Growing water lotus from seed is easier than you might think. Water lotus seed should be started in the late springtime when the water temperature is at least 70° F warm.
STEP 1 - Where to Buy Seeds
Water Lotus seeds can be purchased on eBay. If you purchase on eBay be sure to purchase from a seller inside the United States. American seeds have a higher germination rate. Most eBay seeds come from Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. From my experience, half of these seeds end up being duds. I call them "floaters" because that's all they do... float and then rot.
It is possible to get FREE WATER LOTUS SEEDS from the Garden Web online. All you need to do is pay for shipping. Make sure your seller is actually a water gardener with American grown seeds. I say this, because seeds from Asia have been on the shelf for an extended period of time and their germination rate is low. Also, there is a good chance that although your seller might be from the United States that he/she could have purchased imported seeds. Contact me for more American sources for seeds: firstname.lastname@example.org
What to look for when shopping for water lotus seeds
1. Look for the lotus "crown" in the picture if possible. This will let you know if the seller knows the difference between a water lily and a water lotus. (see pic on left)
2. If picture has a flower and leaves floating on the water surface then it is NOT a water lotus plant. It is a water "lily" plant. If the picture does not appear to be a lotus but a lily plant instead, then the seller does not know his/her plants and probably buys in bulk from Asia.
3. If the ad states that you will receive 100 seeds for a low dollar amount, then it is NOT water lotus seeds.
STEP 2 - Preparing your Water Lotus Seeds
The weather and water temperature is warm and you are ready to plant your water lotus seeds. The first thing you will need to do is to scar your seeds. This involves filing off the pointy tip of the seeds down just 1 layer. I use a large 12" metal file - which seems to work best and is the easiest method. Scarifying the lotus seed is important, because the seed will not grow otherwise and will possibly rot. After the seed has been scarred, soak the seed in a tall container of water - such as an empty clean plastic soda bottle. Change the water daily until you are ready to plant your water lotus sprout.
STEP 3 - Day 1 to 3
After the first day of soaking your water lotus seed, it can swell to almost twice the size and resemble a black olive.
STEP 4 - Day 4 to 5
On Day 4-5 you should see some green growth sprouting from your water lotus seeds! Continue to change out the water each day, but be careful as to not disturb the growth. Continue the process until your seedling is about 6 inches long.
STEP 5 - Day 12
Pick a Pot: A no-holes 3-5 gallon lily pot is the best choice. You can also use a black 3-5 gallon bucket. Black is important, because it helps to retain heat and helps to keep the seedlings warm.
STEP 6 - Planting Outdoors
By this time your water lotus seedling should be large enough to plant outdoors. You must wait until the weather outside is warm and the water temperature is at least 70°. It is possible to start water lotus seeds indoors in an aquarium located in a sunny window. Only use small minnows in the water as gold fish will eat young sprouts.
STEP 7 - Anchor the Seeds
Before planting the lotus seeds, it is a good idea to form an anchor so they will not float to the surface of the water. This is easily accomplished by wrapping regular modeling clay lightly around the seed. Do not use Play Dough. Modeling clay that does not dry out (the kind that comes in a brick) should be used. Gravel can be used over the top of the soil medium, but it is not as effective.
STEP 8 - Potting
Planting medium should be 2 parts regular clay soil mixed with 1 part river sand. Do not use concrete sand. Lotus needs little soil to grow. Allow for about 6 inches deep of loamy soil. Carefully lower the pot into shallow water no more than 18" deep. I grow mine in 6 inches of water. In cold weather zones, deeper water might be necessary for frost and freezing control.
This is how your baby water lotus will look once it is planted. The large round leaves are the lotus. The small are frogbit.
STEP 9 - Fertilize After One Season
Do not fertilize during the first year of growth. No matter how good of a fertilizer you have, this will fry the tender sprouts. There is enough in the large seed itself to sustain healthy growth for the first season of growth. During the second season, fertilize with a good quality "water lily" fertilizer tab.
This is a pic of a second season lotus that is ready to bloom. Lotus that is allowed to grow wild will grow up to 4 feet tall. This lotus is smaller, because it is potted in a small container.
For more information about fertilizing, lotus care and how to mix loam see: