Why Grow Lotus Tubers in Your Bee Garden
Sharing your bee friendly garden with all the bees, butterflies and other pollinators is a true joy. It gives us a look into the world of these fascinating insects. One of my favorite activities is developing a water feature and growing Lotus tubers in my bee garden.
Lotus Plants – A Mysterious Beauty
Lotus plants are different than the other types of flowers in my garden. Perhaps that is part of the appeal.
The large flat leaves and tall stalks bearing beautiful flowers have been a part of my water gardens for years.
Although drawn to this plant by it unique physical beauty, I have another reason for growing lotus.
My honey bees and other pollinators absolutely adore the nectar rich blooms. It is not unusual to see a bee “traffic jam” inside one of the huge blossoms.
Bees collect pollen to raise young bees and nectar is used to make honey. The lotus plant offers both to those willing to do the work.
Winter Lotus Maintenance
Easy to keep once established, lotus plants are easiest to grow from tubers. The tubers are not inexpensive and must be planted while dormant.
My lotus are grown in large tubs or pots instead of being placed directly in the small ponds. The tubers will run wild given the chance and I would rather keep them contained.
Every 2 years or so, I will heave the root ball out of the growing pot and divide my lotus tubers. It is a smelly, dirty job but important to maintaining nice blooms.
This division helps to maintain a vigorous, blooming plant. And, I have some extra tubers to sell or share with others.
This means dividing lotus plants during January. Pond or tub water can be rather cold in January – even here in upstate South Carolina.
Dividing My Lotus Tubers
The mucky job begins with the removal of most of the water from this particular water feature. This lotus is grown in one of those plastic cement mixing tubs. See here on Amazon.
It is a shallow container (which is desirable) and has rounded corners. A Lotus plant can suck up a lot of water during the Summer.
Therefore, I created a small pond about 4 ‘ x 4 ‘ and 2 ‘ deep to keep this plant well watered. A great idea until it is time to remove the heavy wet pot !
With the help of our tractor, I moved the heavy pot of lotus tubers to the compost pile.
Once, the plant material is dumped from the container – little soil will remain. Instead there will be a tight mass of roots etc.
A beautiful if somewhat yucky sight, lotus tubers on the bottom of the root mass.
Each one of these tubers has the capacity to grow into a blooming lotus plant. Which will provide food for my bees in the years to come.
Once this point is reached, the work must proceed with caution and I have to get my hands dirty.
These tubers are from another lotus tub in my bee garden area. It is a larger type of plant and you can easily see the “growing tips”.
Once the root mass has been dumped out of the tub, I proceed with caution to harvest my tubers without breaking off growing tips.
Each tuber has a growing tip. This is the beginning of a new lotus plant. If you break off this tip, the tuber will not grow another! You must be VERY careful.
After refilling my plant container with about 6″ of fresh soil (red mud – in my area), I gently place 2 lotus tubers in the center of the pot. Why 2? In case, I break the tips off one without realizing it.
I do not bury the tubers but I do want them to stay in contact with the soil. Tubers float!
Therefore, I gently weigh down the tubers with a rock to keep them in contact with the soil. Take care to leave the growing tips exposed.
The original container is carefully lowered into the small water feature. Water is added until the pond is deep enough to cover the container, tubers and growing tips.
I could completely fill the small pond if I wished but I will leave it for the rain to complete my work. The tuber will not begin to grow until warmer temperatures arrive.
Most of my small water features also serve as a water source for the bees. Providing water for your hives is a great way to keep them closer to home.
Provide a shallow area with pebbles or rocks so your bees can safely land and drink.
Admittedly, this is not a very pretty sight to behold at present. But… it will be. In a few months, the lotus plant will begin to grow.
Roots will be established in the new soil, a few floating leaves will emerge and lie flat on the surface. Eventually, standing leaves will appear and give this plant a distinctive look.
Then one day, a stalk with a large bud will appear. It will grow larger and larger until… the beautiful lotus bloom will open to greet the day.
There are many ways to grow lotus, divide lotus and even “eat lotus”. I am not an expert in lotus propagation. However, this method of dividing lotus tubers works for me.
When you are planning your bee gardens this year, consider giving this unusual plant a try.