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Little Star Tree – Instructions on How to Grow and Propagate (Pogostemon Helferi)

Pogostemon helferi, commonly known as "Dao-noi" (meaning little star in Thai dialect) is a beautiful, small-stemmed plant that can significantly add to the aesthetics and appearance of an aquarium. .

Little Star is a bit difficult to grow because it requires nutrient-rich media, intense light, well-calculated water flow and nutrient quantification..

In the experience of NuoiTep.Com, this is probably one of the most difficult aquatic plants to grow.

You are watching: Little Star Tree – Instructions on How to Grow and Propagate (Pogostemon Helferi)

Little Star Information

Common namePogostemon helferi
Some other namesDao-noi or Little star – Little star
Science namePogostemon helferi
Tank size (minimum)~ 40 liters
DifficultyModerate to difficult
The lightMedium to high 
Optimal PH6,0 – 8,0
Optimum hardnessModerately hard water 
Optimal temperature22 – 26°C
SubstrateEssential (rich in nutrients)
Can float:No
Size7 – 15 cm
Growth formTrunk
Growth rateSlow to moderate (sinking), moderate (sinking)
Location in the tankForeground / Midground
FertilizerNecessary, needs
CO2Necessary, needs
BreedingCut, side shoots and seeds (ripe)

Habitat of Little Star

Pogostemon Helferi Care Instructions - Growing, growing and distributing breeding

Minor stars have a limited distribution range. This plant can only be found throughout Myanmar and western Thailand.

In the natural habitat, Little Star often grows submerged or flooded along the banks of rivers and streams.


The little star plant is probably one of the most beautiful foreground plants to have in everyone's aquarium.

It is a tree trunk (average 7 to 15 cm tall) aquatic ornamental plant characterized by a bushy appearance, compact growth, curly leaves and bright green color.

The leaves of the minor star are wavy (zig-zag) and slightly curved downwards. Although the leaves look very soft and airy, they are actually quite fragile.

Leaf veins are prominent; The horizontal foliage is smooth and well formed, with no visible distortion, serration or discolouration.

Pogostemon Helferi Care Guide - Growing, Growing and Breeding - var Red
Pogostemon Helferi var Red

Small stars can be planted submerged. In open aquariums, where it grows on the surface, it forms lovely pale purple flowers.

Note : There is also a variant of this plant called Little Red Star. It has reddish veins and leaves that are a different green than red.

Tank requirements and water parameters

Small star plants are not ideal for beginners due to their need for light, high CO2, nutrients, and stable water parameters.

This is not a sturdy plant. In contrast, minor stars are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and water quality. So it is very important to have a storage tank stability  and is fully established for this species.

Tank Size:

The recommended tank size for growing Small Stars is at least ~40 L.

While plants can also be grown in even smaller capacity tanks (nano tanks) to adorn the background, I do not recommend doing that. As I said, the problem with smaller tanks is that small stars require stable water parameters. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to achieve in small tanks.

Therefore, having a larger tank is always preferred for water stability.

Water type, temperature, hardness and pH:

Temperature : The ideal temperature for a small star is between 22 – 26°C.

Some sources say that this plant can withstand temperatures between 15 and 28°C. But they do not mention that such fluctuations will happen very slowly (within days!). Any sudden change in temperature will cause Little Star to rot.

PH : The pH level for minor stars is from 6.0 to 8.0.

Stiffness : Plants can adapt to a wide range of water hardness values. However, it grows best in freshwater with a hardness of 6 – 18 GH. Little Star doesn't like soft water.

Importance : It is best to know the water parameters that the plant is used to. The transition from soft water to hard water and vice versa will cause the plant to rot.

The light:

Refer: Floating Plants In Aquarium – Pros & Cons

The small star tree needs good light to maintain its vigorous appearance.

Sufficient lighting is required to witness the full potential of this plant. Therefore, it is recommended to provide medium-high (30-50 PAR) light using an efficient lighting system.

Also, maintain a standard optical cycle of at least 8 hours per day (absolute minimum!). It is best to leave the lights on 10 hours. 

When exposed to low light conditions, in the best case, the small star tree will grow thin and the color of its buds will become yellow-green. However, in most cases, plants often rot in the tank due to insufficient light or being shaded by taller plants. So try to prevent such situations.


Little stars need prices nutrient rich body. This plant is a prolific feeder and it has strong roots.

Therefore, nutrient-rich aquatic soils are enough, these soils contain essential nutrients that are good for the growth of roots, stems and leaves of plants.

Growing in a nutrient-rich medium will help the plant develop thicker stems and healthy foliage.

