Trimmng Stem Plants

Have you ever wondered how some aquascapes have beautiful bushy type stem plants that help refine the scape?· In this article I hope to help you achieve this look.

Different stem plants grow at different rates and maintaining these can seem like too much work.· Faster growing stem plants will over power and shadow the slower growing stem plants. Proper trimming techniques are a vital part of maintaining a scape for a longer period of time.

The Bushy Affect

One thing to remember is to start with as many stems as possible, this will ultimately help create the bushy affect more easily and quicker.·After the initial planting, all plants will go through an acclimation period or more simply put, the plant is in shock.· Once recovering from this the stem will start to produce roots and you will see new growth at the top of each stem.

As the stem continues to grow you will notice that the best part of the plant will always be the tips.· Let the plants grow to the water surface trimming only the stems that seem to out race all the others to the surface.· Once the majority of stems are just below the water surface you can do the first mass trimming.

This first trim should be done at about 3”-4”, (depending on the entire depth of your tank) from the substrate.· Most stems plants, when trimmed will send out two new stems at the nearest node just below the cut.· Now, you will almost have twice as many stems as you had when initially planted.· It is important to know that you have just removed most of the plant mass in your tank, thus re-adjust your co2 and fertilizing doses accordingly. In the photo to the left notice the angle in which the scissors are held.· The Micranthemum umbrosum is being trimmed to conform to the other two stem plants in the background.

When the trimmed stems have re-grown new tips, let them continue to grow another 4”-5”.· Once this has been achieved your next trimming will consist of two parts.· The first is to make your second trim about 2” above the initial trimming, where you once had one stem, before the initial trimming you should now have two.· Trim the two stems and the plant will continue to double the amount of stems.· Second is to trim the plant in your desired shape.· This is important for refining and to help create depth and flow in your aquascape.

Once this has been done your next trimmings should always be done by following the desired shape that you are trying to achieve.· Do not be afraid to trim unwanted stems that seem to grow faster than the rest, even if it means you have to get your arm wet just to trim one or two stems.· Remember the best part of your plant will always be the tips, with this in mind, shape your plant to include tips that are very low in order to hide the bare stems of your plant.

In the second photo, the scape has received a fresh trim.· The shaping of plants is complete and now it’s time to wait for the new tips to form.·Although the stems have been trimmed the over all balance of this scape has not been compromised.

The Natural Look

As mentioned above, manicured bushes seem to help create flow in your aquascape but, I prefer the more natural appearance.· To achieve this look it requires just as much trimming but seems to be more tedious. Once the first trimming and second trimming process of shaping the plant is complete, from there you will only selectively trim from here on out. Trimming only the faster growing stems slightly below the masses will help maintain the overall shape but, will not create such a manicured look.· This technique requires you to monitor your plant growth less frequent than the more manicured look.· Although the entire mass of stems will continue to grow, at some point in time you will have to repeat the second trimming method.

Here is a list of a few stem plants that are easily trimmed to achieve the shaped bushy affect.

Hemianthus micranthemoides

Rotala sp. ‘green’

Rotala· rotundifolia

Ludwigia arcuata

Ludwigia brevipes

Note these are mostly smaller leaf type plants.

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