Sarracenia ( North American Pitcher plant )
Sarracenia can be found in bogs and Savannahs from eastern Texas , East through the southern States to Florida, then on up through the costal plains of the Carolinas to Virginia , whilst on variety, Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea can be found as far north as British Columbia . There are currently 15 species and sub species, some form low growing rosettes that hug the ground such as Sarracenia psittacina and purpurea ssp. venosa, while S. flava and S.leucophylla produce beautiful tall pitchers which can grow to around 1 mitre in some of the taller forms , these are my favourite carnivorous plants by far for a number of reasons, they are easy to grow , do as well in an unheated greenhouse or outside year round in a bog garden are fantastic fly and wasp catchers and as an added bonus to their unusual colourful trapping leaves have beautiful flowers in the Spring which emerge before the pitcher in the Spring .
These plants are pitfall traps , Sarracenia produce a sticky sweet nectar around the mouth of the pitcher and in some species on the lid , insects are attracted to this which also has an intoxicating affect on them, the mouth and throat of the pitcher are extremely slippery to insects which then slide down into the pitcher to a pool of digestive fluid in the bottom of the trap, there are downward pointing hairs on the inside of the tube which makes it extremely difficult for the insect to climb out of the trap, very simple but super efficient.
Given the right conditions Sarracenia can be easily grown, the best place I find for really healthy plants is an unheated greenhouse or unheated conservatory so freezing cold winters and hot Summers .
These plants are also great grown outside year round in a wet peat bog garden or an undrained container will do on a patio, watered with rainwater in a bright sunny position especially species such as Sarracenia flava , Sarracenia purpurea and Sarracenia oreophila also hybrids with any of these species as parents can produce exceptional plants grown out in a bog such as Sarracenia x catebaei , Sarracenia x mitchelliana Sarracenia x courtii , Sarracenia x Soperi and named cultivars Sarracenia cv Juthatip Soper , cv Vogel ,cv Bella and cv Judith Hindle to name but a few .
If you don’t have a bog garden or an unheated conservatory
they can be grown on a sunny south facing windowsill during the spring and months but plants will need to be moved somewhere cold for the winter months to allow them to die back and rest .
From March to October stand these plants in a tray or saucer of 1 to 3 cm of rainwater , so the plants are constantly wet , it is very important not to allow the plants to dry out at this time as they will be in full growth , you can’t over water Sarracenia during the summer months they like to have wet feet !
Remember during the summer months if they dry they will die !
During the winter months end of November to the end of February the plants will go into dormancy and rest , keep the compost just damp by standing the plants on damp capillary mat available on our website I find this best but you can just reduce watering if you wish , foliage will die off at this time and it’s best to cut off any dead foliage and leave anything still green on the plant in the greenhouse
If you have been growing your plant on an indoor windowsill for the summer move it to a porch unheated greenhouse or similar cut back dead foliage and don’t forget to keep it just damp with rainwater until the following spring around March time when it can be moved back to your sunny windowsill.
Plants can be grown in full sun during the growing season as long as the are kept wet and not allowed to dry out , this is very important .
Plants grown in bright sunny positions produce strong upright colourful pitchers , if you find your plants very pale green thin floppy pitchers this is a sign the plants are not getting enough light
We use our own com1 mix for all our display and sales plants here on the nursery.
Repotting and propagation
We repot and divide plants end of February to the beginning of March , we like to use plastic pots and pot plants on every two to three years , once the crown starts to push the pot out of shape making sure the rhizome is above soil surface .
Sarracenia don’t like to be over potted , big pots don’t mean big plants !
So a pot just slightly bigger than the rhizome is best , if you have a plant in a 9cm pot which is full , just pot up into a 12cm this would be fine for at least a couple of years
Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap)
Mention carnivorous plants and this is the one that springs to mind , with its jaw like traps waiting to spring shut on any unsuspecting small insect .
These plants come from North and South Carolina in the United States where they can be found growing among wire grasses in damp Savannah . Plants have also been introduced to parts of North Florida , there used to be a small introduced colony in the New Forrest UK which grew happily for a number of years but has since been removed .
