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What is Bacopa?

By Chris McLaughlin ; Updated September 21, 2017

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is also known as "water hyssop," or "herb-of-grace." It's a succulent, perennial plant that's native to the tropics, as well as areas of the southeastern United States. Bacopa monnieri is larva host and nectar source for the white peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly.

This plant is often confused with a trailing, terrestrial plant called Sutera cordata which is widely-known as "bacopa." Sutera cordata blooms profusely in small, white flowers and is commonly grown as a bedding or container plant.

Bacopa Growth Habits

True bacopa is an aquatic or semi-aquatic plant . This succulent blooms in small, blue or white flowers that show up in clusters of one to three. Its growing habit is low and spreading, but will often grow upright. Its trailing leaves are are 3/4 inch thick and as it creeps along the edge of a water body, it forms mats. Eventually the plant spreads to the water's surface. Water hyssop belongs to the same family as the snapdragon; Scrophulariaceace.

How to Grow Bacopa

Bacopa is at home in full sun or partial shade in USDA growing zones 9 to 10. It can be grown in shallow water (or mud), pond margins or any slow-moving water body. If a pond water source isn't available, it can be planted in damp gravel or wet sand, too. Bacopa is perfect for water gardens, or as ground cover in boggy areas. Fertilize bacopa in the early spring with an organic fertilizer. Pruning is done only to keep the plant withing boundaries, otherwise it's unnecessary. Many aquarium enthusiasts grow water hyssop in the fish tank.

Propagating Bacopa

Propagate water hyssop by clump divisions. Simply pull off the trailing stems, making sure that some roots are attached to the separated pieces. Then replant them into bacopa's required moist conditions.

As submerged bacopa grows, eventually there will be signs of root growth at certain leaf nodes on the plant. When the little white roots grow to about 1/2 inch long, simply cut the plant about 1 inch blow the roots and replant.

Bacopa can also be propagated from its seed. To be certain that the seeds get enough light, cover them only lightly with soil.

As an Herbal Medicine

Bacopa monnieri is regularly used in Ayurvedic and Indian medicine and is referred to as "Brahmi." It's heralded for its positive effects on brain functions. Water hyssop may be useful in treating anxiety, depression, memory, epilepsy, stress, ADHD and Alzheimer's disease.

Bacopa is a cerebral activator that may help treat ulcers, asthma and allergies.This medicinal herb is given high praise for its natural tranquilizing effects and ability to enhance learning abilities. Brahmi has been shown to gentle on the human body and is considered to be safe for both adults and children to consume.

As an Aquarium Plant

As much as it enjoys boggy conditions in the garden, water hyssop has no problem living submerged in a fish tank as a decorative plant and water purifier. It's a lovely aquascaping plant, but because it doesn't grow readily sideways (underwater), you'll need to propagate it to give the greenery a thicker appearance. If other aquatic plants are grown in the fish tank, eventually the bacopa will need to be trimmed so that it doesn't shade them.


About the Author


Chris McLaughlin has been gardening for over 30 years and is a Master Gardener in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's on staff as a blogger for Vegetable Gardener.com, a contributor to Fine Gardening.com, and the San Francisco Gardening Examiner at Examiner.com. She's written for magazines such as The Herb Companion and Urban Farm, and just finished her book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting.