can one control plant size by restricting root growth? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-01-2012, 04:36 AM Thread Starter
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can one control plant size by restricting root growth?

Just wondering have anyone tried to restrict the roots of larger plants, (e.g. anazon sword) so that they become stunted/dwarf/smaller in size, kind of like the bonsai concept?

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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-01-2012, 04:52 AM
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Just wondering have anyone tried to restrict the roots of larger plants, (e.g. anazon sword) so that they become stunted/dwarf/smaller in size, kind of like the bonsai concept?
They won't experience the same degree of stunting as you can get with bonsai, but you can definitely keep them under control with root pruning and regular leaf trimming.

One of my first plants was a runner off a monster sword with leaves 18" long and a good 2 1/2" wide. It had three mature leaves about 6" long and two new leaves just coming in when I planted it in my tiny 10g. I trimmed 50% of the root mass and took off one of the mature leaves--then removed the other two once I had a couple new leaves showing to replace them a couple weeks later.

From then on, I would snip off any leaf that started getting too large for the space and root prune every three to four months. Between restricting it's ability to gather nutrients and forcing it to constantly put it's energy into growing new roots and leaves, the leaves that did grow never attained anywhere near their full potential--but it required regularly monthly care to maintain. My swords are now in fluorite instead of polished gravel so I can't uproot them to root prune, so instead I tease up some of the roots from all around the plant starting about an inch or so out from the base and prune from there.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-01-2012, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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ok, thanks for the info.

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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-01-2012, 06:44 PM
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This does not work with aquatic plants, they can meet their nutrition from the water column.

So basically you either limit the nutrients(sediment and or water column), or you do not, constricting the space will do little.

Bonsai trees have nowhere else to get nutrients. Aquatic plants do.

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-01-2012, 09:06 PM Thread Starter
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This does not work with aquatic plants, they can meet their nutrition from the water column.

So basically you either limit the nutrients(sediment and or water column), or you do not, constricting the space will do little.

Bonsai trees have nowhere else to get nutrients. Aquatic plants do.
Thanks. I was thinking that I can have an amazon sword that is small enough for my tank by restricting the root growth. Guess that will not work. Thanks tom.

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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Knotyoureality View Post
They won't experience the same degree of stunting as you can get with bonsai, but you can definitely keep them under control with root pruning and regular leaf trimming.

One of my first plants was a runner off a monster sword with leaves 18" long and a good 2 1/2" wide. It had three mature leaves about 6" long and two new leaves just coming in when I planted it in my tiny 10g. I trimmed 50% of the root mass and took off one of the mature leaves--then removed the other two once I had a couple new leaves showing to replace them a couple weeks later.

From then on, I would snip off any leaf that started getting too large for the space and root prune every three to four months. Between restricting it's ability to gather nutrients and forcing it to constantly put it's energy into growing new roots and leaves, the leaves that did grow never attained anywhere near their full potential--but it required regularly monthly care to maintain. My swords are now in fluorite instead of polished gravel so I can't uproot them to root prune, so instead I tease up some of the roots from all around the plant starting about an inch or so out from the base and prune from there.
Well Tom it looks like you can control the growth to some extent. I have a have performed a similar method in one of my smaller tanks with good success. If you keep up with the old growth and the roots you can control the size of the pant. Tom have you even tried this method?

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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 06:01 AM
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It's doable. We had some discussions on the subject in this thread I started a while back. Almost a year later, the plants in that thread are still <5".

Even though Tom is correct, there might be several other reasons for the large plants staying small: more effort goes into re-growing roots and/or the available space restriction.

I did a totally non-scientific experiment with a red tiger lotus:
  • Planted a tiny baby and way over-planted around it with HM, R. Indica, H. corymbosa and such. The red tiger lotus stayed <4" for about 6 months, apparently healthy and producing ~1-2 small stems a month.
  • Cleared the space around that lotus substantially. It pretty much exploded in size, with many leaves going for the surface. Kept it big for about 3 months.
  • Again over-planted around it, trimmed it down to 2-3 small leaves. It's now been back to <4" for the last 6 months.
I would LOVE to get more opinions and ideas on the subject.

