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Emersed Aroid substrate

greenbliss

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21 Apr 2021
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Northumberland
I am curious about what sort of substrates everyone that grows aquatic aroids emersed (Lagenandra, Cryptocoryne, Bucephalandra etc..) uses? I am personally currently using "Westland Pond plant potting soil" as well as regular compost mixed with grit (sand) and I definitely need to change it for most of my plants as a lot of them seem to be suffering. Also this soil mixture was only going to be temporary but due to circumstances I ended up neglecting the plants and ended up never repotting them. However I am currently getting around to it and it definitely got me thinking a little.

First of all, I definitely want to stop using a "one size fits all" solution, as Cryptocoryne and Lagenandra can be quite diverse in their geographical distribution and as a result are found in multiple types of environments that can be vastly different. Of course, most sources of information about Cryptocoryne emersed cultivation do provide you with the information that tells you exactly what sort of soil mixture to use for most species, even being available for ones that aren't so commonly available in the aquarium trade if you search a bit more. However the issue is that I want to start growing Cryptocoryne and Lagenandra on a larger scale, where using substrates such as "beech tree soil" (soil found around beech trees where the soil has poor lime content) would simply be impractical due to it not exactly being something I can source easily in large quantities. Keep in mind this soil type is mainly used for growing Cryptocorynes found in blackwater areas. I wonder how I could recreate this soil using ingredients found in garden centres etc... so that I wouldn't have to be constantly going to some forest and digging up the soil? The main thing is it needs to be very acidic (a PH of around 4), rich in humic compounds and obviously needs to be something I can reliably source year round. Nothing more than that.

But this also makes me think that maybe the reason such a specific soil type is required is because these plants are literally found in what is basically a peat bog in the jungle, despite having it's differences it's a very similar environment to the peat bog in many ways, although it is still quite unique. Many growers report poor result when they have grown blackwater Cryptocorynes in peat. Is it really necessary to use Beech tree soil though? Maybe there is a probability that people that grew these Cryptocorynes in peat failed due to other reasons than the soil type? I definitely want to experiment more in a few months time when I build a greenhouse and have more space and plants to (potentially) kill.

As for the other, less demanding species I should be able to get away with grit + clay (possibly some lime sprinkled in for hardwater plants) or a mixture of grit + peat, and they should thrive in this sort of substrate mixture. But I'd still like to hear what everyone has to say and what others use or are planning to use for their plants. I would specifically like to know if anyone here has grown more delicate, sensitive species in more easy to source substrate mixtures and if you had great success with them. Obviously I'd want the plants to be able to grow well and definitely flower. If it's nothing too obscure to get I'll definitely give it a shot if it sounds worth trying.

In the end I just desire simplicity and don't want to be using too many specific soil types and I don't want to mess about with soil mixtures that have 5 or more ingredients, as plant keeping to me is meant to be a simple and non technical hobby (despite obviously having a scientific aspect). One type of soil for blackwater plants, one for hardwater ones, as well as a general purpose one for the ones that will thrive in almost anything.
 

Wookii

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Aren’t all these plants typically grown commercially in rock wool in pots, sitting in trays of what amounts to a nutrient ‘soup’ that is pumped around the greenhouse.

If so, it would suggest they don’t require a specific type of soil necessarily, just sufficient nutrients to their submerged roots.
 

greenbliss

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The plants I am talking about certainly aren't available commercially. Otherwise I'd just grow them in sand/clay or some other basic soil mixture.
 

bazz

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Hi greenbliss,
It appears to me that you are probably already more of an authority on this subject than most and no doubt have already trawled the www for information, but one longshot is to maybe ask the same question on a Facebook group, if you haven't already, that I lurk on Facebook Groups where it seems that most are having a lot of success doing exactly this.
Cheers,
bazz
PS I'm not averse to paying for an odd small aquarium suitable crypt plantlet now and again. ;)
 

greenbliss

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Hi greenbliss,
It appears to me that you are probably already more of an authority on this subject than most and no doubt have already trawled the www for information, but one longshot is to maybe ask the same question on a Facebook group, if you haven't already, that I lurk on Facebook Groups where it seems that most are having a lot of success doing exactly this.
Cheers,
bazz
PS I'm not averse to paying for an odd small aquarium suitable crypt plantlet now and again. ;)
I’m not totally against the idea but after having seen the fishkeeping groups on facebook I haven’t been very keen on it. Some of the worst looking tanks I’ve ever seen were on fishkeeping facebook groups.
 