Venus flytraps form rosettes between 10 to 15cm diameter, their traps are held at the end of each leaf blade . The two lobes that form the trap have three to four fine trigger hairs on the inside of each lobe , when a fly or similar small insect touches one of these hairs twice the trap quickly closes - there is no escape ! The trap which can sense the struggling insect then begins to crush the insect and digestive enzymes are released, the plant can then start to absorb nutrients from its prey over the period of a week or so, the trap will then re open leaving just a dry husk of the insect in the trap.
Venus flytraps will grow well on a sunny windowsill during the summer months or year round in an unheated greenhouse or conservatory, they can also be grown outside year round in a peat bog garden
Stand the potted plant in a large saucer of 2cm of rainwater, smart water, deionised or distilled water this is very important and where a lot of people go wrong with these plants ,
Throughout the growing season March to September always watering from the saucer not into the top of the pot as this can sometimes rot the plants . Pinch out any flower spikes that appear as these can weaken the plant especially young flytraps, also try to avoid making the traps shut artificially and force feeding with pieces of meat cheese or dead insects ( it has been known! ) the plants will catch enough food for themselves or can be given the odd live live fly now and then but I have not found this essential
During the winter months November to February Venus flytraps need a dormancy period for best results , if growing indoors move the plants to a cooler room , out house or porch
Keeping the compost just damp rather than wet and cut off any dead leaves and traps.
We use our com1 for all our Venus flytraps and do find these plants like to be repotted every year or two for strong growth just before they come back into growth around the beginning of March.
Venus flytraps can be carefully divided in the spring , when they are large enough for this, personally I find they need to be around five years old to have a reasonable root system then they almost fall apart in your hands and can be potted individually into 10cm pots
From seed , sow onto our com1 in a plastic pot stood in a cm of rainwater in early spring don’t cover the seed with compost, you will find a propagator helpful as this will speed up germination which usually takes around 4 to 6 weeks .From seed Venus flytraps take around 3 to 4 years to reach full maturity .
There are numerous sundews scattered around the world . They are found from temperate to tropical climates, even almost desert like conditions in parts of Australia.
In this guide we will be looking at the hardy to temperate sundews .
Drosera aliciae , found in parts of South Africa form small red rosettes around 4cm across of wedge shaped leaves that hug the ground . They sparkle with a jewel like appearance when in the sun as it shines through the sticky mucilage ready to trap unsuspecting small insects . This species also produces purple flowers on long scapes in the spring ,Where as Drosera capenses, the Cape sundew, also a native of South Africa, forms long erect leaves up to twelve centimetres in length, again, covered with the sticky mucilage. Insects trapped by these plants find themselves engulfed by these tentacles, as drosera are able to wrap around their prey. There are two colour flower forms, pink and white. Drosera binata, the fork leafed sundew, a native of Australia, can reach fifty centimetres in height. The leaf blade forms a 'Y' shape, with each leaf dividing into two branches.
The flower stalks are higher than the foliage and produce white oval flowers.
As there are so many varieties and differing habitats it is not possible to cover them all. However, the three varieties mentioned above are the most easily kept.
This can be on a sunny windowsill, or alternatively as a companion plant in a frost free greenhouse standing their pots in a tray of 1-3 cm of rainwater alongside Venus fly traps and Sarracenia from March - September. Kept in warm conditions these three plants will continue to grow all year round, whereas in a frost free greenhouse plants will die back through the dormant winter months. At this time keep the compost just damp by adding a little water once every two weeks to the tray and remove any dead foliage,it’s worth baring in mind some species die back completely over winter loose all of their foliage and look dead , this is normal and nothing to worry about as long as the plants are kept just damp and not allowed to dry out , growth returns with the spring.
It is well worth remembering that watering should always be in the tray and not from above as wet foliage can lead to rot.
Our com1 mix is ideal for most Drosera , these plants are best potted in the Spring just as they are coming into growth
Leaf and root cuttings can be very successful. Drosera capensis, as it is self pollinating, is easily grown from seed taking twelve months toneach maturity.
