Pogostemon helferi has taken the aquascaping world by storm with its funky, rosette-shaped appearance and wavy leaf shape. This small plant makes a beautiful foreground carpet for an aquascape by adding a lovely pop of green. It’s easy to grow, beginner-proof, and can even be attached to driftwood or rock for some added texture.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Pogostemon helferi and growing Pogostemon helferi in your own aquarium!
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Pogostemon helferi is commonly known as dao noi or downoi in Thai, which can be translated to ‘little star.’
This aquatic herb is mainly found in Thailand but is believed to occur in parts of Burma and India as well. P. helferi can live above the water during the dry season and under the water during the wet season, allowing it to live in and adapt to a wide range of fluctuating conditions; however, it is most commonly found growing along the banks of small creeks and rivers.
P. helferi is a pretty easy plant to recognize by its compact curly leaves and attractive shades of green. It can grow anywhere between 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) tall, depending on lighting intensities; more intense lighting tends to keep the plant small and compact, which is usually the preferred appearance by aquarium keepers.
Under ideal conditions, healthy plants have a fast growth rate and require a constant influx of nutrients. Shoots grow out from the sides of the plant and develop small roots, which can then either be cut and transplanted or allowed to create a natural carpet of lush green.
Planting Pogostemon helferi
Pogostemon helferi can be planted in the substrate like other regular aquarium plants. Although it looks good on its own, it will have a stronger visual impact if you surround it with other foreground plants, like the smaller Glossostigma elatinoides.
Another option is to grow P. helferi on driftwood or porous rock. Attaching it (along with other plants that grow on decorations, like Java fern) to a surface is not difficult at all; you can either use fishing wire to keep it in place or an even easier option is to just use quick-drying superglue or special aquarium glue. When buying safe aquarium glue, make sure the only ingredient listed is cyanoacrylate. Both these methods will keep the plant from floating away until it has securely anchored itself to the given surface.
Because Pogostemon helferi can be a quick grower, it appreciates plenty of nutrients. Popping a root tab underneath it while planting is an effective way to supply it with food for at least a few months and helps prevent the leaves from dying.
Pogostemon helferi care requirements
Pogostemon helferi is generally considered a pretty easy plant to grow in the aquarium, although it does have a few requirements:
- Light. If you want your P. helferi to maintain its low, star-shaped growth pattern, be sure to provide plenty of light. This plant can survive and do well in lower light conditions, but unfortunately, it won’t look as good. Like many other foreground plants, lack of light can cause it to stretch towards the top of the tank and lose its appealing shape.
- Nutrients. As discussed, these plants need an abundance of nutrients to really grow well. Although it can be grown without added CO2 or nutrient dosing (liquid and/or tabs), you might find it growing very slowly or even losing its leaves.
- Propagation. The more, the better! Like many aquarium plants, Pogostemon helferi is very easy to propagate. Although a healthy plant readily forms many side shoots on its own, you can create even more by snipping off the top of an adult plant. Simply replant this cutting and it should root and continue growing in no time. Another option is to break off the side shoots and replant them in the desired location.
Problems with Pogostemon helferi
- Stretching. An issue with many plants is that they become etiolated in low-light conditions. The plant stretches towards the top of the tank in an attempt to get more light, which doesn’t really look all that nice with a rosette foreground plant. To prevent this from happening, add an extra light or adjust your light period.
- Slow/no growth. This plant will slow its growth or even show no growth at all if nutrients are lacking in the system. If you aren’t regularly dosing nutrients or using root tabs yet, consider doing so. Added CO2 can also be helpful.
- Melting. The dreaded melt is a problem that occurs with plants that have trouble adapting to new or fluctuating water conditions (another plant notorious for melting is Cryptocoryne). Some sources note that melt can be prevented by leaving a newly bought bundle of Pogostemon helferi intact until the plant has had time to acclimate. If it seems to be doing well, you can eventually separate the stems and plant them in their intended locations.
Pogostemon helferi hasn’t been around in the aquarium hobby for too long and there isn’t too much information available about its exact preferences. Regardless, it has quickly become quite popular among aquarists and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it in your local fish stores. It might be labeled with its common name, downoi, but its wavy leaf shape makes it easy to recognize. You can also buy P. helferi from various online sources.
You can find it on Amazon here.
If you have any more questions about Pogostemon helferi or want to share your own experiences with this unique foreground aquarium plant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!