Lotus Flower Meaning & Symbolism + Planting, Care & Uses

Lotus Flower Meanings

Lotus flower meaning includes purity, fertility, compassion, transformation, and spiritual enlightenment. The lotus flower is equaled only by the rose in terms of the breadth and depth of art and literature that present it as a symbol with deep philosophical meanings. In addition to historical representations in Buddhist and other Eastern teachings, the lotus has become an important symbol in modern-day Western philosophies as well. In this post, you’ll learn about lotus flower meanings throughout the world as well as lotus planting and care tips.

Frog on a Lotus Petal

What is the meaning of a lotus flower?

  • Purity
  • Fertility and the Cycle of Life
  • Open-heartedness and Compassion
  • Transformation and Rebirth
  • Spiritual Awakening
  • Enlightenment

Lotus Flower Symbol: Purity

White Lotus Flowers

The lotus plant sprouts from muddy waters. Yet, as it emerges, the waters above it cleanses it. Then, its petals open up and the lotus plant blossoms into an exquisite flower that blooms above the surface of the water.

The dichotomy in the lotus flower’s transcendence from a murky environment to one that is clear and immaculate is why this flower is a symbol of purity in many cultures. No matter how impure its origins, the lotus still manages to bloom brilliantly.

This is why lotus flower meaning has also come to symbolize clarity of thought and purpose. When your pursuits are pure of heart – your past, where you come from, and your hardships are all unmatched by the purity of your intentions.

Fertility and the Cycle of Life

Because lotus flowers go through a daily process of regeneration, emerging from muddy waters to bloom above the surface of the water, they are also symbols of fertility. Giving birth is a natural part of the cycle of life, and the lotus embodies this process. Thus, couples who are trying to conceive will meditate on the lotus flower to bring positive energy to help them conceive.

Ancient Hindu texts describe the lotus as the “Womb of the Universe” or the “Womb of the World” because of its life-giving attributes. According to Hindu mythology, the Universe was once covered with water. However, a golden lotus flower with 1,000 petals emerged from the water, glowing like a sun. From those petals, the deity Lord Brahma created the material world.

Open-heartedness and Compassion

Lotus Mandala

As the lotus plant emerges from the water, its petals open up. For this reason, these beautiful flowers are also symbols of having an open heart and receiving others with compassion. Though the lotus becomes more vulnerable when it opens its petals, it’s able to absorb more sunshine. So, the lotus flower shows us that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and being open to others – approaching them with empathy instead of judgement – benefits them as well as ourselves.

Transformation and Rebirth

Like the dragonfly, the frog, and the turtle, the lotus originates in the water, yet it doesn’t stay there. The lotus plant goes through a transformation – from being a closed bud in the water to an open flower that blooms above the surface.

So, as these animals symbolize, lotus flower meaning also represents transformation and rebirth. The lotus reminds us that we can emerge to blossom, regardless of where we started.

Spiritual Awakening

Lotus Flower Symbol of Spiritual Awakening

On the path to enlightenment, there are steps. One of those steps is self-awareness, another is non-attachment, and a third is awakening. Just as a lotus flower’s petals open, so can the human. So, the lotus flower also symbolizes the expansion, or awakening, of consciousness.

Spiritual Enlightenment

Lotus flower meaning is also a sign of reaching the ultimate state of awareness, which is enlightenment. This state of is often depicted as an opened lotus flower.

Lotus Flower Color Meanings

Red Lotus Flower

Lotus flowers come in a few different colors, and each one has special meaning. Here are what different lotus flower colors represent:

Red Lotus Flower Meaning

In general, the color red symbolizes primal energy, passion, and love. A red lotus is representative of romantic passion as well as open-heartedness in love, selfless love, and generosity of spirit.

Pink Lotus Symbolism

In Buddhism, the pink lotus is sacred, as it is a divine symbol of the Buddha as well as the path to enlightenment. A budding pink lotus that is just starting to open symbolizes a person whose awareness is beginning to expand. And, as referenced earlier, in Buddhism, a fully opened pink lotus flower symbolizes the attainment of enlightenment or reaching Nirvana.

Yellow Lotus Flower Meaning

Yellow Lotus Flower

The yellow lotus, also referred to as a golden lotus in Buddhism, symbolizes the joy that can be attained from non-attachment to things and outcomes. It also symbolizes the intellectual pursuit of spiritual growth. In addition, yellow lotus flower meaning includes openness, hospitality, and a welcoming and generous heart.

Blue Lotus Flower Symbolism

Blue lotus flowers are extremely rare and they also have special meaning. The blue lotus symbolizes the pursuit of understanding or greater knowledge, and ultimately – greater wisdom. It also symbolizes clarity of thought and, in Buddhism, overcoming attachments to desires and emotions that hinder our growth.

