by Ole Pedersen
Pogostemon helferi is a different but beautiful foreground plant which under good growth conditions forms a dense carpet of dark green leaves. The curly leaves and different leaf form make it stand out from the crowd of other foreground plants and thereby, it creates an attractive variation and regeneration of the planted aquarium.
The full scientific name is Pogostemon helferi (Hook. f.) Press (Tropica No 53H) and from this it follows that it is closely related to another popular aquarium plant, Pogostemon stellatus. The meaning of the genus name is "bearded stamens" from "pogo" (bearded) and "stemon" (stamen) but as yet there is no English common name for Pogostemon helferi. Two Thai aquarist, Nonn Panitvong and Arthit Prasartkul, recovered the plant on the boarder between Thailand and Myanmar and in Thailand the plant is called "dao noi" which means little star. Here, the plant is found in between the other amphibious vegetation along creeks and small rivers where it is found submerged during the wet season and emerged during the dry. The soil in this part of Thailand is often iron rich clay with a reasonable amount of calcium carbonate and this makes it ideal as an aquarium plant.
Pogostemon helferi is not easily confused with other
aquarium plants because of the curly leaves. Under good light
conditions, short internodes are formed which result in a compact
and bushy look. The inflorescence is simple, 15-30 mm long and the
individual flowers are lavender. Usually, it forms flowers only
Pogostemon helferi is not particularly light demanding, but the more light we provide, the more compact the growth form, and the compact form is what most people find attractive. Under less light, the plant grows longer (up to 15 cm) whereas high light results in compact shoots not longer than 5-8 cm. Pogostemon helferi is relatively fast growing and thus, it needs additional nutrients unless you have many fish in the tank. Iron deficiency sometimes occurs and is recognized by the new leaves being yellowish but this is easily treated by using PLANT NUTRITION liquid in the recommended doses. At luxurious growth, it becomes necessary to trim the plants and this should be done by removing entire shoots allowing light and nutrient to penetrate all the way down to the remaining shoots. CO2 enrichment always stimulates growth but it is not really required to grow Pogostemon helferi successfully; the plant simply grows a bit slower. Pogostemon helferi thrives in a broad temperature interval from 23 to 30 °C.
Pogostemon helferi is most likely the easiest foreground plant we have because it is not as light demanding as most other foreground plants; at low light, the individual stems simply grow a bit longer and the plant appears less compact. Try Pogostemon helferi together with other foreground plants such as Glossostigma or Hemianthus to create new and exiting color contrast in the aquarium.
Pogostemon helferi is relatively new in our hobby and thus, there is not too much information available as yet. However, we recommend consulting the articles listed below if you want to learn more about this exiting plant.
Tarepunda N (2005) Little Star, Aqua Star - The magnificent one Pogostemon helferi
Pogostemon helferi with its characteristic curly leaves. Photo by Oliver Knott.
Pogostemon helferi in the aquarium where it is easy to recognize and distinguish from other foreground plants because of its different growth form and curly leaves. Photo by Oliver Knott.