Garden Photo of the Day

Memories of Summer Lotuses

A spectacular display of native water plants

Today’s photos are from David Barkley.

I thought I’d send a cheerful reminder that summer 2021 lies ahead. I have a small, secret pond that’s located within walking distance of my townhouse. When they’re blooming, the pond is covered in yellow lotuses (Nelumbo lutea, Zones 4–8).

pond covered in yellow lotusWhat a stunning sight! David wasn’t wrong when he said the pond is covered with the lotus blooms. Yellow lotus is native to ponds and quiet waterways of much of North America, though it is less often seen in gardens than the Asian sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera, Zones 4–8). For best growth, both types of lotus need still water that isn’t too deep, but deep enough to protect their roots from freezing temperatures in the winter. When happy they can spread rapidly, producing carpets of leaves and blooms like this that can be beautiful but aren’t suitable for every location.

yellow lotus budAs the flower buds reach up out of the water, they start as tight spears that begin to open slowly.

close up of yellow lotusA flower just halfway open is beginning to show the interior of the bloom.

close up of yellow lotus fully openThe petals on this fully open flower are a pale, creamy yellow. In the center is the female part of the bloom, which will develop into seeds, and around that are the anthers, the male part of the bloom.

yellow lotus just about to go overThis flower is just about to go over. The petals have faded to white, the anthers have dried and are falling off, and the seed head is beginning to expand and develop.

yellow lotus on edge of pondBecause lotuses can’t grow in extremely deep water, they are usually found along the edges of ponds, mingling with other water-loving plants like willows.

yellow lotus openingThe deeper water beyond this bloom is clear, making a lovely backdrop for the opening flower.

white water lilyUnlike those of lotuses, water lily leaves and flowers stay mostly flat on the water instead of growing up on tall stems. This looks like it is the native fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata, Zones 4–11). Native waterlilies and lotuses are the best choices for natural waterways to avoid introducing invasive species. Nonnative varieties are best kept in small, artificial water features where they can’t spread.


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View Comments


  1. Rebeccazone7 01/13/2021

    Had completely forgotten until I saw these pictures of a small pond, on the opposite side of town in the small town I was born in, that was also covered in these lilies or lotus...not sure which. At any rate, we all continue to be reminded that regardless of freezing our "you know whats off" at the moment, better and warmer things will come.

  2. Maggieat11 01/13/2021

    Lovely! Beautiful photos. How nice to have these within walking distance. Certainly something to look forward to again. Thanks for sharing.🍃

  3. User avater
    user-7007816 01/13/2021

    Lovely photos of beautiful blossoms. Thanks for sharing.

  4. vtbear 01/13/2021

    So very beautiful! Thank you for sharing and giving us all a sense of delight and wonder!

  5. User avater
    simplesue 01/13/2021

    What an amazing sight that is to see! And I'm happy to learn the difference between the Lotus and the water lily and how the Lotus pops up out of the water and the water lily doesn't.
    And to think all that magic lies dormant underwater soon to reappear in the warm season!

  6. bdowen 01/13/2021

    The color and detail in these photos is beautiful- a bright, clear summer day (morning?)!

  7. Sunshine111 01/13/2021

    So lovely! Can you mix them? Native and non native in the same pond?

  8. btucker9675 01/13/2021

    All seasons of this plant are beautiful - the leaves and buds, the just opening flowers, mature flowers, and fading - all so lovely. Thank you for sharing these great photos.

  9. user-5117752 01/16/2021

    Just magical!!! Such beautiful photographs!!! Such a delight on this cold winter's day!

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