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#&! carpet plants


While I'm at it I might as well take the time to grumble about care and
maintenance of plant "carpets".  I just spent the better part of an hour
separating Hydrocotyle and Marsilea and replanting.  I can't escape the
sense that there has to be a better way.

I grow carpets from 5, maybe 6 (depending on your definitions) different
plants.  Here's my experience with each.  I'd love to hear other people's
experience with these and others and the solutions they used.

Hydrocotyle sp. (leucocephala?):  Really worked well once I got it to grow
horizontally.  It's easier to plant if you let it float at the surface for
a while before trying to plant it.  That way the leaves and roots are all
pointing in the right directions.  The stems don't branch much and (in my
tank) older leaves tend to get holes and look bad.  That leads to a lot of
maintenance because old leaves need to be removed and trimmed stems need
to be replanted to keep the carpet thick.

Marsilea sp.:  I've had this stuff for several years.  It has always grown
very slowly when the plants were small.  Growth accelerates as the plants
spread out and mine now are large enough that they can extend their
horizontal runners 6 inches or more in a week, with new leaves coming up
every inch or so.  The leaves are mostly of the 4-leaf clover variety,
with some of the "inverted ladle" type.  I've had two problems with the
Marsilea; old leaves turn dark, gradually die and need to be removed, and
shading causes the plant to send its leaves up higher.  The first problem
requires trimming, but nothing too extreme.  The second problem is getting
really annoying because young leaves coming up in the middle of the carpet
where they are shaded by older leaves tend to grow above the older leaves
- way above, sometimes 8 inches to a foot above the substrate.

E. tenellus:  It's a heavy feeder that grows like mad.  Stands of it get
so dense that the plants starve each other competing for nutrients. The
carpet gets light colored, sickly and weak if it isn't continually
uprooted, thinned and fertilized.  It also tends to bolt for the light
when it's shaded and in that case it's a pretty lousy carpet.

Sagittaria sp. (subulata? - or possibly another grass-like Echinodorus):
Broad, grass-like leaves with a prominant central vein and two less
prominant veins parallel the central vein.  Runners are mostly (but not
always) below the substrate.  This stuff makes really dense stands without
strangling itself, but it gets tall enough that it's more of a
middle-ground plant (maybe foreground in a large, deep tank).  It's very
invasive.  Less demanding than E. tenellus, but usually too big.  It may
stay lower when the plants are separated and unshaded.

Lileaopsis sp.:  I had a heck of a time getting this to grow.  I bought a
single pot of lileaopsis 5 or 6 years ago and it grew poorly.  Eventually
it died back to the point where I had 1 inch of runner with one healthy
leaf and half of a dying leaf.  I moved it to another tank and got a very
slow recovery.  I tried it in a few other conditions without success, then
last year I moved what I had (then two or three runners, each 6 inches
long or so) to a third tank - a 20 gallon tank with 2 20 watt fluorescent
lights and a mature substrate with peat mixed into the lower half.  There
it burgeoned.  Now I have a pretty respectable little carpet spreading
fast.  It's pretty invasive and I have to uproot and replant some every
couple weeks.  It gets really dense and doesn't seem to choke on itself
the way E. tenellus does.  Lileaopsis would be a nearly ideal carpet plant
if it weren't for the difficulty finding a place where it would grow.

Isoetes sp.:  I have a couple clumps of this stuff that send their quills
up about 2 inches then spreads horizontally to a diameter of 6 inches or
so.  It grows slowly and requires no regular feeding or trimming and seems
like an ideal low-growing foreground plant, It even provides a nice bush
or bunch-grass look that could be used well in an Amano-style landscape
analogy.  Its downside seems to be the same as its upside.  It is slow
growing and I'm continually weeding more aggressive plants out from around
it so that it doesn't get smothered.  It's in the same tank with the
Lileaopsis stand and some E. tenellus and both plants tend to grow into
the isoetes.

Letting two different kinds of carpet plants grow into each other seems
like a maintenance no-no.  Different plants require different care, and
when they're intergrown you can't do anything to one without doing it to

In addition to these, there a few other plants that I've grown that have
some promise as foreground or carpet plants, and I wouldn't mind hearing
from people who tried these or anthing else.

I've tried a couple small Crypts and found that they shade each other and
get taller.  I have some Bolbitis (huedelotti?) tied to small pieces of
driftwood and arrayed at the front of a tank somewhat like some people use
riccia.  I like the Bolbitis, but it's growing very slowly and tends to
harbor an annoying algae.  Riccia - I started with it but it seemed like
way more trouble than it was worth.  I've also used Java moss on rocks in
the foreground and decided it wasn't very attractive.  I haven't tried
glossostigma yet despite it's being fairly commonly available these days.  
Nor have I tried pinning down Hygrophilla difformis the way I do
Hydrocotyle - I understand it works very well that way.

Any more thoughts?

Roger Miller

In Albuquerque, where all the courses I run seem to be up hill all the way