There is a myth that has grown up around carnivorous plants, that they are very difficult to grow. Does anyone remember the Venus flytraps sold with plastic lids that you mustn't remove?
Well, in our opinion they are easier than most house plants. None of this feeding every few weeks in the growing season, and having to keep them damp, but not too wet.
Water and keeping them over winter are probably the most important aspects of successful growing.
The following instructions are a general guide for the majority of carnivorous plants, mainly Venus Flytrap, Trumpet Pitchers, and Sundews. The requirements for more specialist plants are mentioned in the catalogue.
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WHERE TO GROW THEM
You can grow carnivorous plants in almost anything that holds water, gravel tray, saucer, windowsill trough. Grow them on a windowsill, in a conservatory (well ventilated is best), in the greenhouse, or on a patio. Some can be grown in the bog gardenMost carnivorous plants like the sun, especially Trumpet Pitchers, and it is the sun that gives them their best colour.Use the table below to find out which plants to grow where:
Plants suitable for conservatory, greenhouse, south-west facing window
Plants suitable for north/east facing windows, shaded greenhouse
Trumpet pitcher (all)
Venus fly trap
Sarracenia purpurea types
Plants suitable for outdoor bog gardens -no protection
Plants suitable for outdoor bog tubs given some protection in winter
Sarracenia flava, S.purpurea purpures, S. purpurea hybrids, S.flava x purpurea
Drosera rotundifolia, D.anglica
Pinguicula grandiflora All trumpet pitchers
Drosera capensis, D.aliciae
CREATING A 'MINIBOG' OR BOG BARREL
Take an oak barrel or pot/bowl with no holes. Fill with a 50:50 mix of peat and sharp sand (no fertiliser). Plant with a selection of trumpet pitchers, sundews and venus fly traps. For a natural look landscape with bark or small logs/stone and shred some sphagnum over the surface.
The water you use is very important. Do not use hard alkaline water. This is like poison to carnivorous plants. Use rainwater or distilled water if you can.If your tap water is soft you can use this, or use cooled boiled water from the kettle. Never use mineral water or, water from a softener.
Stand plants in about 3cm of water throughout the growing season. This can be in a water tray or saucer, or just make sure any mini-bog is fairly wet. To reduce watering, make sure the tray is as big as possible. If you have your plant pot in an ornamental container, remember that water 3cm up the pot will not be a lot of water, and you will have to water more often.KEEPING OVER WINTERThe majority of carnivorous plants are dormant in the winter. This is an important resting time for them, when they are not growing, and not really catching any food.Trumpet Pitchers and Venus Flytraps really should be kept cool at this time. If your house is heated, find a cold room, or porch for them to go into. An unheated greenhouse or cold frame is ideal. Make sure its well ventilated to prevent grey mould.You will need to keep them damp, but do not let them stand in too much water (especially Venus Flytraps) Around October pitchers will start to go brown at the top ( this happens during the growing season as well, and is normal). Just use a pair of scissors to cut off the dead bits.Venus Flytrap leaves will go black, and these should be removed. It is important to have a clean up every month or so.
FEEDING DON’T FEED.
The roots of these plants are not designed for food and too much fertiliser will kill them.
They should catch their own food.
If you feel your house hasn't enough flies, put them outside or by an open window on a sunny day, and see what happens.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE NO FLIES
If your plant is kept in a sealed environment such as an air conditioned office, you can either catch some wood lice, or buy some small crickets from a Easy Exotics. It is best to use live insects. If they are dead you should massage the trap gently to start digestion.
There is no fertiliser or lime in the compost. Use only moss peat not sedge peat. Make sure the sand you use is horticultural, as it will be lime free.Compost mix 1 - for Venus Flytraps Sundews, Albany Pitcher plant
3 parts peat
1 part sand
Compost mix 3 - for Trumpet Pitchers, Darlingtonia.
6 parts peat
3 parts perlite or vermiculite
1 part sand
PESTS AND DISEASES
Carnivorous plants do not suffer from too many problems, but they can get a few P&D.
Botrytis - This fluffy grey mould can cause serious problems on dead foliage particularly if it gets into the heart of the plant. Spring and autumn are the worst times. Remove dead foliage regularly, and spray with fungicide if necessary.
Aphids - Although these plants eat insects, they can still suffer from greenfly, particularly the soft new growth. Small attacks can be wiped off with a finger, or spray with insecticide.
Scale insect - a pale brown blister on the leaf. These are best treated by dabbing with meths. on a cotton bud, or spray with a systemic insecticide.
Mealy bug - a small pink grub covered in a white waxy substance. Treat as for scale insect.
