Sunday, September 2, 2018

Emersed Project: Rotala 'bonsai''

What would you do with trimming stalks of aquatic plants after tank maintenance? Put for sale? Or giving them for free to fellow hobbyist? Or to throw them away?

There is another option: planting them emersed. 😊

I would like to write down step-by-step guide for planting Rotala 'bonsai' emersed for your reference. This plant is beautiful underwater. Below are some of the photos taken from my tank before trimming.  

Beautiful Rotala 'bonsai' in the tank (submersed condition)
Frequent trimming is required to get bushy shape

Trimming stalks

What you need for planting emersed are: a jar, scissors and tweezers, soil (here I use AquaSoil) and plant stalks. 

Preparation before planting
First, I put aqua soil into the jar, for about 5cm soil depth, which is good enough for stem plants to spread the roots.

Aqua soil was added in the jar
Next, water was added in to just above the soil surface level, this is to stimulates the "swamp environment". :)
Water was added just above the soil level
After that, you can start planting trimming stalks using tweezers to push the stalks into the soil. You can plant stalk by stalk or 2-3 stalks at a time. 

My daughter was helping me to plant Rotala 'bonsai' in the jar

Planting started
Rotala 'bonsai' were planted densely in the jar
After planting was done, a Cling-wrap plastic sheet can be used to cover the top of the jar to keep high moisture environment in the jar. It is essential to keep high-level moisture during this transition period so that plants can adapt accordingly from submersed to emersed form. In nature, it happens for the plants along the riverside, whereby water rises up and down from time to time. Aquatic plants in nature can adapt to those changes very fast thanks to their strong rooting system. For the emersed planting project, plant stalks taken from a fully submersed environment where nutrients can be uptaken from soil and also water column. Once stalks are planted in emersed form, there is no water column, hence rooting system plays an important role for plant development.  We need to keep the high moisture environment until plant roots develop to take nutrients from the soil itself.  

You can poke some holes on the Cling-wrap sheet after covering the jar. This would give better ventilation in the jar to prevent molding and plants can get more CO2 from outside. A few holes are enough for the ventilation. :)
Cling-wrap was covered on top of the jar. 
The plant jar was kept outdoor to receive natural sunlight. It was not exposed to ample sunlight to prevent the plants from becoming "steam vegetable". :) It is necessary to check the plants daily to ensure plant leaves are moist. Spraying mist daily is also helpful during this transition period.
Spraying daily is helpful during this transition period
After a week, signs of root spreading could be seen.

After a week, a sign of root spreading could be seen.
After 2 weeks, more roots were spreading out. At this time, you can poke more holes on the Cling-wrap daily to help the plants gradually get use to the emersed environment. 
After 2 weeks, more roots were spreading out
At this time, new emersed leaves could be seen from the stems. Cling-wrap could be opened more and more gradually.

New emersed leaves after 2 weeks planted
After 4 weeks, Cling-wrap was totally not needed. Rotala 'bonsai' is now in fully emersed form. New emersed leaves sprouting nicely.
After 4 weeks, new emersed leave popping out nicely

Cling-wrap was removed totally
After 6 weeks, plants had grown very well and got much taller. Spraying mist on plants daily is highly recommended. Also, keep a check on the water level in the jar daily to make sure the soil does not dry up. Water level in the jar should be kept at the soil level without any ponding to prevent mosquito breeding. 

Rotala 'bonsai' after 6 weeks plant emersed.
After 2 months, plants were fully grown at their prime. Time to capture some photos. :)

Rotala 'bonsai' after 2 months planting emersed.

The emersed leaves are in a shiny dark-green colour and stems are turning reddish 

The tip of leaves looks beautiful!

Dark green colours of emersed leaves

Strong healthy stalks
The jar is now can be placed on your studying desk or at work place where there is medium sunlight. You can also harvest the stalks and plant submersed in the tank.

The process of planting other aquatic plants emersed can be different. Nevertheless, I would think the steps should be about the same.  

I hope you would try and share with me your final shots. Happy planting! 

Cheerio! :)


  1. thanks for this! I am going to try this with my own Rotala Bonsai! I have trouble growing Rotala bonsai.. so maybe this is a good way to save some of the plants if they all die in my aquarium!

    Any tips for keeping them alive in the tank? Rotala Bonasai

    1. Thanks for reaching out.

      Rotala 'bonsai' is kind of easy-going plants. It would be better to grow it in the tank with CO2 injection and good lighting. Better lighting would make the tips reddish/orangish in colour. :)

  2. Lovely planted tank and good tips. Here is what I sometimes do, I just drop the cuttings into a shallow bowl and then let them grow out of the water by themselves. Then I can clip some of the tops and put their bottoms in water to grow some roots and then pot them up like regular potted plants. I keep some of almost all my aquarium plants planted in pots in my greenhouse where I can clip them as I need them for the aquariums.

    1. Wow! That's really a great tip! I will try for myself, too. Thank you. :D

  3. Very well put together. Ty for sharing

  4. Very Nice. Beautiful results
    Thank you for the demonstration.

    1. Thank you. :) I am glad you enjoy it and hope you have a beautiful emersed project, too. :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this is a fantastic article. Much thanks again. Fantastic.Botanic Wire

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