
- Add fertilizers every three to four weeks.
- Stop fertilizing in the middle of July. If you do not stop, the plant will not be able to prepare for dormancy.
- Do not apply liquid pesticides, however, since liquid pesticides are more likely to burn the leaves.
- Too much fertilizer may cause the lotus foliage to burn.
- Care must be taken when inserting fertilizers tabs, because the growing tip and new growth can be damaged.
- To help to prevent mildew and rotting, store them in living sphagnum moss.
- Petals and leaves can all be cooked and eaten raw, but there is a risk of parasite transmission (eg. Fasciolopsisbuski) if eaten raw; it is therefore, recommended that they are cooked before eating.
Lotus is a well-known flower to everybody especially our country where it is considered as a national flower. Lotus has many practical uses, beneficial uses (as medicine) as well as cultural uses (to worship God). Generally we collect lotuses from spontaneous growth of the plant, but to cultivate the plant commercially is out of conception. Growing demand of lotus especially flower has motivated farmers and lotus lovers to think about it. For people who are busy but want to maintain the water plant is the right choice. Maintenance of the lotus plant does not require much time and not technically complex. Durga puja is an important festival all over India especially in West Bengal. During this festival there is huge demand of lotus flowers according to rituals. Each puja pandel requires 108 lotus flowers. Therefore, how much number of lotus flower is needed, it is time consuming to calculate that. Then the price of flower is not a matter, but availability of flower is really a matter. Hence, there is a good business opportunity. To catch that potentiality, farmers should be motivated by the public or private extension system.
Department of Agricultural Extension, College of Agriculture (BCKV),
Agricultural Farm; Kalna Road, Burdwan, West Bengal