Whilst there is no fertiliser in the compost of carnivorous plants, they do still benefit from being re-potted occasionally. Standing in water all the time makes the compost stagnant after a while, and of course, the plants do grow out of their pots. You should re-pot about every three years, and you can divide the plant if you wish. Do not use ordinary potting compost, or ericaceous compost.The best time to re-pot is not in the autumn when they are about to go into dormancy, but just as they are about to start growing, in the early spring.If you are just going to put them in a bigger pot make sure the new pot is no more than 2 sizes bigger than the old (1-2 inches) Ensure the compost is damp, and don't press down too hard when you firm it. The water will settle the plant in.
Put a bit of new compost in the bottom of the new pot. Remove the plant from its pot. You may wish to remove some of the old compost. Place it in the new pot, and put fresh compost around to the same height as it had been in the old pot.Place in a tray of water, and keep out of the full sun for a few weeks. Plants are more vulnerable to disease, especially botrytis, at this time.
Dividing Venus flytraps: Remove from pot and wash off compost. The plant will separate into little plants fairly easily. Do not force it too much. The long black roots have little white tips. Make sure you don't bend them up in the pot. Re-pot into an appropriate sized pot. Place in a tray of water, and keep out of the full sun for a few weeks.Dividing Trumpet pitchers: When mature, pitcher plants will divide and produce offshoots. The leaves grow from a rhizome, which is the thick knobbly bit, just on top of the soil - it is actually a horizontal stem - with leaves going up and roots going down. Take the plant out the pot and wash the compost off. It will be fairly obvious where the plant can be separated. If you can break (or cut with a sharp knife) some thick rhizome, with its own roots, and a few leaves or buds, it should be all right. Re-pot into an appropriate sized pot. Place in a tray of water, and keep out of the full sun for a few weeks.Sundews: These plants can be fairly short lived, needing to be re-juvenated after a few years.
Drosera capensis and Drosera aliciae can benefit from being ruthlessly cut down in early spring. If you want new plants, collect and sow seed, or take root cuttings. The fork - leafed Sundews can make lovely specimen plants in a large pot, or hanging basket, and do well from root cuttings
Bladderworts: Once your bladderwort has filled its pot, just break it up into clumps and put it into the middle of a new pot.
Butterworts: The are a bit trickier. They are best grown from leaf cuttings in the spring, or divided when the crown splits (plant has several rosettes, not just one)
P. primuliflora will produce little plantlets at the end of the leaf, which can be potted up. Temperate Butterworts such as P. grandiflora produce resting buds in the winter that can be broken off and re-potted
Cobra lily: When this plant does well, the plant will fill the pot and start to crawl out of it. It is very east to split the plant up in early spring, making sure each new plant has plenty of root.
Tropical pitcher plants: If these are growing well you will soon find yourself wondering where you can keep this 3m high plant! Be ruthless. A bit of hard pruning will keep your plant in check, and you can try to root the cuttings.
THE LURE: The leaves of Sundews are covered in mobile tentacles, each with a globule of sticky glue on the end. These glisten seductively in the sun, looking to a hungry insect, like nectar.
THE TRAP: As soon as they land they are caught on the glue and the more they struggle, the more stuck they become. Then phase two is put into operation and the tentacles actually move, particularly those at the edge of the leaf, curling around the victim and moving it towards the centre of the leaf. This is very obvious in the Cape Sundew. The unfortunate prey will either suffocate as it is covered in glue, or if it is very unlucky, will die a slow death of starvation and exhaustion if only its legs are caught.
THE MEAL: Once caught glands secret digestive juices to dissolve and then absorb the soft parts of the victim. The leave can be literally drooling during this process.
Some plants have evolved to cope with impoverished, often boggy conditions. To suppliment their need for feed, they have become insectivores.
|Probably the best known insectivorous plant, is the venus flytrap, native to the USA. This plant catches insects in modified leaves. An insect walking on the leaf may touch hairs on the leaf, triggering it to close. This reaction is the fastest known movement of any plant.
The trap will then exeude a digestive juice, dissolving the insect. The juice is then reabsorbed, feeding the plant.
The venus flytrap
|The Flytrap has six hair like sensors, three on each side of the trap. An insect touching two of them will trip the trap.||
The flytrap's sensors
Another widely distributed insectivorous plant genus are the Sundews.
Sundews have hundreds of stickey hairs which trap the insect, which is then digested.
Sundews are used as a herbal remedy for coughs. here in the UK our native species dieback to a resting root over winter, re-appearing in the Spring.
|The Butterworts, trap insects in a pool of digestive juices.||
|The Sarracenias, or pitcher plants trap insects in a pool of digestive juices.||
Keeping Insectivourous plants is quite easy, provided you remember a few things.
The type of water you use is vital. Under no circumstances should you water them directly from a tap. This water usually has addatives, and if you use hard alkaline water, it will kill them. Cooled boiled water is ok, as is rainwater.
|Although insectivourous plants need damp conditions, they should not be drowned. An Ideal solution is to stand the pot in a bowl of water||
© Allen. C. Roffey 12:58 17/09/2008