A few weeks ago I decided it was time to start working on the plants in my pond. I read up a bit about plants for ponds, what works, what doesn’t. First thing I learnt is that Water Lilies don’t do very well in a pond with moving water. Ok, that explains a lot. The ones I inherited with the pond have never done well. I’ve had one bloom in 3 years.

I can’t do too much to the pond whilst it is still really hot here, so I will tackle the whole “pond planting” improvement probably in April.  But there are a few things I am able to do straight away including adding the Oxygenators to the pond and getting some Lotus Blossom seeds going. I ordered some Lotus Blossom (Nelumbo nucifera) seeds online and started to read up about how to get them to germinate. You can’t just throw them in water …

The Vision … a pond full of these

Lotus Blossom

To get the seeds to germinate you first need to prepare the seeds for germination (good thing I read up about this or I would have thought the seeds were rubbish when they didn’t germinate). “The inherent characteristic of the Nelumbo seed is to remain dormant for many years even if the environment is perfect for them. This resistance to germination is caused by the seedcoat which is almost impermeable to water penetration. The secret for speeding up the germination process is to remove this protective cover without harming the internal seed”.

So the trick is to pierce the seed without damaging the inner core, and this is best done using a metal file or sandpaper. This process is very well documented on this web page: Nelumbo (Lotus) Germination & Seedling Growth by Walter Pagels – whose instructions I followed to the tee. Two of the three seeds I started with are now almost ready for planting! (I kept 5 seeds in reserve – apparantly each seed will grow very large – even a single Lotus seedling is enough to fill a normal backyard pond in a year).

I filed my three seeds very carefully and put them in a glass jar with water. Within three days the first one germinated, the second followed about two days later. During this time I had to keep changing the water as it got very murky (the cloudy color is caused by bacteria feeding on the exudation from the seed). Once the first shoot and roots started to appear the water stayed clear and I put each of the two viable seedlings into its own glass jar. They have now been growing for two and a half weeks and are looking pretty good. As soon as the three leaves have formed they need to be potted up.

The seedlings in their jarsThe seedlings in their jars

Showing the size of the swollen seedShowing the size of the swollen seed

Full sized single seedlingFull sized single seedling

Almost ready for plantingAlmost ready for planting

I found Walter Pagels‘ trial and documentation incredibly easy to follow and interesting to read. It felt like I was doing a school science project and was quite fun following his notes and watching my seedlings develop exactly as he said they would. (That doesn’t always happen for me! I’m not good with seeds). I’m looking forward to potting them and then getting them into my pond. With a bit of luck they should flower at the end of the year.

Notes about the Lotus Blossom (Nelumbo nucifera)

Nelumbo nucifera is a perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in). Flowering for only 2 months of the year according to what I have read, it should flower in high summer here. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects and beetles. The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and it cannot grow in the shade.

References:

Nelumbo (Lotus) Germination & Seedling Growth by Walter Pagels – In 2001, water gardening legend Walter Pagels, San Diego, California, offered Nelumbo seed from his personal collection to members of the IWGS email discussion list who were interested in participating in a germination experiment. The following is the journal/newsletter that Walter provided as the experiment progressed. It also contains excellent descriptions of and tips on germination of seeds and early growth of seedlings.