Growers Guide for Utricularia Graminifolia


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Though Utricularia graminifolia is not a true aquatic species but has become a popular selection for planted aquaria and ponds.

Because it grows terrestrially and submerged, you can grow it in aquaria and ponds for a dramatic display. 

How to grow Utricularia Graminifolia
Growing Utricularia Graminifolia

If you would like to cultivate an underwater “field” of these intriguing plants, this grower’s guide for Utricularia graminifolia explains the main techniques for establishing this rootless bladderwort.

So unleash your inner Takashi Amano and take a look at how to grow U. graminifolia.

About Utricularia graminifolia 

The U. graminifolia is a bladderwort is that is native to Southeast Asian countries like  Burma, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand but become an aquarist’s favorite, with the plant beautifully carpeting a variety of aquascapes.

It can thrive in or out of the water in bogs, swamps, marshes, or ponds. 

The grass-like fronds of this small perennial hide a deadly secret! Utricularia graminifolia 

Is carnivorous, dining upon the insects it traps in a network of bladders it develops when it is submerged.

U. graminifolia prey on tiny water creatures including water fleas, algae, and cyanobacteria, which are used as its source of:

  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus
  • and potassium

These intriguing bladders have negative pressure and when organisms come into contact with their sensitive external hairs, the bladder opens and sucks the creature inside where it is slowly digested.  

How to grow Utricularia graminifolia submersed 

The key to growing U. graminifolia successfully is maintaining pond conditions that encourage its growth.

Though aquarists use it as a carpeting plant, it prefers to be free-floating, attaching itself to rocks or gravel and then sending runners to spread. 

Set things up right and you will have great success in carpeting your aquarium with its lush green growth: 

1. Get the water chemistry just right

U. graminifolia is ultra-sensitive to water quality and chemistry.

For this plant to thrive, you will need soft water with low levels of carbonates and bicarb (KH). It prefers a slightly acid pH.

Organic matter and nitrogen concentrations can also negatively affect growth. 

Heads Up! Avoid big swings in your water parameters. They can trigger defoliation as U. graminifolia sheds its leaves to try to rapidly adapt to new conditions.

2. Avoid fresh nutrient-laden substrate

This plant fares better in a substrate that is not too nutrient-dense.

Recycled substrate does an excellent job.

It doesn’t tolerate excessive fertilization, but if other plants are present to use up the nitrogen, it will survive.

2. Light and CO2 are your friends

You can promote growth by ensuring that U. graminifolia has plenty of natural or artificial light.

Aquarists can stimulate vigorous growth by using CO2 injection. 

3. Plant sparingly

Unlike many plants that are grown submerged, Utricularia Graminifolia can carpet an area with growth from a single blade that has no roots attached.

Be discerning about where you plant it if you don’t want it to overtake your tank. It is even capable of growing unanchored as a floating mat in your aquarium. 

Break up a U. graminifolia plant into small clumps and plant individual leaves deep in the substrate with only the tip of the blade visible.

Plant Thinly – So individual growths have a lot of space between them. You can also tie it to featured stones or driftwood or cram it into crevices where it can spread outward. 

4. Trim carefully

Once you have a luxuriant carpet of Utricularia Graminifolia, keep things in check with small but frequent trims.

Cut growth at the base of the blade where it emerges from the substrate. This prevents mass defoliation or “melting” which could ruin your tank.  

How to grow Utricularia graminifolia emersed 

You can also grow U. graminifolia emersed and achieve its beautiful carpeting effect out of the water.

This is the dry start method and is an ideal technique for including U graminifolia in a pond aquarium or propagating this aquarium plant to sell.

Here are the key steps.

1. Start with an empty aquarium

With the dry-start method, the U. graminifolia is grown on the substrate in an empty tank, and then, if desired, filled with water once the carpeting is accomplished. 

2. Keep moisture and humidity high

To grow terrestrially, U. graminifolia needs a high humidity environment.

The substrate you use should be very damp or frankly wet as this encourages the plant to establish the runners needed to spread and carpet the substrate. 

3. Keep nutrients low

Too much nitrogen will inhibit the growth of U. graminifolia.

Consider using a recycled substrate that has already leached its nutrients. Any water it grows in proximity to should be soft and similarly low in nutrients. 

4. Scatter on aquasoil 

The U. graminifolia should not be deeply planted.

Instead, scatter leaflets or plantlets evenly across the surface of your substrate.

Alternatively – You can use tweezers to plant individual leaves and plantlets in crevices. The humidity will bring the growth along.

5. Don’t expect vigorous growth

U. graminifolia grows more slowly and unevenly out of the water than in it.

It can take weeks to months to become fully established. Good lighting and increasing humidity can speed things up.

Once established, it will spread. The slower rate of growth can make it difficult to plant it in combination with other plants that may overtake it.

Minimize and trim back other plants so U. graminifolia has room to flourish. The height is also reduced meaning it won’t require much trimming. 

6. Watch out for mold

In a humid environment with a reduced airflow, it is easy to develop mold.

Ensure your emersed U. graminifolia has plenty of circulating air.

If you need to cut back on moisture, mist your glowing plant rather than drench it. 

Other methods for growing U. graminifolia

Aquarists have developed other methods for growing this bladderwort, some more complex than others.

Here are three examples.

Tidal method

This growing technique aims to recreate natural growing conditions for U. graminifolia by creating an ebb and flow in the water.

The U. graminifolia tissue culture is tied down to stainless steel mech and placed high in the tank. A timed external pump is used to raise and lower the waterline several times per day. 

Nature aquarium method

This method dry starts U. graminifolia planted in a suitable substrate.

After 2 weeks, the tank is flooded. Because this sudden change in conditions can induce melting, the U. graminifoli needs to be trimmed frequently as it transitions to continuing its growth submerged.

You can carefully remove any melt with brushing and tweezers. 

Peat moss bog method

Peat moss adds the acidity that this bladderwort craves and can help you to propagate it successfully.

You can use sphagnum peat moss as a base and cover it with gravel, planting U. graminifolia in crevices in the gravel.

Peat moss is also beneficial because it may be rich in the microorganisms the plant feeds on, causing it to thrive.

Rounding up 

U. graminifoli is not a plant for the beginner aquarist, and you may experience multiple failed attempts before successfully growing it.

However, its unusual, lush vegetation will certainly make your tank, terrarium, or pond stand out and you’ll have a great sense of achievement.

Be ready to experiment and gain experience with this remarkable aquatic plant. 

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