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I was looking at some downoi online today, and it made me wonder: "what do we define as carpetting plants?" I know that downoi (Pogostemon helferi), is supposed to be a carpeting plant, but why is it called that? What qualities make a plant a carpetting plant?
 

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I think anything that can be kept reasonably short, doesn't have humongous leaves, and will eventually fill in an area counts as a potential carpet plant.

A lot of really short stem plants work (downoi, s. repens, monte carlo, HC), as do a lot of short rosettes (chainsword, sag), and many of the plants that spread via runners (marsilia, laliopsis, ranunculus) as long as they aren't too tall. Even small cryptocoryne, like c. parva, can work, as can low rhizome plants like buce.

That said, many plants can be used multiple ways. I have my downoi planted to look like a group of ferns in my forest-floor themed nano scape. I use chainsword as a midground accent plant in my large aquarium. Pearlweed can be used as a carpet if flattened and pruned, but I'm trying to get it to grow as a background stem plant in my tank instead.

Plants are just broadly grouped by sellers based on popular use, but a lot of "carpet plants" are also perfectly good for other applications, depending on how they are grown.
 

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Yeah, carpeting describes the function of the plant, rather than being a category of plants. I would argue that it's extremely context dependent as well. If you are willing to do lots of work, moss and a lot of stem plants could be a carpet. If you have a giant tank with monster fish, you can get away with larger, coarser plants as a carpet. If you have the means, you can carpet with plants that don't spread readily by just planting to the density you want.

Of course I've just described some impractical ideas, but the real magic of horticulture is realizing what seems impossible. And sometimes it's just a matter of technique and patience.
 
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