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In the Far East, the Lotus symbolizes attaining nirvana.

The lotus is venerated in the Far East, where it symbolizes attaining nirvana: It begins its life in the mud but eventually rises to the heavens. The plant is spectacular in both foliage and flower and is an ideal addition to larger water gardens.

 Description of lotus: The round leaves, up to 3 feet across, float on the surface of the water early in the season but subsequent leaves rise on tall stalks to 6 feet in height. They are a beautiful glaucous green and water droplets bead up on their surface for an attractive and intriguing display. The giant flowers (up to 10 inches across) are delightfully perfumed and open in mid to late summer. They range in color from white to yellow to deep pink. When the petals fall, the drying seed pod adds a further point of interest. Ease of care of lotus: Easy.

Growing lotus: Plant lotus tubers in spring in large containers, covering all but the growing tip. Submerge in 2 to 6 inches of water. Lotus need full sun and regular fertilizer to grow well. Plants often do not bloom until the second year after purchase.

Propagating lotus: By division.

Uses of lotus: A lotus makes a dramatic focal point for a larger water garden, although there are dwarf types that adapt to medium-size pools. The cone-shape seed pods are often used in dried flower arrangements.

Related varieties of lotus: A wide range of varieties is available with single to double flowers. Mrs. Perry Slocum is a popular double variety whose giant flowers change from deep pink to creamy yellow as they age. Shirokunshi, with tulip-shaped yellow blooms, is one of the better miniature varieties, reaching only 18 to 24 inches in height. The native North American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, produces yellow flowers and is a bit hardier (USDA zone 4) than its Asiatic cousin.

Scientific name of lotus: Nelumbo nucifera

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