Little Star Plant (Pogostemon helferi)

Welcome to an exploration of the little star plant, Pogostemon helferi!

This beautiful and easy-to-care-for aquatic plant is ideal for novice aquarium enthusiasts looking to add a splash of color and a unique texture to their aquarium.

With its unique foliage and attractive star-shaped leaves, Pogostemon helferi will add just the right amount of interest and décor to any aquatic setup.

Whether you are looking for a low-maintenance plant or something a bit more exotic, the little star plant will surely impress.

In this article, we will discuss the care and maintenance needs of Pogostemon helferi and help you create a healthy and flourishing little star plant vivarium.

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Pogostemon helferi
Common Name Downoi, Little Star Plant
Family Name Lamiaceae
Habitat Moist, woodlands
Temperature 68°F to 82°F
Height 1 to 3 inches
pH 5.5 to 8.0
Lighting Moderate

What is a Pogostemon helferi?

Pogostemon helferi is a perennial plant native to Southeast Asia, more commonly known as Downoi or “Little Star Plant”.

It’s scientifically classified under the Lamiaceae family and is known for being a stoloniferous herbaceous plant.

In terms of aquarium usage, it is one of the few easy carpet plants and is favored amongst aquarium fanatics.

Pogostemon helferi "Little Star Plant" Plant Care Guide

Pogostemon helferi Facts

This species of Pogostemon is known for its small size, ranging between 1 and 3 inches in height, and its particular leaf structure.

It truly is a unique plant, as its leaves are a combination of a large centerpiece with several small leaves radiating from the center, giving the appearance of a star.

One of its most appealing features is its constant movement, as the small leaves sway with every current produced by equipment like air pumps and filters.


Pogostemon helferi is a bright green plant with an upright stem and small dark green leaves.

In natural groundwater habitats, Little Star Plant grows in a carpet-like formation, often blanketing the bottom of a substrate from edge to edge.

Its leaves have a total of 5 branching points that become thinner towards the tips, giving the appearance of a star when looking from above.


Pogostemon helferi is native to southeastern Asia, typically in forest bodies of water like streams and ponds.

This species prefers slightly acidic conditions, with temperatures ranging between 68-78°F.

When kept within a vivarium, Downoi will thrive in a tightly planted tank with plenty of coverage.

pH Preference

This species of Pogostemon will do best when its pH levels are provided between 5.5 and 8.0, leaning more towards the acidic side.

Don’t worry too much about fluctuation if you provide at least an acceptable range, but try to avoid wide swings in pH levels throughout your setup.

If the swings are more than acceptable, the Pogostemon helferi will begin to show signs of discoloration and potentially die off. 

Vivarium Type

The Pogostemon helferi is quite an easy-going species.

With that in mind, it will not be too complicated when it comes to choosing the type of enclosure it is grown in.

It is best to try and replicate the plant’s natural habitat as much as possible.

Doing so will make it easier to provide this foliage plant with its basic needs. The proper setup and theme of the enclosure will make a big difference to the overall look and health of the plant.

Be sure to choose setups that are moist and high in humidity.

Here are recommended vivariums it will do well in:

    • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.

    • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.

    • Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosures with some terrain features present.

    • Aquarium– Fully aquatic-based enclosure with little to no dry terrain.

Vivarium Placement

As a stoloniferous plant, Little Star Plant will spread into a carpet through its stems and roots, so spacing is important.

Place it in a well-lit area with plenty of overhanging coverage, and try to keep the substrate lightly fertilized.

Once it has taken hold, you won’t have to worry much about caring for it as it is a fairly easy plant to keep. 


The best form of substrate for Pogostemon helferi is one that holds nutrients and is packed down firm, like a sand and soil mix.

When choosing an aquatic substrate, try to find something with a slightly acidic nature as well, since the Little Star plant prefers low to medium pH levels.

If the substrate ends up being too neutral, you can always lower the pH through fertilizers.

However, try to keep in mind that dark soil can absorb light.

So try to avoid red or black soil if you are concerned about light absorption in your tank.


