Blue Lotus (Nymphaea cerulae) used to grow wild in the lowlands of the Nile and is one of the most important ritual plants of ancient Egypt. Respected and admired due to its beauty, its pleasurable scent, its symbolism and most likely, due to its inebriating effects.
It is believed that the Blue Lotus flowers were used by religious elite to induce shamanic ecstasy. The plant petals and flowers were also used as mummy decorations and grave goods common in ancient Egypt.
The cultivation of the Blue Lotus from seeds is fairly simple. You just have to pay attention to certain details. There are 2 common ways of growing the Blue Lotus from seed.
Method 1 - Sprouting in water
With this method, you will sprout the seeds in a glass of water before planting them in the soil.
1. Open the seed coat
This means to scar a bit the seed with a metal knife until you see a little bit of white. This step is very important because if the seed is not slightly opened, it might not sprout.
2. Place the seeds in a water container
Get a glass and fill it with non chlorinated warm water (you can use bottled water). Change the water everyday. After 1 day of soaking, the seeds should at least double in size.
If there are some seeds floating, these are probably infertile and will probably not sprout. To make sure, open the seed a bit and push it down in the water. If it does not swell up, throw it away.
After the seeds start to sprout, you should continue to change the water. Just be very careful to avoid damage to the sprouts.
3. Preparing the pot and soil for transplanting the plants
When the seedlings are about 16 cm they are ready to be moved to a pot. Pick up a pot or bucket with no holes (the plant will be able to grow out thru the holes). It should be big enough to provide enough room for the plant to grow (a pot of approximately 15 litres should be good enough).
The soil you choose should be dense and loamy. A mix of clay loam and sand usually works good (1 part sand, 2 parts loam). Do not use beach sand as it is salty and will compromise the growth of the plants. Also, make sure that the soil does not have any fertilizers or organic content.
Fill the pot with the soil.
4. Putting the plants in the pots
Before putting the seedlings in the soil, you should cover each seed with a bit of clay (leaving the sprout uncovered) to make sure that the plant will be stable and anchored to the soil. After the pot is filled, gently press down the seeds in the top of the soil. You should leave the seeds near the top and spread a thin layer of soil over the seeds.
Lower the pot in shallow water (a natural pond or artificial one), around 40 to 50 cm deep. The temperature of the water should be around 22ºC.
You can put heavy rocks at the bottom of the pot so its stays submersed.
Keep the temperature at a minimum of 22ºC and allow for as much sun as possible.
Method 2 - Sprouting directly in the soil
With this method the seeds will be placed directly in the soil for sprouting.
1. Preparing the pots
Fill a pot or waterproof container (minimum 15cm tall with no holes) with loamy soil. Also, as with the previous method, avoid soil with fertilisers or organic content.
Add warm water until its around 2 to 3 cm above the top of the soil. Allow all the soil to settle and then gently press the soil to make it more dense and compact.
*Alternatively, you can skip adding the water now and after the next step, simply submerge the pot in water up to the rim.
2. Placing the seeds
Space the seeds evenly in the soil without touching each other (at least 2 to 3 cm apart). Spread a thin layer of soil on the top of the seeds.
Keep the pot in a warm and sunny place (ate least 22ºC).
*If you choose not to add the water as described in the previous step, you should now submerge the pot in water up to the rim.
3. Transplanting after sprouting
The sprout initially will look like grass. When the sprout begins to develop some leaves that float on the surface of the water, it is safe to take it out and move it to deeper water. To do so, you should get a bigger container, transplant the plant and move it to deeper water.
*During this step, you can also put some clay around the seed which will also help to anchor it. You can put heavy rocks at the bottom of the container so its stays submersed.
Tips for daily care of Blue Lotus
The Blue Lotus likes warm and full sun, so it should be kept around a temperature of at least 22ºC, otherwise it will not grow. If the plant is exposed totally to the sun and the temperature reaches 35ºC, you should provide some shade so the delicate leaves will not burn from too much sun.
During its growing phase, you can cut dead flowers, but make sure that you only cut stems above the water surface, so as not to compromise its growing.
If the winter brings ice and snow where you live, you should protect your Blue Lotus by moving it to the deepest part of the pond, or if possible, moving it indoors.
Fertilise your pond with pond tablets that are made specifically for water plants. The fertilisation should not be done in the first year of the plant, especially if you are growing it from seeds. The fertilisation can be done every 3 to 4 weeks. Do not fertilise into the summer (mid July is enough). This will allow the plant to go dormant during the winter season.