We have found that May is the best month for beginning lotus from seed in the Northern hemisphere. (That is coming from hybridizer, Perry Slocum, and we agree). Start your lotus seeds in the first or second week of May. If you start your lotus in May, it will have plenty of time to mature and it will be able to survive the winter. (If the weather is too cold outside in May, you may start your lotus indoors for a very brief period.)
When you are able to take your lotus outdoors, make sure it is in full sun. Hybridized lotus seeds are not an identical copy of the parent hybrid, only lotus tubers are the exact same parent hybrid. We can not guarantee lotus seed to be specific hybrid specimens. When you plant a lotus from seed, the first thing you will notice is the extremely hard covering the seed has.
You must scarify the seed as it cannot reproduce without being scarified. Hold the lotus seed with a pair of pliers and use a metal file to scratch off the hard, brown coating. Once you have filed away the hard, brown coat, you will notice a cream colored coating. It is important not to file away the cream colored coating as you will damage the pulp underneath. Should you file down to the pulp, the seed will not germinate, it will rot.
The next step to growing lotus from seed is to drop the seed in a bowl of water. If the water should get cloudy, gently pour out the old water and add fresh water. DO NOT fertilize your lotus seed. Your lotus is being nourished from the pulp inside the seed. If you fertilize the seed, it will rot. Once germination begins, the seed will send out a long shoot, this shoot will form a coin leaf. At this point you can gently move the seed with the shoot to your growing pot with a few inches of part loam/part clay soil, (NOT POTTING SOIL) and a few inches of water above the soil. You can allow the seed to float as it will eventually drop down and form roots in the soil OR you can gently tuck the seed in the soil taking care not to break the shoot with the coin leaf/leaves attached.
Once rooted, your coin leaves will turn into aerial leaves growing out of the water, at this point you may begin to fertilize every three weeks during the growing/blooming season.
A fun fact about lotus seeds is that they can be viable for centuries!
PLEASE NOTE: Although you will be sprouting your seeds indoors, outdoor temperatures should be consistently warm before placing your seedlings outdoors in their sunny locations.
Lotus should be started from seed in the Southern USA (Florida) between April 15th and June 1st.
In central and Northern USA, do not start lotus from seed until early May--and be sure to do it by mid-June. Starting earlier indoors, it will likely perish before it is safe to take outdoors in its final pot. Starting later than mid-June and they won't have time to create tubers before winter.
Here is a more in depth Video from our Lotus Expert, grower, hybridizer, and wonderful friend Laura Bancroft.
DO NOT FERTILIZE your lotus with only coin leaves. You must wait until you have several aerial leaves growing out of the water before you can begin to fertilize.