To Lotus, or not to Lotus
2 years ago, Aunty saw a lotus plant for sale at Koolau Farmers. The flower was huge and simply gorgeous, rising above the water and leaves and smelling wonderful. It was rather pricey at $75 and Aunty wasn’t ready for it yet.
Last year, Aunty was ready and went to a lotus repotting class at Mulkern Nursery in Waimanalo on a dreary wet Saturday in February with good friend, Bocho. It was a great class about everything you might want to know about the successful planting of lotus, and a little about water lilies. At the end we were let loose to choose our own tuber roots for just $10 apiece. At that price, Aunty got 2 different varieties for $20!
These looked like little potato sausage links. Lotus is also known as hasu – a staple in Japanese cooking. I suppose we could eat them after they are harvested in a year or so, but these would not get as fat since these were the ornamental type vs. the food type of lotus/hasu.
Pretty pretty water lilies
Aunty has had her share of different water lilies which sometimes do well, and sometimes do not. The pretty flowers would bloom and last for weeks at a time, then seem to die off with even the leaves falling off and rotting. Boohoo boohoo, Aunty would push fertilizer tabs deep in the mucky soil for a couple of months, repot the seemingly dead clumps and hope for new leaves and/or flowers. No luck. Algae would grow like crazy and the only happy creatures were the fish that lived in the pots of dirty water. Sometimes, after months of forgetting and giving up, the water lily plant would perk up and have leaves again!
One of the best lessons that Aunty learned was about fertilizing those seemingly fickle plants. Both the lotus and water lily go into a long period of dormancy and rest. During this time, no amount of fertilizer will revive them. It is during the spring and summer, they arise and become beautiful again. Thus, we fertilize AFTER the dormant cycle NOT during as Aunty used to do.
Another great lesson learned was about controlling algae. Algae will overcome water that gets sunlight. By introducing water plants that cover the surface of the water, such as duckweed (Aunty’s favorite – looks like little little dots that koi fish eat) or leafy floating plants that multiply quickly, the container water does not get sunlight, and algae does not grow. Hurray!
Let us Lotus
If Aunty had to choose, lotus would be her water plant of choice. Lotus leaves are like works of art – a complete green circle of radiating veins that sit on the surface of the water or rises on stalks reaching for air. Water lily leaves are super fragile, and must lie in the water or else they dry up.
Both the water lily and the lotus have beautiful flowers with gradient color petals and showy stamens. The lotus flower is much larger and dominates, like a queen in full dress.
Much mahalo to Kevin Mulkern of Mulkern Nursery for a wonderful mucky day of discovery and growth. Next project – a water pond?