That's the lotus in question (you can see the sword also) pic taken about 1 year ago. I'll take a pic what it looks like today for comparison. The sword grew a lot more leaves but is still ~5" in height.:


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Last edited by OVT; 09-02-2012 at 06:05 AM. Reason: added picture
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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OVT,
interesting thing you tried there. Your thread kicks up my hopes again to have an amazon sword in my smaller tank(20 gal) that I took down months ago. I am no bonsai expert so am trying to find out myself what are the conditions that would make a bonsai. I was thinking of using the planters to limit the space.

Would also like some input from bonsai ppl? hopefully someone will notice this......

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
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OVT,
interesting thing you tried there. Your thread kicks up my hopes again to have an amazon sword in my smaller tank(20 gal) that I took down months ago. I am no bonsai expert so am trying to find out myself what are the conditions that would make a bonsai. I was thinking of using the planters to limit the space.

Would also like some input from bonsai ppl? hopefully someone will notice this......
Bonsai (yes, I've created and kept my own) works on the principle of limiting the tree's ability to gather nutrients by reducing leaf and root mass and strictly controlling the available soil content. A tree doesn't *start* in that tiny little pot, btw, it gets there gradually. And here's where a difference starts for aquatic plants. In a planted tank--especially one with fish and inverts--there's a constant influx of nutrients to the substrate as water circulates and debris accumulates. However, with rooted plants such as swords, the principal of root and leaf reduction still applies---forcing the plant to expend the majority of it's energy in growing new roots and leaves while restricting it's ability to gather nutrients (the former more than the latter).

Bonsai trees, even after they've been trained down to the small sized containers that most people associate them with, still receive periodic root pruning.

I've kept standard amazon swords in 20g ,10g, and even 2.5g tanks using this method to restrict their growth for years at a time.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Bonsai (yes, I've created and kept my own) works on the principle of limiting the tree's ability to gather nutrients by reducing leaf and root mass and strictly controlling the available soil content. A tree doesn't *start* in that tiny little pot, btw, it gets there gradually. And here's where a difference starts for aquatic plants. In a planted tank--especially one with fish and inverts--there's a constant influx of nutrients to the substrate as water circulates and debris accumulates. However, with rooted plants such as swords, the principal of root and leaf reduction still applies---forcing the plant to expend the majority of it's energy in growing new roots and leaves while restricting it's ability to gather nutrients (the former more than the latter).

Bonsai trees, even after they've been trained down to the small sized containers that most people associate them with, still receive periodic root pruning.

I've kept standard amazon swords in 20g ,10g, and even 2.5g tanks using this method to restrict their growth for years at a time.
ok, now you got me really curious. Can you show me some pics of the amazon plant you speak of. You also mention the limitation of growth "to a certain degree". Do you mean both vertical and horizontal growth of just horizontal/vertical? It would be nice to have a scaled version of the actually big amazon, like a dwarf/small form. Not just in one dimension.

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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-02-2012, 09:46 PM
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Well Tom it looks like you can control the growth to some extent. I have a have performed a similar method in one of my smaller tanks with good success. If you keep up with the old growth and the roots you can control the size of the pant. Tom have you even tried this method?
Yup, I have.

I have also cut off all the roots and the plant had the exact same rate of growth.

Academic support:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1...802.x/abstract

If you do not even have any roots.........well.......the size difference in the container is not going to matter.

But if you limit the overall nutrients in the water column, only then......can you get some effect.

You MUST limit both locations, not just one. So it could work if your water column is very very lean.

As Knotyourreality suggest, you can trim the outer leaves and keey the weed from getting too large, I'd suggest switching to crypts which are smaller and have the same similar shape.

Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 12:45 AM Thread Starter
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Should be pretty good article. I got to read it to be convinced. Thanks for the reference.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-03-2012, 04:12 PM
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Isnt there a smaller variety of amazon swords? Or atleast swords in general?


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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-04-2012, 01:39 PM
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Echinodorus tenellus is the smallest. :3
Ive kept dwarfed amzons in low light low tech ten gal. It grows pretty slow too.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-05-2012, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by ADJAquariums View Post
Isnt there a smaller variety of amazon swords? Or atleast swords in general?
Parviflorus parviflorus 'Tropica' (Rosette Sword) seems to max at 8" x 8", usually wider then taller. A nice looking sword imho.
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