Some of the recommended soil substrates for this plant include:

  • ADA Amazonia Aquatic Soil, 
  • Seachem Fluorite.

Note: Small star tree has the ability to grow even on rocks and driftwood.


Small star plants do not like still water. In its natural habitat, this plant is found in fast-flowing rivers and streams. The rosette is short and compact and its non-ripple leaves are well adapted to fast flowing water.

Lack of flow will cause it to rot for days.

CO2 and fertilization:

CO2: CO2 injection is a necessity. This plant requires stable CO2 levels to stay healthy and grow densely. So you're better off using a pressurized CO2 system.

Low-tech tanks are not a good choice for small stars. Without CO2, plants will look soft, long and elongated. Also, it will grow very slow and untidy.

Fertilizing: This is the point that many people fall into a lot of. Of course, like any plant, Little Star will benefit from macro and micronutrients. This will help maintain healthy growth and ensure that the plant maintains its best color.

However, an excessive amount of nutrients will also prevent its growth. Take a look at the chemical composition of the water where Pogostemon helferi grows naturally. As we can see, nitrate and phosphate very low.

Laboratory analysis of the chemical composition of water in Thailand's Kanchanaburi province:
Acidity (pH) 7.8
Conductivity 210 µS,
Bicarbonate 132 ppm,
Nitrate (N) 0 ppm,
Phosphate (P) < 0.14 ppm,
Potassium (K) < 0.34 ppm,
Magnesium (Mg) 3 ppm,
Boron (B) <0.01 ppm.

Caring for the Little Star tree

Pogostemon Helferi Care Guide - Growing, Growing and Breeding 2

Little star tree is a difficult tree plant and it is not suitable for beginners because it requires near-ideal conditions.

Even under optimal conditions, this plant will only have average growth rate live best level. So don't worry, small stars are not likely to overflow the tank if not carefully monitored.

Cut . It sounds simple, cutting old leaves is one of the most important ways to care for this tree.

Partial water change are very important because they add more trace elements (nutrients) to purify water and improve growth rate.

Planting and propagating Little Star plants

Refer: How to Kill Black Cluster Moss in Aquariums

This species is suitable for placing in  foreground and midground of growing tanks due to their small size and bushy appearance.

You need to put the tree in the background 5 to 7 cm thick  so that the plant can easily develop roots.

It will be better if you maintain a distance of about 5 cm from each other. In this way, it will reduce competition at an early stage and allow seedlings to form.

However, do not plant too close . Planting too densely seems to hinder the growth of small stars.

Small stars are easily propagated by:

  • seed (only when mature),
  • lateral shoots (near the base of the stem),
  • Cut off the tips of mature stems (possibly but not recommended).

Note: Because of its small size, head cutting is not the best way to propagate this plant. However, pruning the tops both promotes the growth of side shoots, making the tree denser.

In aquariums, side shoots are the main way of propagation of small stars. You need to cut the shoots just below the base so that it has a top and a few roots.

Note : Although it can form an impressive foreground vegetation, small stars are not considered a type carpeted plants.

Problems related to Little Star

Wash: Unfortunately, small star is a wiry plant. There are many reasons why this plant can suddenly rot.

  • This is a common phenomenon witnessed in plants during the transition from shallow to submerged form. When a small star plant growing in a submerged medium is planted in an aquarium, the original leaves rot (die off) to reveal new leaves and plant growth continues.
  • The water parameters are stable. Sudden changes can cause it to rot.
  • Low light, dim.
  • Insufficient or excessive fertilization.
  • Inappropriate substrate.

Little stars do not like fluctuations. If the plant is moved and conditions suddenly change, the leaves will rot and you can only hope that it will grow new leaves suitable for the new conditions.

Easy broken: Small star with fragile leaves. It is easy to damage them during care.

Solution : Just be very careful when handling this plant.

Difficult to grow:  It can be really difficult to grow starlets in a medium because young stems are easily damaged. In addition, in the beginning, the stem often does not have well-developed roots to attach to the medium, so it can drift away.

Solution : Use tweezers to plant the plant on the substrate. Place some pebbles or rocks around the trunk. Be careful, the rock must not damage the trunk or roots of the plant.

Benefits of Little Star

Aquascape :  Small stars can be a great decorative addition to  Dutch aquatic style .

Small stars don't grow big. So it won't block light like many other tall or floating plants.

Hideout of fish, fry and shrimp : the small star will act as a hiding place and shade for small animals and  fish.

Where to feed:  This type of tree will act as a layer  biological layer Option , is the ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimp child .


The little star plant is an aquatic plant native to Thailand that is well suited for planting in the foreground of an aquarium. It has a very unique leaf structure and turns into a focal point very easily.

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