Hydrocotyle Verticillata: Ultimate Care Guide

Whorled Pennywort, Shield Pennywort, or Whorled Marshpennywort. Whatever name it’s called, Hydrocotyle Verticillata is an attactive creeping plant which is used in terrariums, paludariums, and aquariums for it’s clover-like appearance and robust growth. Native to North and South America, this plant is easy to grow. Its foliage grows in bunches with round leaves which have been described as resembling half-dollars. When emersed, or when leafs extend above the water line, it will produce small stalks of tiny white blooms. This species does best when leafs are exposed to the air, but it can survive fully submerged in an aquarium. Submerged growth, while possible, will require extra care and planning.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Care

Depending on how it’s grown, Hydrocotyle Verticillata can be easy or difficult to care for. Emersed growing is the easiest, but fully submerged is also possible. When emersed, or when leafs break the water’s surface, this plant can grow and spread rapidly, and will need frequent trimming and thinning to keep it under control. It can also be grown submerged in an aquarium, but care becomes much more difficult. In an aquarium, Hydrocotyle Verticillata needs bright light and CO2 injection to really thrive. If you’re thinking about adding this plant to your aquarium or paludarium it’s important to plan ahead. We’ve put together this guide to show you everything needed to succeed with this plant, no matter how you decide to grow it!

Are Hydrocotyle Verticillata easy to grow in an aquarium?

Hydrocotyle Verticillata can be somewhat difficult to grow in most aquariums. This species is better suited to emersed growth. When submerged expect very slow growth, and even this may require bright lighting and CO2 injection. This is a brittle plant which is a tasty treat for lots of different fish species. Because of this it’s often at risk of being eaten, and can be the first plant victim in a tank of medium sized omnivorous fish; subject to both nibbling and jostling. More experienced hobbyists with high tech tank setups may have a better time raising this species. Those with less experience can try their hand growing this plant in their aquariums, but research and preparation are needed to have the best chance of success.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata
Hydrocotyle Verticillata

How to plant Hydrocotyle Verticillata in an aquarium

Planting Hydrocotyle Verticillata involves separating larger bunches into pieces which include both leafs and roots. These are then buried in nutrient rich substrate such as ADA Aquasoil. It’s a good practice to apply balanced liquid fertilizer along with iron supplementation to assist root growth and help this plant overcome the shock of replanting. While this can be done submerged, this plant will experience slow growth even with bright lighting and CO2. Sometimes leaf stalks can grow upwards in search of brighter light, leading to single leaves extended far above the substrate. Some of these problems can be avoided by using a “dry start.” Dry starting involves placing and growing plants in an emersed state before flooding the aquarium with water. This allows the leafs to contact air and will lead to much faster growth. During a dry start, the aquarium is given full light exposure while being covered with a piece of clear plastic wrap. This cover should be removed a couple of times per day to allow the tank to breathe and give you an opportunity to moisten foliage with a water spray. Times vary, but usually after four weeks growth progresses far enough, and the tank can be filled with water. One downside to dry starting is melting: this is where some growth dies back because of the change from emersed to submerged growth. If root systems have had enough time to fully establish, new foliage will eventually appear.

How to use Hydrocotyle Verticillata in an aquascape

Hydrocotyle Verticillata is often placed as a mid-ground plant in areas which can benefit from its “clover patch” aesthetic. If grown with a dry start method it can function as a ground cover plant. Because of the difficulty in keeping this species thriving when submerged it’s best not to rely on it growing long term. If too much growth is lost over time it’s good to have a backup plan involving a more robust mid-ground plant.

Can you grow Hydrocotyle Verticillata as a floating plant?

While Hydrocotyle Verticillata gathers most nutrients from soil it’s hardy enough to be grown as a floating plant. Not having roots in nutrient rich soil can hamper growth. But when floating leafs are exposed to the open air this can provide a growth boost. When floating this plant remember that all nutrients must come from the water column so apply a balanced liquid fertilizer along with iron supplementation. As the plant clusters float and grow you’ll need to adjust lighting intensity, making sure lower plants are getting enough illumination.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata
Whorled Pennywort (Hydrocotyle Verticillata)

Can you grow Hydrocotyle Verticillata in water fully submerged?

