Monday, July 24, 2017

Meat-Eater Monday: Rescuing Venus Flytraps

Rescuing Venus Flytraps (This also works for American pitcher plants and sundews)

Unfortunately, I was too busy last week to write a blog post, but Meat-Eater Mondays are back, today!

All but one of my Venus flytraps have been "rescued" from stores and terrariums and are successfully growing outside. This is how I save them.

Many places from the gift shops at zoos and science museums to Walmart and Lowes, sell Venus flytraps. (And occasionally sundews and American pitcher plants.) The plants are primarily marketed toward little kids. parents finally give in and buy the poor little plant. They follow the directions on the plant's box which are often WRONG and eventually the little plant dies.

Stories like these are what give carnivorous plants the reputation that they are hard to grow and that they always die. I'm going to share how I keep my "rescues" from dying.

(NOTE: These are the steps you would follow if you rescue your plant in the spring or early summer.)

Rescuing a plant takes time and patience. You don't want to shock it by moving it straight from a dark, humid terrarium to the blazing, summer sun so I follow these steps.

Carnivorous plants being sold in stores are often tiny, young plants shoved into plastic terrariums. The humidity is so suffocating in there you can hardly see the thin, spindly green leaves stretching long and thin in search of air and sunlight.

Once I purchase the plant (and successfully/unsuccessfully convince myself NOT to buy all the poor plants destined for the landfill) I open the terrarium just a crack. I continue to keep the plant indoors and by a sunny windowsill.

During the next week, I slowly open the terrarium more and more every few days, until the plant is totally adjusted to regular humidity. At this point, I remove the plant completely and repot it into a larger pot with the appropriate soil mix. I then set the plant in a water tray.

After a day or two more of adjusting, I begin to move my plant outside. Here is a really very flexible day to day breakdown. The more time it is given to adjust the more healthy your plant will be, but some shock, loss of growth, and dying leaves will certainly going to occur no matter how careful you are.

For 2-6 days: I place my plant in a shaded area -- no direct sunlight
For 6-10 days: I place my plant in the sun for a few hours in the early morning, then return it to the shade for the scorching afternoon
For 10-30 days: I slowly increase the amount of hours my plant spends in the direct sunlight until it is in full sunlight for the entire day. This step can take as long as you want, but I would put the very minimum at 10 days.

When going through this process, do not be surprised if your plant ceases to grow and some -- maybe even all of its leaves turn black and die. Any leaf that is 100% black can be cut off.

Do not give up on your plant. If you followed these steps and are giving your plant plenty of sun (once it is used to it) your plant will likely recover. However, it may take your plant a few months to recover and start growing again. Just because all the leaves are dead, it doesn't mean your plant is dead.

Ensure that your plant is grown outside during the fall and exposed to frost so that it will go dormant and "rest" for the winter.

Giving your rescued plant a dormancy period is vital to their long term survival since it has probably never had a dormancy before.  Carnivorous plants can only live so many years without a dormancy period before they die so it is vital to give a dormancy to your rescued plant if they have time to acclimate to the weather.

For example: last year I got a carnivorous plant in November. It was too late and too cold to use this process, so I gradually adjusted it to normal humidity, repotted it, and let it live on my windowsill all winter. It eventually thrived and moved out to live with the rest of my plants in the summer. This winter it will go dormant with the rest of them and enjoy a well-earned rest.

A few things to note:

1. When your plant is going through this adjustment stage, do not worry about feeding it. Its leaves will have enough trouble adjusting to new temperatures, humidity, and sunlight. It will not have the energy to eat. Feeding it at this point would likely do more harm than good.

2. NEVER feed your plant human meat. It only attracts bacteria and will likely kill the entire leaf. Carnivorous plants are only meant to eat insects.

I hope this has been informative. I'd encourage you if you are at all interested in growing some strange and wonderful plants to keep your eye out the next time you are at a store. Tens of thousands perhaps even millions of Venus flytraps are thrown into the garbage every year because of incorrect care.

Venus flytraps are nearly extinct in the wild, and it breaks my heart to see such cool plants go to waste, slowly suffocating in cramped terrariums in eternal summer only to be poked and prodded by curious fingers until they eventually die.

I cannot rescue them all, but by informing you, perhaps you'll have pity on one or two poor Venus flytraps and save them yourself.

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