How to Classify Lotus

What do lotus flowers and leaves look like? 
How are lotus flowers described? 
How are lotus plants divided into categories?

In China, lotus are classified based on four characteristics:

 

1) Plant Height:
                           *exquisites  - smallest of bowl lotus 
                           *bowl  - less than 13” 
                           *dwarf or small  - 1'-2’ 
                           *medium  - 2'-4’ 
                           *large  - over 4'

2) Flower Diameter - the width of a fully open flower

3) Flower Type:
                          *single or few-petal - less than 25 petals 
                          *semi-double - 25-50 petals
                          *double or multi-petal  - 50 or more petals

                     
4) Flower Color:
                          *red 
                          *pink
                          *white
                          *yellow

                          *changeable - color changes as flower matures
                          *versicolor - more than one color on the same flower
                                  There are two typical patterns for versicolor flowers.
             1) Two colors, usually white with red tipped petals (red-tipped)

             2) Three colors, Sino-American hybrids, called tri-colors, that

                  are white, yellow and red

Flower color is based on the color of the first day flower as identified by the Royal Horticultural Society Colour Wheel. Many lotus flowers will change color each day until the petals drop so the color of a newly opened lotus flower may be quite different from the color later in the bloom cycle.The picture below shows Beautiful Dancer with a first day flower which is pink and a third day flower which is almost white.                                                              

Beautiful Dancer 1st and 3rd day lotus flower

                                                                     
5) Flower Shape:

Plate - petals open horizontally to form flat plate-like shape
Bowl - petals open wide around receptacle before curving up like a bowl
Cup - petals curve up like a cup
Ball - petals overlap to form a ball
Flying/dancing - petals are held in an irregular array around receptacle

Lotus flower shapes
The vast variation in flower color and shape, while making the lotus one of the most popular ornamental and cultivated plants in Asia, has also made it difficult to develop a standard system of identification. 

Classification is further complicated because the final size of a lotus is determined by many factors, including the amount of sunlight, the size of the container or growing area, and the amount of fertilization available.

 

How tall do lotus plants grow?
Nelumbo nucifera (lotus) grow from a few inches tall to more eight feet tall.While the maximum size of a mature lotus plant is determined by genetics there can be a vast size difference in plants of the same variety that can be attributed to available growing area. In general, lotus with plenty of space to grow will be larger than plants of the identical variety grown in smaller containers.  Below are two pots of Sparks planted at the same time using tubers from the same parent plant. The plant in the 3 gallon pot is much smaller than the plant in the 15 gallon pot. The amount of sunlight and proper fertilization can also cause extreme differences in the size of a lotus plant.


Sparks in small pot vs large pot
Researchers at Auburn University have worked in conjunction with Chinese horticulturists and the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society to develop a uniform system of identification for known ornamental cultivars based on plant size, flower color and flower form.

 

Suggested New Lotus Identification System:


For PLANT SIZE, a simple system using the classifications of miniature, small, medium, and large has been suggested.

Miniature - less than 16 cm (6")
Small - 18-46 cm (7"-18")
Medium - 47-91 cm (19"-36")
Large - more than 92 cm (over 36")

The categories suggested for FLOWER TYPE are more descriptive than the Chinese categories.
Single - less than 25 petals
Semi-double - 25-50 petals
Multi-petal - more than 50 petals
Thousand-petal  - many petals, several hundred to thousands   

 Dr. Diake Tian, PhD, describes the category of thousand-petal as a special case of double flower form. It is a particularly useful term in horticulture because this concept presents a good image of the flower when the number of petals ranges from several hundred to one thousand or even more. It is a concept with strong background in Chinese culture. It means the flower has many petals, many more than the normal double flower lotus. Here a thousand is not exactly equal to 1000!

 

There are five FLOWER SHAPES that describe the mature flower in both systems. 

Plate - petals open horizontally to form flat plate-like shape
Bowl - petals open wide around receptacle before curving up like a bowl
Cup - petals curve up like a cup
Ball - petals overlap to form a ball
Flying/dancing - petals are held in an irregular array around receptacle

You will find the lotus on our website classified using elements from both systems.

 

Ten Mile Creek Nursery specializes in presenting a fresh new selection of lotus intended for growing in containers to be used in ornamental ponds or on your patio. For those with even more limited space, we recommend an exquisite of bowl lotus, sometimes called mini or micro lotus. These are bred by the Chinese to be grown in the smallest containers, less than 11” in diameter, although they will grow in larger containers as well.

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