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Carnivorous plants

April 27, 2017

 

The first houseplants I ever grew were carnivorous plants. After reading The Savage Garden from cover to cover, I ordered a tropical collection from California Carnivores. They arrived all wrapped in plastic to keep them wet during shipping and the six plants fit nicely in a 10-gallon tank. I picked up additional plants from local plant sales and I got a larger 20-gallon tank, pictured above. My current collection includes pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts, and bladderworts. The venus flytrap in the front right side of this photo is not mine; I'm plant-sitting.

 

 

Carnivorous plants are easy and rewarding to care for as long as you meet their needs. These are plants that evolved in boggy environments where the water washes away the soil nutrients. The plants need to stay wet all the time, which is why you see my little monsters sitting in saucers with water. The water must be mineral-free, either collected rainwater (I have a rain barrel) or distilled water. Tap water, spring water, and drinking water all contain dissolved minerals that will over-fertilize (poison) the plants.

 

Likewise, the plants need to be grown in mineral-free soil. Since these plants grow very slowly, it's perfectly fine to keep them in the plastic pots they came in, with the soil they came in, which is what I have done. If you wish to repot your plants, don't use clay pots (they're literally made of minerals), use plastic and a 50-50 mix of sphagnum peat moss and sandbox sand. Regular potting soil contains fertilizer already mixed in, so that's a no-no.

 

You don't have to bother with a terrarium if you have a sunny windowsill. However, my plants are in the middle of my living room, away from windows, so I use grow lights set on a timer. I adjust the day length according to the seasons: my plants get 12 hours of artificial light in the winter and 16 hours of artificial light in the summer. This triggers the plants' natural seasonal responses for growth and flowering. Again, if you have a sunny windowsill, you don't have to worry about any of that.

 

Your plants will attract and devour insects all on their own. Don't know what to do about lingering fruit flies from bananas left on the counter too long? A sundew will take care of it. I like to think that my planter full of Sarracenia pitcher plants (photo below) on my patio (yes, there are carnivores that grow well outdoors too) helps to control the fly and mosquito population.

 

 

I was excited to learn that the initial meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Carnivorous Plant Society will be on Saturday, June 17 at Carnivorous Plant Nursery in Smithsburg, MD. Likewise, Carnivorous Plant Nursery will be at Green Spring Gardens' Spring Garden Day on Saturday, May 20.

 

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