Plant of the year 2014

I know people have been on the edge of their seats waiting for this post, so to end the secrecy, stop the speculation, and quell the rumors I’m finally pulling back the curtain and reveling this year’s number one plant.  Bearing the title of “Plant of the year” is not an accolade to be taken lightly, and although last year’s winner promptly died after receiving this distinction (from overwatering, a common curse for too fast and furious a rise in fame), I’m hoping the 2014 champion carries the torch a little longer.  Without further ado, the co-winners for 2014 are my little lotus seedlings from way back in April.

4/27 Lotus seeds sprouting

4/27 Like some creepy alien stretching after being awoken from inside its space pod, the seed sends out a green shoot.

The seeds were one of those random things hastily tacked onto a HPS seed exchange order.  “I can pick as many as twenty packets” is dangerous in December, and while the snow was flying, the irresistible tagline of “Flower color is a surprise! Worshipped by people around the world, the sacred lotus is a true showstopper” overcomes all lack of experience and lack of suitable growing conditions.

Three large marble sized seeds came, sat around, and on 4/15 were planted unceremonially onto some sand at the bottom of an empty margarine tub.    Before going in, the seeds were scarified by rubbing against a file just enough to break through the dark outer coating.  Two inches of water on top and then under the lights and onto the heat mat they went.

“Grower must have patience” was the other thing I glossed over on the listing, and although this is usually code for guaranteed failure, things moved fast this time, and in just over a week the seed shell split and a little green arm started to reach out of the pod.  The margarine tub was already too small, so sprouting seeds were potted up into regular potting soil, covered with grit (to keep everything from floating away) and their new and improved water bucket went back under the grow light.

5/1Lotus seeds potted up

5/1 Thirty days after seeds were sown the Lotus seedlings already needed more room and deeper water.

I’m still surprised anything sprouted in the first place, let alone grew.  Lotus seed can sit for a loooooong time without doing a thing.  According to Wikipedia, they are the third oldest viable seed ever found, with seed recovered from a dry lakebed in China sprouting after 1,300 years of dormancy.  I’m glad I didn’t have to wait that long.  They sprouted fast and then grew fast.  A leaf came first, which for a water plant makes sense since who needs roots to search out water when you’re surrounded by it?  The stem looked ready to reach up through a couple of feet of water to reach a surface, but in my little bucket it was forced to twist and kink as it adapted to the cramped quarters.

5/23 first leaves on lotus seedlings

5/23 Four weeks after sowing, the bucket went outside onto the cold driveway.  The first leaf was quickly followed by a second and now the seeds were also sending out roots and a small rhizome began creeping out of the seed shell.

Once things outside heated up, the lotus (along with algae) really took off.  In just a week leaves expanded, new shoots came up and the plants really seemed excited to have some actual sunlight.

6/4 young lotus seedlings

6/4 The lotus seedlings are soaking up the warmth and sun.

As the seedlings kept growing, my lack of even the smallest water garden was starting to become apparent.  No matter and no worries, there’s a sizeable pot ghetto that forms on the driveway each spring, and what’s one more plant in need of a home?

6/25 Lotus growing in a bucket

6/25 Three weeks later and we reach a milestone with the first two aerial leaves. All lotus leaves shed water, and even the least plant-interested child loves playing with drops on the green pads.

Just recently I finally did my little lotus proud by plugging up an unused planter and moving them on up to a bigger apartment on the east side.  They had been sulking for most of July since I think they used up the nutrients in their little starter pots, but after visiting four stores I finally found the plant tabs I wanted and in they went.  Growth is back on track!

8/12 Lotus in a container

8/12 The little guys in a tub on the “patio”.  They don’t look much bigger here, but their former home was about half the size of the nearby blue planter.

So my lotus plants are now officially the plant of the year, and although the pressures of marketing, plant appearances and market demand which come with this distinction could be overwhelming, I think my seedlings can handle it.  I just hope they can handle winter when it comes….. we’ll see.

Hope you’re enjoying your own plant of the year, and special thanks to Aquascapes Unlimited, a Pennsylvania aquatic plant nursery and consulting firm (who have a great website with an exceptional aquatic plant database), for donating seeds last winter to the Mid Atlantic HPS seed exchange and through them to me!

15 comments on “Plant of the year 2014

  1. Chloris says:

    How exciting. I would love to try this. What gardener could resist? Do you think it will flower?

  2. Christina says:

    Well done Frank! Do you think it will flower? You group of pots look really good together too. Lotus were often grown in pots like yours in Thailand, so apart from your cold winter there is nothing wrong with it being in a pot.

    • bittster says:

      I wonder if I could get it a tub big enough for bloom? You have me thinking now, I know a store that sells those galvanized steel water tubs for livestock 🙂

  3. Amy Olmsted says:

    How exciting for you! One word of caution….keep an eye out for aphids, they’ll be the black ones and appear on the leaf stems. Hopefully you won’t ever have them. Can’t wait to see your plants flower!

    • bittster says:

      Aphids…. really? I should have known there would be something out there to ruin my good luck. I’ll keep my fingers crossed they don’t find the plant.

  4. Pauline says:

    That’s fantastic, well done you! You have far more patience than I have and you now have your reward, hope it survives the winter.

    • bittster says:

      I hope winter doesn’t do it in either. I’ve never tried to overwinter an aquatic plant before so what I’m hoping for is beginner’s luck 🙂

  5. Cathy says:

    You are definitely more adventurous than I am – well done and I wonder what will be in the seed exchange offer this winter…. 😉

    • bittster says:

      The seeds all look so innocent when you start, and you just put them in a tiny pot… and then all of a sudden you’re dealing with a six foot monster! It’s fun though and I’m sure there will be another surprise this winter.

  6. I was laughing at you saying your plant of the year up and died last year. It made me laugh for when I had my dogs, I always “awarded” pet of the week, between the two dogs, cockatoo, cat, and fish. The fish won a lot because they never did anything wrong, even living a long fish life. So the lotus takes a long time to make something happen??? I never grew them and clients that did, bought plants. You do have remarkable patience to start them from seed.

    • bittster says:

      I think you overestimate my patience! Doing something and then neglecting it for weeks is so different than waiting patiently. I think my big talent is that I’m easily distracted 🙂
      I wonder if child of the week would work around here. Probably not since I’m not sure I’d ever be able to give out the award, the only time goodness shines is in the days before Christmas!
      I think if it had more room, more fertilizer, more warmth, the lotus would flower, but mine leads a lean life so I have no big expectations.

      • Even with neglect, you keep at it. My patience would have faded long before the first leaf.

        It would work with kids since they know there is a prize, only problem with that it means playing favorites. I even think the dogs caught on to that. 😀

      • bittster says:

        I better avoid playing favorites, with my parenting as I is I’m sure paying for therapy is already on the books.

  7. I’m like everyone else; I want to know if you expect a flower this year?

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