Purple Lotus Meaning

Purple Lotus Flower

The purple lotus flower symbolizes finding harmony in divergent feelings, emotions, and beliefs as we seek enlightenment. Purple is a rare color in that it combines the coolness of blue with the warmth of red. So, it is often a symbol for peace and the positive aspects of diversity. As the lotus itself symbolizes open-heartedness, purple lotus flower meaning embodies being receptive and respectful to people who have different or opposing views to our own.

White Lotus Flower Meaning

White Lotus Flowers

White lotus meaning includes purity, grace, peacefulness, and faith. The Buddhist goddess Tara is represented by the white lotus, as is the Hindu goddess Saraswati. So, the white lotus also symbolizes divine feminine energy, as well as fertility. In addition, the white lotus is a powerful symbol for purity of mind as one pursues spiritual enlightenment.

Spiritual Meaning of the Lotus

Dragonfly on Lotus Flower

Lotus flower spiritual meaning embodies both awakening and achieving enlightenment. So, this is a powerful flower to meditate on as you expand your spiritual practice. The lotus flower represents the ability for everyone, no matter their origins, to reach enlightenment.

Associated Spirit Animals

The lotus flower shares some traits and symbiosis with certain wild animals and insects. For example, both beetles and bees pollinate lotus flowers, and aquatic animals, such as fish, frogs, and turtles, find shelter under their leaves. In return, these animals help to nourish the lotus plant’s roots.

In addition, the lotus shares symbolic meaning with the frog, turtle, alligator, and dragonfly spirit animals because they are all animals who symbolize transformation. All can move between a watery, aquatic environment, which represents the sub-conscious, to a land environment, which represents the conscious or material world.

Furthermore, the lotus also shares synergies with the elephant spirit animal, as both are symbols of the Buddha.

Lotus Flower Meaning in Buddhism

Buddha on Lotus Flower

The lotus is emblematic of Buddhist philosophies and is a symbol of the Buddha himself. As the lotus grows from a muddy environment into a beautiful and unstained flower, Buddha personified our ability to evolve beyond the travails of the material world into enlightened beings.

Lotus flower meaning in Buddhism symbolizes our ability to transcend physical and material desires and attachments to become pure of heart, speech, and action. For this reason, artists often depict lotus flowers in mandalas, Buddhist statues, and other artwork.

Lotus Flower in Hinduism

Saraswati
Hindu goddess Saraswati on a white lotus.

Similar to Buddhism, in Hinduism, the lotus represents the ability for our awareness to expand and our souls to evolve. As in Buddhist artwork, Hindu artists often depict deities, such as Vishnu, Saraswati, and Lakshmi, sitting or standing on a lotus flower.

Practitioners of other Eastern spiritual beliefs, such as Jainsim and the Baháʼí Faith, view the lotus as a sacred symbol of purity and devotion.

Lotus Symbolism in Christianity

For Christians, lotus flower meaning is symbolic of Christ’s rebirth and ascent to Heaven. The lotus is often compared to the lily flower in Christian symbolism, as the two flowers look alike and share similar traits. For example, in Christianity, water lilies symbolize purity, rebirth, and the Virgin Mary, which is very much in line with lotus flower symbolism.

The Lotus in Yoga Practice

Lotus pose in yoga

Lotus meanings can also be applied to your yoga practice. As the lotus goes through a process of transformation, yoga poses helps your mind, body, and soul to transform and become more balanced and integrated. In fact, the lotus pose in yoga helps to calm the mind, thus opening it up to greater awareness and receptivity.

Lotus in Cultural Mythology and Folklore

The lotus appears in the cultural mythologies and folklore of many cultures. Here are some of those stories:

China

As in other Eastern traditions, in China, the lotus symbolizes transcendence and purity. In addition, in Chinese culture, the lotus represents feminine beauty and matrimonial harmony and contentedness.

Japan

In Japanese culture, lotus flowers symbolize purity of body, mind, and soul.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, the lotus is the national flower. For the Vietnamese, the lotus symbolizes optimism and hope.

The Lotus in Greek Mythology

Odysseus and the Lotus Eaters
18th-century French engraving of Odysseus on the island of the lotus-eaters. Author unknown.

In Greek mythology, the lotus plant takes on a much different meaning than it does in Eastern spiritual teachings. For the ancient Greeks, the lotus symbolized hedonism and even apathy.

In the Odyssey, Homer told the tale of the lotus eaters – inhabitants of an island where the locals subsisted on lotus plants. When the islanders fed Odysseus and his sailors the lotus plant, they got high and fell into a stupor of laziness. Some historians surmise that the lotus plants in the story were actually poppies because of their opium-like effects.

