Read about Li Shujuan

N. 'Qiu Shui Chang Tian'

The Breathtaking Nelumbo
Collection of
Xi'an Botanical Garden
and How They Grow It

by Li Shujuan
Click images to enlarge

Nelumbo nucifera is native to China and lotuses have been cultivated here for 3000 years. Now there are about 600 lotus recognised varieties in China. They are praised as the "gentlemen of flowers" as they have the characteristic of growing out of the mud yet remaining stainless, so the Chinese people love them very much.

Xi'an Botanical Garden is located at the centre of China, in a suburb south of Xi'an, 34°13' N, 108°58' E, at an elevation of 434-442 m (1424-1450 ft), in a warm-temperate continental monsoon climate. Annual average temperature is 13.4 C (56 F), January average temperature 0.5 C (33 F), June average temperature 26.7 C (80 F), absolute maximum temperature 41.7 C (107 F), absolute minimum temperature -20.6 C (-5.1 F), annual average frostless season 208 days, annual average precipitation 598 mm (23.5 in), annual average sunshine hours 2065.6.

Xi'an Botanical Garden introduced and collected lotus cultivars beginning in 1970. It had about 150 lotus varieties at one time, and built an aquatic exhibition district. Later, because managers were changed, most varieties were confused or lost. In 2004, when I took over, there were only about 40 varieties. I began introducing and collecting new ones. 

Collecting Lotus Cultivars

In recent years, we have investigated and analysed lotus collections in all parts of China. Finally we chose several organizations as the places from which we would collect cultivars. Their climates were similar to Xi'an's and they had more lotus varieties than others in China. They were The Lotus Research Centre of China (it has the most varieties in China), Nanjing Botanical Garden Mem. Sun Yat-Sen, China Waterlily World, and Shandong Yimeng Lotus Garden. 

N. 'Feng Wu' 
Because the lotus is dichogamous, seedlings don't keep the parents' characteristics. We introduce varieties only by tuber (lotus root). We start our lotuses from the last of March to the last of April, when tubers will germinate or are germinating.  


Large types are planted in a large pond or a 1-2 sq. m (10.76-21.52 sq, ft) pond; medium plant types are planted in 1-2 sq. m (10.76-21.52 sq. ft) pond or a vat with the diameter of 50 cm (1.6 ft); small plant types are planted in a vat with the diameter less than 45 cm (1.5 ft).

Fertile pond soil, paddyfield soil and garden soil all can be used without fertilization. Lotuses have a good adaptability for soil and can tolerate pH 5-8, 6.2 ideal. Clayey and sandy soil can be used, slightly clayey soil with rich organic matter the best.

Lotus display area


In our garden, when lotus leaves become dry and start to rot, we cut off all parts above ground. Plantings in ponds are kept with more than 15 cm (6") of water over the soil. Plantings in vats are centralized and kept full of water, then covered with flat straw shades all around the vats to keep the lotus roots free from ice. If you do this, the lotus roots can overwinter safely.

Replanting in spring

At the start of April, we turn the vats over and empty the plants and soil out. We clean all tubers out of soil and retain the swollen ones for replanting. Then we put the soil back into the vat, add the proper quantity new soil, a little rotten oil cake and well-rotted cow and chicken dung, and churn the soil and fertilizer together. The lotus roots can then be replanted.

Preventing confusion of lotus varieties

In the process of collecting lotus cultivars, attention should be paid to avoiding confusion of varieties. Following are periods when this is likely to happen and the methods of prevention:

1. Introducing varieties period: every variety must have a label and be bundled individually.

2. Planting period: For varieties planted in a pond, each should be planted in its own container, and drawing a map of planting is necessary. For varieties planted in a vat, the label must be made on the body of vat, for preventing confusion if the vat should be moved.

3. Replanting period: When turning out the lotus roots, each variety must be made a label, bundled separately, and replanted as early as possible. One vat should be planted with the same variety all along. If the variety in a vat is different from last year, before planting all the lotus tubers must be cleaned out, because if even one small tuber remains, it will grow. Though it might not bloom in that year, in autumn, its swollen tubers will be mixed up with the replanting variety.

Verifying cultivars

N. 'Tangzhaotisi Lian'

The best time to verify the variety is when it is blooming. We usually verify by the characteristics and pictures in "Lotus Flower Cultivars in China" (Qichao Wang & Xingyan Zhang, 2005).

Now, our garden has collected 258 lotus varieties, but through verifying, I have found that some are wrong. Following are some I believe are correct. I have divided them into 30 categories by the taxonomy of Qichao Wang & Xingyan Zhang in "Lotus Flower Cultivars in China". 

List by Plant Type with links to images

Gallery (Alphabetical) Complete (800 K)
For shorter download
Galleries A-C | D-E | F-G | H-J | K-S | T-X | Y-Z

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