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Proven Riparium Plant Combinations

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Proven Riparium Plant Combinations: 3 Winning Layout Ideas

I have heard lots and lots of questions about which kinds of plants to grow in ripariums. Naturally, plant selection is an important first step in planning and developing a healthy and attractive riparium layout. The following list offers three important features of useful above water riparium plants:

  1. Adaptability to riparium conditions
  2. Appropriate size and shape for aquarium enclosures
  3. Visual appeal in combination with other plants.

Point #1 is the most important to consider when choosing a plant. The best riparium plants are those that grow in very moist or wet conditions out in their natural habitats. These might include the edges of streams or rivers, marshy edges of lakes or swampy locations in the forest. Since their roots will be underwater in the riparium display, they must be able to tolerate the much-reduced oxygen levels and other special conditions of saturated soils in the root zone. Succulents and cactuses, which grow in arid environments, and epiphytes (including most kinds of orchids), which grow in the tops of trees, are two large groups that need a well-oxygenated and are poor choices for ripariums. If planted in the water these kinds of plants will probably suffer root death very quickly and expire soon thereafter.

With this important limitation in mind, you can expect to find many suitable riparium candidates among aquarium plants that can grow well in emersed conditions. These include most Cryptocoryne, Anubias, Echinodorus, Microsorum and many kinds of aquarium stem plants, among others. Plants grown in garden ponds include many other promising choices, but as indicated in point #2 above, it is important to keep the proportions of these selections in mind. Many pond plants, such as canna lilies (Canna) and pickerel rush (Pontederia) grow too large to keep in most aquariums aquarium and are much better for growing outside. There are also a number of common houseplants that originate from wet places in tropical forests and are useful riparium choices. These include peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), dumb cane (Dieffenbachia) and pilea (Pilea), along with several others.

Choose a Theme

With so many potential plants to use in a planted riparium layout it can become overwhelming to select a group of plants that will look good together, the point presented as #3 in the list above. I have planned and put together a number of riparium layouts and the strategy that I have found to work best is to choose a theme that combines just a few plants having proportions, colors, textures and shapes that work well to gether for visual appeal. A much less successful kind of planting is one that uses a different kind of plant in every riparium planter. A layout with too many different kinds of plants will just present a confusing display to the viewer--it will not make a visual impact.

Having this important idea in mind, I plan to fill the rest of this thread with descriptions and discussion on three especially successful riparium plant combinations that I have discovered along with other hobbyists:

  1. A layout with Cyperus umbrella sedges and carpeting stem plants
  2. A layout with Spathiphyllum peace lilies, Pilea and other tropical forest plants
  3. A layout with Acorus sweetflag along with other selections as visual accents

For each of these suggested combinations, the first plant mentioned is planted in several riparium planters, fills much of the above water part of the layout and functions as the dominant kind of background foliage. I intend to discuss each layout idea with one or two posts. Please post into this thread if you have any questions or comments.

Naturally, some mention should also be made of underwater plant selections. In general, the underwater plants, hardscape and fish selections should also function in a visually harmonious manner with the above water riparium layout.
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Do you think that you will finish this little educational post? I am interested in setting up a riparium and found this thread while searching for a list of good riparium plants. I found what you typed up so far very informative. Not many people posted here, but this thread does have over 1000 views, so people are reading it.
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