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It's been a slow week here on the APD, and I'm starting to suffer symptoms
of plant-email deprivation. My deprivation-induced hallucinations have
even lead me to believe that there was a large, conversational response to
my letter of last Sunday wherein I called for information about maintaining
groups of plants. Being the usually friendly type, I'm going to continue
that conversation, hence this note about maintaining groups of
Crypts as a family have a reputation as slow-growing, conservative plants.
Some members of the family have the added problem of being difficult to
grow. C. wendtii is a relatively slow-growing plant, but it's one of the
easiest crypts to keep. While the individual plants are slow growing and
conservative, but groups of C. wendtii can be very aggressive.
I start groups of C. wendtii with (usually) three or more plants spaced an
inch or two apart. The groups are attractive and make a nice, large
design element in a tank layout. They're also dense and make great, safe
hiding places for fish fry, small fish, or shrimp.
New plants arise from root runners. Generally the new plants appear very
close to the parent plant, and sometimes it just looks like the plant has
spread out a little when actually there are two or more plants present.
The root runners also carry dormant buds farther out away from the parent
plant and these will sometimes get activated, especially if the runner is
damaged or broken. It doesn't take long for C. wendtii to fill in the
space around the plants and then to start to spread into adjacent areas.
If you want to have anything else growing in the aquarium then eventually
you have to control the spread of the C. wendtii. The groups are very
dense and probaby there are few plants that could survive within the C.
wendtii group. C. wendtii can grow successfully even when rather heavily
shaded, so it can grow into stands of taller plants and squeeze them out.
I've tried three approaches to controlling the groups of C. wendtii.
I've uprooted entire stands, sorted through them and sold larger plants.
The plants in the stand, although very healthy, typically carry only a few
leaves, and those have long petioles. The individual plants aren't as
attractive as C. wendtii individuals grown widely spaced or separately
potted and don't look very appealing in the retailer's tanks. In the
future I'm going to encourage the retailer to display them and sell them
in groups of two or three. This probably will reduce my take per plant,
but when a C. wendtii group reaches critical mass you can separate out
and sell a lot of plants, so I'm not worried about my take from the sales.
This method can also stimulate real nuisance levels of regrowth if the
roots aren't completely removed when you uproot the group.
I've also cut or pulled individual large plants out of stands to thin the
stands out or to decrease the area of a stand. This often leaves me with
a hand full of broken-off leaves, because it's hard to separate individual
plants from the mass. Breaking the top off the plant, or breaking the
root runners seems to stimulate new growth from dormant buds. This method
tends to be self-defeating because of that vigorous regrowth.
The other method I use requires that I have a very well-defined area where
I want the C. wendtii to grow, and areas where I don't. When new plants
appear where I don't want them I can gently uproot the young plant and
follow the runner back to the group, then cut or break it off. Often the
runner is short and just leads to the adjacent plant. The runners are
brittle, so you have to be careful. This method seems to avoid nuisance
regrowth, but it requires frequent care. It's a little difficult if you
try to maintain an open area beside or behind a group of C. wendtii where
you can keep a backdrop of taller plants.
The C. wendtii stands in two of my tanks requires no additional
maintenance. The stand in a third tank tends to drop older leaves. I can
leave those and they quickly melt away, but the dying leaves detract from
the appearance of the group and I prefer to remove them when I first see
them fade - when the leaf blade begins to yellow and the petiole curls.
When I want to remove a leaf, I run my finger down the petiole to the base
of the plant (usually this is way down in the middle of the group where I
can't actually see what I'm doing) and push my finger down between the
petiole and the plant base. The leaf usually detaches cleanly from the
base of the plant without disturbing adjacent leaves.
Gad, this deprivation-induced hallucination is starting to fade, and it
looks like I just responded to my own post. Groan...this is embarassing.
Does anyone else have something they'd like to add about maintaining
groups of plants? I'm looking especially for experience with other
crypts, small groups of stem plants and "carpet" plants.