Ancient Egypt

In Egypt, a blue lily grows in the Nile River Delta, and it is often described as a blue lotus flower. In ancient Egypt, the lotus also symbolized transformation, notably of death and rebirth to the afterlife. The Egyptians also associated the lotus with the rising sun and the sun god, Ra.

Victorian Lotus Symbolism

In Victorian England, flower symbolism was a popular past time. For the Victorians, exotic flowers were especially interesting because they were not as accessible in the 19th century as they are today. Lotus meaning in Victorian England was emblematic of estranged love. It also symbolized verbal eloquence.

Lotus Flower Tattoo Meaning

Lotus Tattoo

The lotus is a wonderful symbol for a tattoo. Lotus flower tattoos show the world that the wearers are spiritual people – both works in progress and avid students who are working on their own spiritual growth.

A lotus tattoo also shows the world that you are generous and open-hearted. In addition, a lotus flower tattoo can demonstrate your reverence for Eastern spiritual teachings and the expansion of consciousness.

Tattoos are extremely personal to every individual. Your lotus tattoo can also symbolize your own personal journey and your ability to rise above the challenges and hardships of your past. The lotus says that regardless of your environment or any troubles in your life – you remain pure of heart, mind, and soul.

Planting Lotus Flowers (Nelumbo Nucifera)

Planting Nelumbo nucifera

Lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera) are fairly easy to grow if you provide them with the right conditions. Here are some general guidelines for planting and caring for lotuses, as well as some links to resources that provide more details.

While lotuses are aquatic plants, if you don’t have a pond or lake to grow them in, no worries. You can also grow them in containers. Lotus plants can grow in U.S.D.A. zones 5 – 10. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are warmth-loving plants that do be in hot climates.

Sunlight

Lotus flowers bloom from early to late summer. They are warm-weather plants that love the sunshine. In fact, lotus plants need 5 – 6 hours of full sun per day. So, make sure you plant them in a sunny spot in your yard, patio, balcony, or window. They will grow in partial shade but they may not thrive in the way they will in full sunlight.

Growing Lotuses from Seeds

Planting lotuses from seeds
Sprouting lotus seeds. Image: Urban Gardener.

It’s a fun process to grow lotus plants from seeds because you get the rewarding feeling of creating life from scratch. Plus, you experience the full life cycle of the plant. I like this video from Urban Gardening, which walks you through the process.

Seed germination takes a few days. Then, after you plant your sprouted seeds in a container with water (or a pond if you are lucky enough to have one), the small lotus leaves will start to appear in 10 – 15 days.

Soil

Lotus plants need special soil that is a heavy topsoil or clay, which makes it easier for the roots to cling to under water. (Essentially, lighter soils will just float away.)

Planting Lotus Plants from Tubers

Lotus Tuber
Planting lotuses from tubers. Image: Urban Gardener.

If you purchase lotus tubers to plant, it’s important to treat them with care. For one, they need to be kept warm, in the 75° F (23.9° C) range. In addition, you have to be careful not to damage the tip from which the roots grow.

New tubers should be planted in containers with 2 – 4 inches in water, and in mud that is about 4 – 6 inches deep. As the plant matures, in can live in a water depth of 6 – 12 inches.

I like the instructional videos from Bergen Water Gardens on growing lotuses because they have a few different videos based on the container size. You’ll see that you can grow micro lotuses in small containers.

Water Temperature

Lotus plants thrive in warm water. So, the water temperature in your container should be at least 70° F (21° C).

Blooming

It can take 2 – 3 months before lotus buds appear. And in some cases, lotus plants won’t even bloom in their first year of growth. (So, it’s fitting that these plants are associated with spiritual practices as they are not about immediate gratification!) However, once these perennials establish themselves in your pond of container, you’ll be rewarded for years to come.

Feeding Your Lotus Plants

When it comes to feeding your lotus plants, timing matters. It’s easy to over-fertilize sprouting lotuses, so don’t administer plant food or fertilizer on tubers or seeds. Wait until the leaves are above the surface of the water. Use a plant food that is designed for aquatic plants. And stop fertilizing over the winter.

Lotus Uses

Lotus Uses Food
Vietnamese lotus dish.

Not only are lotuses beautiful to look at and spiritual meaningful; they also have a number of practical uses. Besides offering habitat for insects and animals, they have uses for people too.

For one, lotus seeds are edible and nutritious. Sometimes called makhana, lotus seeds contain minerals such as magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, calcium, and iron. In addition, they have protein and they’re high in antioxidants. As besides their nutritional benefits, they taste good. In fact, Vietnamese and other Asian chefs use them in recipes, from soups to cakes and candies.

In addition, lotus plants have been used in traditional medicine, such as for stomach ailments and reducing inflammation.

“Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air, and light.”
– Amit Ray

 

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