Q. How can I grow lotus? Are there hardy and tropical lotuses? Do they grow differently?
When growing lotus the difference between hardy and tropical lotus is the tropical can only survive frost if their extensive root system has built up a network of rhizomes below the frost line, and for this reason they need deep containers that can be given winter protection in non-tropical areas (like NY).
There are two recognized species of the genus Nelumbo (lotus), N. lutea, the native American species, and N. nucifera, native species to the Orient, the Philippines, north Australia, Egypt (probably introduced from India about 500 B.C.), and the Volga River delta at the Caspian Sea. Note: the “Blue lotus of the Nile”, and the Blue Lotus of India” are not lotuses, but waterlilies are Nymphaea caerulea and Nymphaea nouchli (syn N. stellata, respectively.
Nelumbo species, varieties, and cultivars are of cloudy and unknown parentage, and their flower shape is quite similar, though petal count varies considerably; sepal color is quite similar as well throughout lotuses, though some sepals may have a red spot at the apex. The leaves are quite standard, either green or bluish green and there are a few variants. “Seed capsule color” and “Plant height,” both of which vary considerably among lotus species an varieties.
Buddhists in the Orient revere Nelumbo nucifera, the sacred lotus. Decorative lotus seedpods are used extensively in bouquets and wreaths. Native Americans commonly ate the seeds and tubers of Nelumbo lutea. In addition, lotus tubers and seeds are still a part of the Oriental diet. Leaves are used to wrap various foods for baking, and are eaten. In North America, lotuses do well over most of the U.S., although they require two to three months of temperatures 75-85 degrees F. They do not perform well in the very hot southwest, and cooler mountainous regions of the Pacific Northwest with summer temperature in the 60-70 degree F. range.
There are many variants of Nelumbo nucifera—in white, pink, red, and bicolor types and single and double blooms, only one variant of N. lutea, a natural hybrid, has been identified N. lutea ‘Yellow Bird’. More than 300 types of lotus are grown in China.
All lotuses are day bloomers, usually opening quite early in the morning and losing by midafternoon for three successive days. Please refer to the book: Water Gardening Water Lilies and Lotuses for more information.
Hope this is helpful.