Pogostemon Helferi is an unusual tank plant with very nice ornamented leaves. It is small sized and it has incredible green coloring. It quickly forms a very impressive green carpet in the foreground and in the middle of the tank.
Habitat in the wild
Natural habitat of Pogostemon Helferi is in areas of Thailand sharing border with Myanmar, where locals call it «downoi», which word-for-word translation means little star. It is labeled with the same name ‘downoi’ in catalogs of importers from South-East Asia.
Like vast majority of tank plants Pogostemon Helferi isn’t a purely aquatic plant. In natural biotopes, during dry season you can often see the plant growing along shores of rivers and streams flowing over downland about 100 m above sea level. The plants transform to their submerged form only during wet season when rivers overflow.
Water temperature in its natural biotopes remains almost constant ( about 20 °C) regardless of the season. In naturally impounded bodies Pogostemon Helferi can be encountered growing both under direct sunlight and in the shadows of shore vegetation.
Is a very uncommon plant with ornamented leaves, which is comparatively small. It has bright green coloring that naturally completes its structure.
Pogostemon helferi has curly leaves which noticeably stand out against neighboring tank plants. In a tank bush grows not larger than 10 cm high and 5-10 cm wide. Provided with favorable conditions the plant demonstrates medium growth rate.
Difficulties in keeping
Pogostemon Helferi is rather demanding. That’s why when keeping the plant in a tank you should take into account some of its peculiarities.
It is recommended to put the bush at a the most lighted place in the foreground of the tank and provide the plant with additional CO2 supply as well.
Care and keeping in a tank
Ornamental properties of the plant highly depend on the tank conditions.
Pogostemon helferi prefers growing in tanks with settled biological balance. Therefore, living in a recently run tank will be too challenging for it, which makes it almost impossible for the plant to survive there.
It is better to get Pogostemon Helferi as an adult plant with a strong root system (a healthy plant should have white colored roots) and not less than 3-5 cm high. Such plant will have higher chances to adapt in a new place.
The plant doesn’t like replanting, so don’t do it too often. Any attempt to disturb its root system effects the plant development process.
As for the substrate, it should be nutritious and silted, since the plant gets basic nutrients through its root system. Quite often naturally silted tank substrate can be not enough for the plant, which shows when its leaves become yellowish.
In this case it is necessary to introduce additional fertilization. As for water hardness and acidity, this unique plant can grow within a very wide range of these values. However, when these parameters change, the plant takes it very severely.
It successfully grows in tropical tanks with warm water from +20 to + 30 °C, while 23-25°C is optimal temperature range for it. Desirable pH level is 7, however the range of 6,0-7,5 is also acceptable.
As for carbonate hardness, the optimal value is 4°; range from 5 to 10° is acceptable. At that general water hardness can vary from 1 to 30°, but range from 8 to 15° will be the most preferable.
To improve Pogostemon Helferi appearance you should provide it with intense illumination. In general, the plant can grow in the shadow of other plants or at less intense lighting, but in this case it becomes very elongated and looks ‘sickly’, its growth rate noticeably slows down and altogether these issues effect its appearance.
To maintain ornamental properties of the plant you need to provide it with additional CO2 supply. This is a must to ensure that the plant develops properly. Without CO2 supply it will still grow, but its appearance and ornamental features will suffer.
Very often Pogostemon Helferi leaves change their color as they grow from bright green to yellowish brown. It is ok for this plant, since this coloring is peculiar to many adult species.
Pogostemon Helferi propagates with its spurs, which you can carefully cut off and plant into the substrate. Some time later the sprig strikes roots and starts to grow.
You should keep in mind, that when replanting a young plant into a new tank with water parameters that differ from those that the plant has got used to, its old leaves may become yellow and shed off, but new leaves will gradually appear then.
Provided with intense illumination the plant forms many spurs, though it is not a ground-covering one. However, its shoots strike roots near the parent plant and form new ones and this way they quickly form a very impressive carpet in the foreground.
The plant looks the same appealing on its own, when planted as separate bushes in the middle of the tank.
Another important thing you should keep in mind is, that most of herbivorous fish species love eating Pogostemon Helferi soft leaves.
Sergey is a founder and author of Meethepet.com. He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood.
His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and Angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.