I can only speak to what has worked for me. While I have kept exotic fish for over 15 years, I am also new to aquascaping.
For lighting, I use Fluval Aquasky LED for my 72 gallon. It is 35 watts and equivalent to 210 watts of light. My plants are growing very well at just barely 3 watts per gallon. It goes up to 10,000 k color temp which is great, too.
In less than 1 month you can see how much the plants have matured.
This is the tank on June 22
This is the tank as of tonight
For substrate, I am using API Pond Plant Media; it's about $12 for 20 lbs. While it doesn't come with any fertilizers, it hold nutrients very well. I placed Jobe's organic root tabs (found 50 tabs for $6 on Amazon) every 8" 1 week before planting just to allow the substrate to soak up the fertilizers.
For dosing; I use Flourish Excel daily (really helpful to avoid algae growth) 1.5x recommended dosing. Essentially, a liquid that coverts to CO2.
Flourish Iron, daily.
Flourish, every 3 days 1.5x dose
Calcium, once week after water change.
Flourish root tabs under my heavy root feeders (Amazon sword & Madagascar lace)
No pressurized CO2 at the moment.
Definitely test your tap water for its hardness (kH & gH) and pH.
My tap pH was 7.6 so I automatically thought my water was a little harder, WRONG! My plants started to show signs of calcium (gH) and potassium (kH) deficiency. I tested my gH and kH and found that my water was SUPER, SUPER soft. If this is the case, your pH could crash with no warning. The presence of gH & kH will stabilize your pH and also provide calcium and potassium for the plants.
As for great red plants for low tech tank, I use Telanthera Cardinalis. This plant melted like crazy when I first bought it, I had to clip back the bad leaves. However, I started with a small tissue culture about 1 1/2", I have successfully propogated the plant into 14 specimens. It is super colorful with pink under the bronze red and green leaves.
Also, I love the Dwarf Red Water Lily. Super easy to grow, great color, and gets big quick. You can see how it took over the driftwood in the pictures.