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Re: Too much root growth on stem plants

I was just asked this question off-list, but since I got a lot of 'what
was the answer to that question?' e-mails last time this went around,
I'll post my thoughts here.

> I have one question I hope that you can answer:  How did you get the stem plants from
> spreading/sending off so many roots?  I have not been able to find the answer in the 
> archives.

Well, I'm not sure that I have the most scientific explanation, but I've
been able to solve the problem, for now (at least for my ambulia, and my
sunset and green hygro.  The red hygro seems to have more complicated

It seemed to be happening for a couple of reasons.  The first reason was
pretty simple - it's normal for the roots to 'creep' up the plant a
little bit, but with healthy growth, and regular trimmings and
replantings, it's not a problem.  You just remove an extra inch or so
from the bottom, if they creep up the plant too much.

If you keep clipping the top off, over and over again, the roots from
the original stem will grow more, and further up the stem.  So the
secret to sustaining a nice patch of the hygro, for me, has been partly
to replant the tops in the front of the patch, so it's fuller and it
hides the unsightly roots and bare stems from the taller plants in back,
and more importantly to just remove stems when they've been there so
long that they have too many roots, and not enough leaves.   

The second reason, though, was the reason I was actually frustrated. 
The plants weren't growing much, so when they sent off roots, there
wasn't enough of the plant left for me to just clip and throw away the
root parts.  The roots were growing much faster than the tops of the
plants.  This seems to have been because of a shortage of some kind of
trace element - from the input I got on my sunset hygro's problems,
probably calcium - in my water.  So I've been doing water changes every
week, and the plants have recovered nicely.  In fact, the shortage seems
to have been promoting root growth - I guess the plants were looking for
it in the substrate - because I haven't clipped many roots at all,
Actually, now that I think about it, while I haven't quite solved all of
my red hygro's problems (I found it in a book, it's alternanthera
reineckii - it's producing healthy-looking leaves now, but it's growing
out, instead of up), it isn't sending off all kinds of extra roots now,
either.  I kind of think it's still a trace element shortage - enough
for the other plants now, just not enough for the red hygro.  I'm
experimenting now with calcium carbonate (crushed coral) in the filter. 
No real luck yet, but it's only been a week, and I didn't put much in (I
don't want to raise my pH too high, so I'm doing it in small

Anyway, in a nutshell, it seems that healthy plants don't produce so
many roots.  And if they're healthy, they grow fast enough that you
don't care anyway, because you can just throw extra bottom clippings
away.  In my case, it seems to have been a trace element shortage, but I
suppose that it could just as easily have been not enough light, or the
wrong temperature or pH, or some other reason that the plants wouldn't
be growing happily.

This was a long, roudabout answer, but I hope it helps.  

Alysoun McLaughlin
alysoun at planetall_com
in Wheaton, Maryland