19 August 2009

Carnivorous Plants

I think I've always been interested in carnivorous plants - who wouldn't be? A couple of winters ago I started noticing them at Lowe's and became intrigued. I was hesitant at first for a couple of reasons. I knew nothing about how to take care of these plants and in the process of learning about them, I also heard that I shouldn't buy them from Lowe's. They are sold in plastic cubes to maintain a high humidity, but as I learned, they didn't need jungle-like conditions. All of that moisture can lead to fungus and other things - hence the name given to these containers - "Lowe's Death Cubes".

There are a number of things that can go wrong after purchasing a death cube. The plant comes in a very humid environment, so you have to acclimate it to normal humidity. Some people crack the top a little more each day until they feel safe removing it from the container. Another thing that it has to adjust to is light. It starts out in a low light environment in Lowe's, so don't immediately put in all day full sun. It has to adjust to that as well. I lost a cobra plant to too much sun a while back.

Once I felt knowledgeable enough to take care of carnivorous plants, I started buying death cubes of pitcher plants mostly and one venus flytrap and mostly when I had a coupon. I potted them separately, the pitchers and the flytrap, because what I read made it seem that flytraps liked it a little dryer than the pitchers, especially during the winter. I was a little underwhelmed by the venus flytrap - unless you buy the giant ones, the traps are pretty small. So I wasn't too disappointed when my flytrap died. I decided to stick with pitcher plants and eventually make a home for them in the bog. (Not that I'm never having venus flytraps again. When I have the money, I'll buy the larger ones and have them in a nice bowl somewhere that's easy to take care of.)

I strive to have a low-maintenance garden. I was looking for a solution to making pitcher plants low maintenance? I figured that shouldn't be too hard. They are native to our area and winter hardy. I read about planting pitchers in a container of sphagnum peat moss that had a few holes in it. Then put that in a container of water. All you have to do is make sure the second one always has water. I thought I had the solution. I took a shallow barrel liner, drilled a number of small holes in the bottom, laid in a piece of landscape fabric and filled it with sphagnum peat moss. Then I planted the pitcher plants. I took that container and sunk it in the pea gravel bog, where it would get a constant supply of water. They even did well dried out some when the bog was in shambles. They have nothing but thrive since.

Right now I have a couple of different pitcher plants - two prostrate ones and two upright ones. I think the prostrate ones are Sarracenia purpurea and the upright ones are...(this is where I was going to put the latin name, but there are so many similar pitchers that I don't know which is which.) I like the S. purpurea, but they take up a lot of room. I think I'd rather have more upright pitchers. I do have something that not a pitcher plant in there - a butterwort - I got it on clearance at Lowe's for 48 cents! I bought two of them, but one died before I could get it in the bog - death cube lives up to its reputation again! I like to think I saved the other one from certain demise. I wasn't sure how it would do in the bog once it acclimated to it, but it seems to be thriving. My only concern is how winter hardy it is. I tried researching it, but there are so many different varieties that I couldn't get information on the specific one I have. Like everything else, we'll just have to wait and see.

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