Monday, July 3, 2017

Meat-Eater Mondays


Growing Carnivorous Plants Part 1: Sunlight, Soil, and Water

Carnivorous plants are like any other plants in how they grow. They need sunlight, water, and soil. However, you can't throw them in just any soil and water and expect them to grow well. 
If grown properly, carnivorous plants can be very easy to grow.  

To understand how to grow carnivorous plants properly you must consider where they live. I had the opportunity to visit Jackson Bog several years ago where carnivorous plants live in the wild.

 As a general rule, carnivorous plants live in muddy sphagnum moss bogs and fens. These areas are often so acidic and deprived of nitrogen, normal plants cannot grow there. Therefore, strong sunlight warms carnivorous plant leaves all day long. 

Cold hardy carnivorous plants do not live in humid jungles but can occur all over the world including the United States. Therefore these plants can survive winter. 

Due to their need of lots of sunlight, carnivorous plants are best grown outside.

1) Sunlight
Sunlight is the most important part of growing carnivorous plants. Because they must produce nectar to attract bugs, expend lots of energy trapping bugs, and must produce enough digestive acids to eat their prey, carnivorous plants need a TON of sunlight to meet the energy need their life demands. How much is a ton exactly? 8+ hours of FULL sunlight every day, preferably a full summer day of sunlight. There are exceptions, but most cold hardy plants will appreciate a generous amount of bright, unfiltered sunlight. 

2) Soil
Carnivorous plants grow in sphagnum peat moss. However, peat moss is often sold in forms that add fertilizers and nutrients that will kill your plants. The safest way to buy peat moss is in a bale, ensuring that the label clearly says sphagnum and that it is 100% pure.  Natural bogs have drain water constantly, therefore, the peat moss needs to be mixed with clean washed playground sand or perlite. This mixture should be about half and half. 

3) Water
Since their natural habit is a bog, Carnivorous plants need a constant source of water. The easiest way to ensure your plant has enough water is to plant it in a plastic pot with drainage holes in the bottom and place it in a slightly larger saucer or dish. (If you don't care about looks, Tupperware works great for this.) Keep that dish constantly filled with water

However, in most places you won't be able to water your plant straight from the tap.  Since carnivorous plants are used to living in an area where there are few if any nutrients, their water must be free of any nutrients or chemicals. Straight tap water that has too many chemicals and nutrients will kill your plants eventually.  This problem can be solved by using rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water. 

However, if faced with the problem of a thirsty plant and if you don't have any of the proper water to give it, use tap water for a short period until you can get more water. It is better to keep your plant wet than to let it dry out.

This is a brief introduction to growing carnivorous plants people argue over the best way to grow them and there is certainly merit in other growing methods, but I have found this method the simplest and it had great results. My plants have been thriving for over a decade by being grown like this. 

Here is a picture of my plants earlier this spring in their outdoor setup. 

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