Difference between Lotuses and Water Lilies
By Andrew Parker - February 21, 2023

Water lilies and Lotuses are jewels among aquatic plants. They are celebrated for their beauty and immortalized in art and religion in ancient and modern worlds. Both are pond-blooming plants that emerge from rhizomes and have a similar color palette, but there are some key differences.

Chart Summary
  1. It has a powerful fragrance at the time of bloom
Its fragrance is muted
  1. Thick and waxy leaves
Thin and papery leaves
Water lilies in pond

Getty images/Moment/ ImagePatch


Water lilies are members of the Nymphaeaceae family, which includes approximately 60 species in four genera of freshwater flowering plants native to temperate and tropical regions of the world. Water lilies are classified into two types: hardy and tropical.

The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), also known as sacred lotus, Laxmi lotus, or Indian lotus, is one of two extant aquatic plant species in the Nelumbonaceae family. Lotus plants are adapted to grow in slow-moving river flood plains and delta areas.

Lotus vs. Water Lily

Water lily flowers and leaves are thick and waxy, whereas lotus flowers and leaves are thin and papery. Each leaf of a water lily has a distinct notch. The water lily petal is pointed and produces a star-shaped bloom, whereas the lotus petal is rounded and sometimes ruffly. Lily flowers last up to two weeks before wilting and falling beneath the water, whereas the lotus has a large seed pod that continues to grow above the water after the inflorescence has passed.

The lotus prefers 12 inches of water, while water lilies prefer 2 to 5 feet. Some water lilies can be grown as far north as zone 3 or 4, whereas the lotus is only hardy to zone 9. Finally, while both plants attract insects, the fragrance of the lotus is subtler. A water lily has a strong scent that fades after blooming.