bazz

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There aren't any fish tanks on there, it's an international crypt forum populated with collectors and the odd expert, predominantly growing rare crypts terrestrially. You can easily leave the group if you have no joy.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
The plants I am talking about certainly aren't available commercially.
However the issue is that I want to start growing Cryptocoryne and Lagenandra on a larger scale, where using substrates such as "beech tree soil" (soil found around beech trees where the soil has poor lime content) would simply be impractical due to it not exactly being something I can source easily in large quantities. Keep in mind this soil type is mainly used for growing Cryptocorynes found in blackwater areas.
A coir based compost? You can buy 5 kg compressed bales of coir for ~£15 and that makes about 60 litres of compost.

Personally I would go down the leaf mould route. Probably just leaf mould and perlite (or bark), with a low rate base dressing of osmocote. "Oak leaf" would be my preference and I definitely wouldn't sterilise it before use.

You might be able to get large amounts via your local council? If they shred their autumn leaves separately? It would be a mix of tree species however.

cheers Darrel
 

greenbliss

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Hi all,


A coir based compost? You can buy 5 kg compressed bales of coir for ~£15 and that makes about 60 litres of compost.

Personally I would go down the leaf mould route. Probably just leaf mould and perlite (or bark), with a low rate base dressing of osmocote. "Oak leaf" would be my preference and I definitely wouldn't sterilise it before use.

You might be able to get large amounts via your local council? If they shred their autumn leaves separately? It would be a mix of tree species however.

cheers Darrel
I definitely have considered coir but it isn’t something I am familiar with. Don’t see why it wouldn’t work though. As for leaf mould I definitely was wanting to get some going in autumn but it needs to be quite acidic, which means it might need to be sourced from areas where the soil is poor in lime but I’m not so convinced about that . I guess i’ll need to simply try things and learn through trial and error.
 

mort

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If the mix needs to be acidic could you use composted bracken? I don't know but I'm guessing it's similar to leaf mould.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
but it needs to be quite acidic, which means it might need to be sourced from areas where the soil is poor in lime but I’m not so convinced about that
I think that is the advantage of Oak (Quercus spp.) leaf mold, it will always be slightly acidic. It is all limestone here, but when I want small amounts of clay, or leaf mold, I go over to the <"greensand ridge to the east of us">.
If the mix needs to be acidic could you use composted bracken?
That should be ideal.

cheers Darrel
 
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greenbliss

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If the mix needs to be acidic could you use composted bracken? I don't know but I'm guessing it's similar to leaf mould.
I’ll definitely try and give it a go. Never made compost or leaf mould so it’ll be a nice change.


I think that is the advantage of Oak (Quercus spp.) leaf mold, it will always be slightly acidic. It is all limestone here, but when I want small amounts of clay, or leaf mold, I go over to the <"greensand ridge to the east of us">.
I think the soil where I live should be OK. My area has quite a few different soil types so I have alternative places to source leaves if need be.
 

greenbliss

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One thing I am not so sure about is whether I could make bracken compost and leaf mould in any reasonable amount of time? Would I be able to have some that I can use for my plants by next year? I don’t live in the warmest part of the country but it rains a lot here.
 

jamila169

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traditional way is to stuff damp leaves into a sack/ bin bag with holes and leave it under a large shrub/tree, so it gets rained on, but is sheltered -I've never managed it partly because OH has a habit of forgetting I told him to leave it be and just taking anything that he considers rubbish to the dump :rolleyes: It takes 2 years the trad way, though there's some ! make leafmould in 6 months ! things on youtube that I'm deeply sceptical of. Deciduous leaves break down quicker according to the RHS -have you though about giving ericaceous compost a whirl? It has a pH of between 4 and 5 and you can get peat free ones that are made from composted bracken and bark , or Moorland gold that is composted bark, bracken and reclaimed peat filtered from watercourses though they don't give a PH on their website, so you'd have to check with them.
 
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greenbliss

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I think what I'll end up doing is take a note of all of these suggestions and try the things that practically make the most sense to me and see what gives me the most desirable plant health. Thanks everyone for your replies and suggestions so far.
 

mort

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I mentioned bracken after Darrel suggested coir because it's easily available off the shelf. I do have some bracken that I used as a insulated layer over some dahlias this winter and it hasn't noticeable degraded since it was harvested, so like Jamila mentions I don't think it would be a quick process.

If you have any pine trees near you then the leaf mould under them is another thing you could "forage" and you can sieve the needles out.
 

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