Hydrocotyle Verticillata can grow fully submerged in water, but won’t grow as fast or be as hardy as when grown emersed. This is an ideal plant for paludariums, where it can grow in the border between wet and dry tank areas. Because of it’s attractive appearance many hobbyists want to grow it as an aquarium plant. While this is possible it will require bright lighting, CO2 injection, and fertilization for best appearance. It will grow when fully submerged, but will grow and spread very slowly. Much slower than when grown emersed. It’s difficult to impossible to get a thick, ground covering appearance when this species is planted directly in an submerged environment. For best cover, you’ll want to consider a dry start where H. Verticillata can grow emersed until the desired coverage is achieved. Afterwards, the tank is flooded which slows growth but should allow the plant to survive.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Lighting Requirement

Hydrocotyle Verticillata needs bright lighting for best growth. When growing submerged in dim lighting this plant has a tendency to grow towards light. This can result in longer stems as it tries to get closer to a light source and open air. You’ll want to use full spectrum lighting to give this species all the wavelengths it needs for proper growth. Full spectrum LED grow lights are available which include the proper wavelengths for ideal plant growth; these often include brightness adjustment and timers.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Temperature

Hydrocotyle Verticillata tolerates a wide range of temperatures from 59° to 77° F. It can live outside of this band of temperatures but expect slower growth and less vibrant coloration.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata pH

Hydrocotyle Verticillata wants water that is slightly acidic to neutral in a range from 6.0 to 7.8 pH.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Growth Rate

When grown emersed under bright lighting, Hydrocotyle Verticillata will grow quickly. Fully submerged, growth will be slowed considerably. Getting this plant to spread enough for the most appealing look will usually require an emersed “dry start” before flooding a tank for submerged growth. In nature, Hydrocotyle Verticillata is considered a weed and will grow robustly when foliage has access to open air; such as in a terrarium or paludarium.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Growth Height

In bright light, Hydrocotyle Verticillata grows low to the ground as a carpeting plant, with a maximum height of one to two inches. When grown submerged in low to medium light, this plant will tend to reach upwards towards the light source and open air.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata CO2 Requirement

Hydrocotyle Verticillata is a plant which doesn’t enjoy growing submerged. In an aquarium, CO2 injection will often be necessary. Not only will this plant appreciate higher CO2 concentrations, but its bright light needs will lead to increased algae growth which added CO2 can reduce.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata Propagation

Hydrocotyle Verticillata spreads by spending out lateral runners. These can be carefully cut off and planted in new locations. When attempting to grow cuttings, keep in mind that this plant prefers to grow emersed and this is the best way to get new plants established. Growing soil should be nutrient rich and kept moist with bright light provided.

Do Hydrocotyle Verticillata flower?

When grown emersed, Hydrocotyle Verticillata can produce stalks with clusters of small white flowers. When submerged, blooms will only be produced where foliage can grow above the water’s surface.

Where can I find Hydrocotyle Verticillata for sale?

Hydrocotyle Verticillata is a less common aquarium plant, but it can be bought from online suppliers and some local fish stores. Expect to pay between $10 USD and $13 USD per bunch in most cases. This plant is also available as tissue cultures. Tissue cultures can be a good way to buy plants that are free from diseases and parasites. Plants grown from tissue culture can take longer to establish themselves in an aquarium and will likely need a period of emersed growth to allow the formation of sturdy root systems.

Hydrocotyle Verticillata vs Hydrocotyle Vulgaris

Hydrocotyle Verticillata are Hydrocotyle Vulgaris have a similar appearance and can be easily confused. H. Vulgaris has longer leaf stalks and internodes, giving it a slightly more spread out growth pattern. This wider growth makes H. Vulgaris a good choice for mid-ground plantings.

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