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[aroid-l] Water Percolation

  • Subject: [aroid-l] Water Percolation
  • From: Ted.Held@hstna.com
  • Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2004 11:40:04 -0400

This is to add to Peter's comment about water flow through saturated soils.
Those of us who raise aroids of the genus Cryptocoryne, denizens of watery
worlds, have often made a mental note of the apparent importance of the
degree of water permeation or percolation through our substrata. We seem to
know that anaerobic conditions are desirable for most of these plants. But,
at the same time, we don't want it too anaerobic. If that makes any sense.

Here are a few anecdotes.

1. Specimens planted in impermeable containers (plastic) containing at
least some organic matter will generally do poorly once anaerobic
conditions settle in. (I say "generally" because doing enough experiments
to justify conclusions is not feasible for the average hobby grower.)

2. The specimens will do decidedly better if the plastic container is
perforated with holes, generally the more holes the better.

3. The specimens will do even better if they are planted in a terra cotta
container, where water and gas permeation can take place more evenly or at
a greater rate.

4. There is an apparent size scaling factor at work. I find that specimens
in a 6 inch (15 cm) top diameter terra cotta pot will do much better than
in an 8 inch (20 cm) terra cotta pot.

5. Roots from the plants seem to prefer to cling to the container sides and
bore their way down and out the bottom, as though they sense that
conditions for growth (and their work) are better near areas where exchange
of gases and whatnot is greatest. One caveat here is that these plants
reproduce by runners, so the root habit may be an artifact of that

6. At least some minor water circulation around pottings seems to also add
to plant well being, as if there is a transport issue with the water
envelope around the pot as well as phenomena within the container.

Unfortunately, the science here is not easy to establish, especially for a
non-professional grower with only a few plants. So we rely on intuition,
close observation and experimentation to come up with practices that work.
This is not to say that the science does not exist, of course. But the
science is complex. As a substitute we have the lore and practice of
dedicated folks. I maintain that this body of knowledge is actually science
even if purists won't admit to it. You have to go with whatever you have at

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