Plants & Gardens Blog

Lovely Lotuses

Those beautiful blossoms in the Lily Pools must mean its water-lily time, right? Not quite. The large flowers in full bloom right now are not lilies but sacred lotuses, explains Cayleb Long, Lily Pool Terrace curator. They do look similar at first glance, and lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) were once thought to be a type of water-lily (Nymphaea species), but there are some distinct differences. Water-lily leaves and flowers tend to float on the surface of the water, whereas lotuses stretch a foot or so above. The internal structure of the flowers differ, too—lotuses have a large round seedpod inside. July is the month for BBG's sacred lotus blossoms.

BBG's hardy and tropical water lilies are flowering late this year. The hardy water lilies were divided last spring, while the tropical water lilies, donated by S. Scherer and Sons, could not be set out until after the pools' hungry turtles had been relocated to the Japanese Garden pond. BBG's tropical lilies will likely hit peak bloom in mid-August, just as the lotuses are starting to wind down, and they’ll remain quite pretty until the first frost. Be sure to watch the whole display evolve for the rest of the summer and into fall.

Sarah Schmidt is a former editor of BBG's digital editorial content and the Guides for a Greener Planet handbook series.


  • Sonnia Fajardo Hill July 20, 2017

    Beautiful photo of the Nelumbo nucifera.

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Image, top of page: Lee Patrick