By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Gardeners who don’t know about the lotus vine flower (Lotus berthelotii) are in for a pleasant surprise. Lotus vine plant’s bright sunset hues and amazing bloom form perform standout roles in the summer garden.
Also known as parrot’s beak, this lovely little plant is an excellent summer container filler and adaptive as a trailing or border plant. It may be used as a summer annual in the warmer regions of the United States. Summer containers are a wonderful way to capture the season and brighten patios, decks and lanais. Some of the standby plants (such as petunias, violas, zinnia and snapdragons) have their own appeal and combine with foliage plants and trailing specimens for absolutely beautiful displays.
Gardeners with moxie like to tuck in a unique and surprising plant for a stunning bombshell in the midst of more standard summertime beauty. This is what the lotus vine plant was created for – to shock and amaze, and add that little something special to any container garden. Imagine shocking oranges and brilliant red hues, edged by golden and green accents. Picture 1-inch (2.5 cm.) long, tapered petals with a prominent beak, surrounded by grayish green, slightly fuzzy foliage. This is the lotus vine.
What is the lotus vine? It is a tender tropical plant from the Canary and Cape Verde Islands and Tenerife. It is only hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12 but makes an excellent summer container annual. The plant tends to trail and individual tendrils may get up to a foot (30.48 cm.) or more long. The flowers arrive in the cooler seasons of spring and early summer and most plants go dormant when temperatures begin to soar. Plants grown outside in lower USDA zones will succumb when temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 C).
You can find this plant in early summer in many garden centers or nurseries. If you have a friend with one, you can also try growing a lotus vine through stem cuttings.
Seeds are started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the expected date of transplant, but will need another year before they can start forming flowers. Save plants in a greenhouse or move them indoors where temperatures do not get below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 C).
There are few pest or disease issues with this plant. Spider mites, mealybugs and aphids are characteristic pests but can usually be handled with an application of horticultural oil.
The most important considerations are soil, moisture and site. The best soil is a well-draining garden or potting soil. Add some sand to a potting soil to increase grittiness and drainage.
The plant does not like to be completely dry but care should also be taken not to water too much. Water deeply and then allow the top surface of the soil to dry out to the touch before applying anew. Do not let the plant’s roots stand in a saucer of water.
These plants do well in full sun locations.
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First and foremost, let’s clarify that lotus plants and water lilies are distinctly different, and this article is about the former. They grow similarly, in the same environment as water garden plants, closely resemble each other in appearance, and in some cases, even do some name-stealing. But biologically, they are quite different and share but a distant relation.
Many people confuse the two it’s a fairly common mistake.
The quickest way to know the difference is to check their present-day botanical names. Nelumbo is the genus for the lotus plant, and Nelumbo nucifera and Nelumbo lutea are the only two extant (still living) species within that genus.
All water lilies belong to the Nymphaea genus.
Confusing matters a bit are the “Egyptian white lotus” (Nymphaea lotus) and “blue Egyptian lotus” (Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, or previously Nymphaea caerulea). They are called lotuses, but biologically they are water lilies and belong to the Nymphaea genus. To avoid confusion when using common names and to distinguish actual lotuses from lilies, you will hear gardeners refer to Nelumbo nucifera as “sacred lotus” and Nelumbo lutea as “American lotus.” Without that qualifier, if you walk into a nursery and ask only for a “lotus,” you may end up with a water lily.
Using botanical names, or at least knowing what they are, alleviates this by ensuring you have the option to refer to them if needed.
If you get them confused, don’t feel too bad Mr. Binomial Nomenclature himself (Linnaeus) didn’t always get it right or avoid ambiguity. He originally called today’s Nelumbo nucifera by a different name: Nymphaea nelumbo, which combines the two names they use today. They would eventually be separated and Nelumbo designated a genus, appropriately distinguishing the lotus from the water lily.
Linnaeus also assigned the genus name “Lotus” (as in Lotus alamosanus) to an entirely separate and unrelated genus of terrestrial legumes. It is not representative of or connected to aquatic lotus plants in any way.
Use in hanging baskets, containers and window boxes
Parrot's Beak or Lotus Vine is a great plant that fills the needs for a silver, soft-foliaged plant, as well as a trailing silver plant that flowers. However, the flowering part is short lived, based upon where you live and how fast the temperature rises in the spring. Parrot's Beak needs cool temperatures in order to initiate flowers, and will start and continue to bloom only if the spring temperatures do not climb too fast or spike (when there really is no spring and you fast forward to summer.) If you have warm night temperatures the plant will quickly go out of flower.
Most Lotus need 40 F nights to induce bloom, but not this vibrant-hued variety. Night temperatures can be as high as 55 - 60 F.
These are lovely and looks beautiful and provides more colors to your gardens. Butterfly can be seen flying and the growth of this lotus plant is faster and care is minimum so it is best plant.
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