1. A layout with Cyperus umbrella sedges and carpeting stem plants
Plants in the genus Cyperus
are known as papyruses or umbrella sedges. Most grow in moist marsh or shoreline situations and the several hundred different species are distributed all over the world. Thus, they can be used to recreate the look of many kinds of riparian habitats in a planted riparium. Although grass-like in appearance, they belong to the sedge family (Cyperaceae). An aquarium Cyperus
, C. helferi
is one of the few fully aquatic members of the genus. For such a large group fo plants there seem to be relatively few in use in horticulture. Here are the three different ones that I have tried in planted ripariums:
- Cyperus alternifolius var. gracilis
- C. involucratus 'Baby Tut'
- C. albostriatus
These varieties/species are most commonly used as pond marginals, although they also perform well as houseplants in sunny windows and as annual bedding plants in sites with plenty of moisture. This rather dark picture shows C. alternifoliu
s var. gracilis
. Notice that the stems are leafless around the base and with a whorl or leaves at the top. This kind of foliage is typical for most kinds of Cyperus
Aside from being more or less representative of many kinds of water-associated habitats, Cyperus
plants have a number of other compelling features. The ones that I have tried have all grown very well under fluorescent lighting and they do not seem to demand careful fertilization. They grow into nice, sturdy plants that add vertical dimension to the riparium layout. Significantly, a mature Cyperus
has many fine grass-like leaves, so it will fill a good deal of space without throwing a lot shade. An especially appealing way to use these plants is in combination with sprawling emersed aquatic stem plants--even with the Cyperus growing as tall background subjects there can still be plenty of light left over to support a dense "lawn" of stem plants. This picture shows C. involucratus
'Baby Tut" along with a few other tall plants in a 120-gallon riparium and with a dense growth of Bacopa
sp. covering much of the water's surface.
Here you can see a similar effect in a 50-gallon riparium layout with Cyperus alternifoliu
s var. gracilis
and various stems growing beneath.
have extensive root systems and are best planted into a riaprium hanging planter with a fine clay gravel substrate. They will really appreciate root feeding with a root tab fertilizer, such as the RootMedic Complete-Original
The only major drawback of using umbrella sedges in ripariums is that there is a limited availability of shorter-statured varieties. Of the ones that I listed above, the shortest is C. albostriatus
, which grows to about 14" tall. Cyperus alternifoliu
s var. gracilis
can reach to 30" tall, a height that requires hanging the aquarium lighting pretty high above the tank. When I have seen it growing outdoors C. involucratus
'Baby Tut' develops as a compact plants about 20" tall, but under fluorescent lights it eventually grows to more than 36". It only looked very good in the 120-gallon setup shown above because the water level in that tank is lowered to about 40% of the total depth.
is apparently less tolerant of fully-saturated soils than mainy of its relatives. I have had the best luck growing this plant in ripariums by raising the planter cup up so that its top rim is about 1" above the water's surface. Here is a picture of this plant used pretty well in a 15-gallon riparium.
Carpeting emersed aquatic stem plants:
Here is a preferred way to plant carpeting stem plants for this kind of layout. These Bacopa
sp. stems are planted into a hanging planter and will be trained to grow across the attached ripariumtrellis raft.
As they begin growth the stems will quickly start to grow across the foam trellis raft. You can encourage a dense, thick carpet that will hide the foam and plastic parts be pruning the growing tips of the stems as they reach beyond the raft. This next shot shows that same kind of Bacopa
after it has grown into a dense carpeting lawn of foliage.
All of the emersed aquarium stem plants that I have tried have also done best with a rich, fine clay gravel substrate.
I occurs to me that I have not mentioned specific ideas for stem plants to use with this kind of layout. This post has run long, so I will return with another shorter entry and some additional notes one stems.