Pogostemon helferi will do best in an environment that has a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 12 hours of aquarium lighting.

These plants are shade tolerant and will not have much trouble with overpowering lights, so you won’t have to worry too much.

If you do begin to notice discoloration or fading of your Downoi, simply reduce the amount of time the plant is exposed to light.

Buy Pogostemon helferi

When it comes to buying Pogostemon helferi, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Making sure the plant is healthy when purchased is essential for its success in a vivarium or pond.

Vegetation that is already in poor conditions will have a very hard time adjusting to new environments.

Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info about this plant.

Pogostemon helferi Care and Propagation

Pogostemon helferi is a fairly easy plant to propagate.

It will regularly send out stems that produce roots, forming a carpet and covering more and more space if given the opportunity.

If creating a carpet is your goal, you can place several small clumps of the plant in close proximity and let them intertwine.

How to Grow

Little Star Plant is best grown in an environment with medium lighting and a pH between 6 and 8.

It is recommended that you trim any dead or decaying stems and leaves, as these can lead to decay and cause algae blooms and an unpleasant smell if not addressed promptly.

Regular fertilization and pruning will produce lush and vibrant growth that can significantly improve the look of your tank or enclosure.

Water Requirements

Pogostemon helferi requires warm and filtered water to ensure its healthy growth.

To get the most out of growing Downoi, keep the water moving by using a filter, and add liquid fertilizer weekly to promote lush, vibrant foliage.

For optimal results, change out about 1025% of the tank water each week to maintain optimal nutrient levels.

Never let the water levels drop too low, as this can cause the plants to suffer from stress.

Plants Similar to Pogostemon helferi

Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing setup.

Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you find the Little Star plant hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to this aquarium plant

Here are other aquatic plants you might find will do well with or in place of Pogostemon helferi:

Rotala indica "Indian Toothcup" Plant Care Guide
Vallisneria spp. "Eelgrass" Plant Care Guide
Bucephalandra spp. "Buce Plant" Plant Care Guide


In conclusion, Pogostemon helferi offers a unique and fascinating addition to any aquarium.

With its star-shaped leaves and vibrant colors, the Little Star Plant is sure to be a showstopper in your enclosure.

With its easy-to-follow care needs and low-maintenance growth requirements, the Pogostemon helferi is an ideal choice for novice aquarium enthusiasts looking to add a splash of color to their aquarium.

By following the guidelines above, you can ensure that your little star plant thrives in its new home.

So go ahead and create a beautiful Pogostemon helferi tank today!

Frequently Asked Questions

 Pogostemon helferi does not need carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to grow and thrive in an aquarium environment. However, adding CO2 to the water helps increase the dissolved oxygen levels, which is necessary for healthy aquatic plants. Without enough dissolved oxygen, Pogostemon Helferi will start to lose its color, and eventually die. Adding CO2 can also help to balance the pH level in the water and create a more stable environment for the plant.

Yes, Pogostemon helferi can grow on rocks. This is possible because the plant is able to anchor its roots to the rock surface, allowing it to access the nutrients from the water that is absorbed into the rock. When grown on rocks, Pogostemon helferi needs to be provided with regular fertilization, pruning, and adequate lighting to ensure its healthy growth.

Prune Pogostemon helferi by cutting back the plant to 13 inches above the desired height. Don‘t cut all the stems as this will reduce the number of new leaves and shoots. Make sure to use sharp, sterilized tools and remove all dead, diseased, and damaged foliage. Always leave enough living leaves to prevent the plant from resembling a bare stick. When necessary, prune the stems back to their original height to ensure the foliage doesn‘t become too dense with crowded growth.

No, Pogostemon helferi is not difficult to grow and is considered well suited for beginners in the aquarium hobby.

Pogostemon helferi, also known as the ‘downoi’ plant or little star plant, is an attractive and low-maintenance aquarium plant. To keep your Pogostemon helferi healthy and attractive, provide it with:

– Bright lighting
– Clean tank water
– Nutrient-rich substrate
– Regular pruning
– Sufficient CO2 levels in the water

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