When plants have formed four or five crowns, they can be gently divided in the spring time and potted on separately
Pygmy sundews produce gemmae which can be removed from the parent plant late winter placed onto small pots of our com1 early spring , theses start to grow very quickly and form semi mature to mature plants in the first year
Cephalotus follicularis (Albany pitcher plant)
This unusual little plant is native to the extreme south west of the state of West Australia, here it can be found growing in boggy areas among grasses and on peat banks .The traps look like small fluffy thimbles with a small lid, insects are attracted to nectar secreted from glands on the inner wall of the pitcher. Once inside insects usually lose their footing and fall into the digestive fluid in the bottom of the trap, the opening of the trap is armed with sharp inward pointing teeth making escape almost impossible.
The flower scape can reach a height of two feet bearing small white insignificant flowers. Allow the flowers to remain if you wish to cross pollinate, however if the flower is removed the plant will get stronger. Cephalotus are evergreen perennials producing small flat rounded leaves during Winter and Spring whilst the small traps, usually half to an inch and a half in size are produced Summer and Autumn.
Cephalotus grow well in a cool greenhouse, with a minimum temperature of 3 degrees C. Over the last few years I have growing Cephalotus in an unheated greenhouse with a winter min of -6c , also out in our peat bog garden with some success plants grown outside died back completely over Winter but did come back into growth late spring from the roots .
They seem to grow best when slightly shaded, however when grown in full sun they will produce colourful traps, but growth is slower. These plants grow most successfully on capillary matting rather than standing in a water tray, keeping the matting damp year round .Never water Cephalotus from above as if the foliage is allowed to get wet, due to their tightly packed leaves they can pick up Botrytis. (See Pest and Diseases) Remove all dead foliage as it appears.
Our com1 is very good , also try pure sphagnum moss mixed with perlite
Plants can be divided in the Spring, leaf and root cuttings can be equally successful. Cephalotus can be grown from seed which has been kept in a refrigerator for at least six weeks, then sown on top of the recommended compost. Seedlings can be transplanted when large enough to handle. Some five to six years are required to see these plants reach full maturity.
Darlington californica (Cobra lily)
Darlingtonia californica is a close 'relative' of sarracenia, but is only found in northern California and southern Oregon. Plants can be found in mountain bogs as high as 8000ft, whilst plants growing at lower altitudes are seen beside small rivers and streams growing in live sphagnum moss.
The plants resemble a striking cobra complete with forked tongue. The insects are attracted by nectar which is secreted around the opening, once inside there is no escape as there are downward pointing hairs making it impossible. The flowers on the other hand are very pretty, hanging their heads above the foliage giving the appearance of being suspended.
The Cobra lily is relatively slow growing from seed when compared with sarracenia.
Immature pitchers are usually produced for the first two years, they are small tube like pitchers which bear no resemblance to the mature ones. In the wild the traps can reach a height of three to four feet, in cultivation a height of two feet is considered a
'fair sized' plant.
Cobra lilies can be grown alongside sarracenias using the water tray method - they do like their roots to be kept quite cool and do well in a large saucer or water tray on the floor of the greenhouse.
Personally I have had best results growing under the benching in the greenhouse or shaded outside , they really don’t like the heat of the summer A bog garden outside is also a good idea as they can do very well - one problem - you will need to keep the slugs at bay!
A mixture of peat, perlite and sharp sand or 50% live sphagnum moss and 50% perlite is a medium preferred by some growers, our com1 mixed with 25% sphagnum is a good medium too .
Try to avoid dividing large plants although it is a temptation, it knocks them for six' and they can take two years to recover, if at all in some cases, instead just keep moving them into larger pots. Cobra lilies produce runners when large enough, these can be potted up individually into the recommended compost taking care not to disturb more than necessary. As mentioned earlier these plants are very slow growing and from seed can take anything up to eight years to get even a reasonable sized plant.
Nepenthes (Monkey Cup)
The main stronghold of the Nepenthes is South East Asia, particularly the Islands of Borneo and Sumartra. There are however others found as far west as Madagasca, another in the Khasi Highlands of India and one other as far south as the York Peninsula of Queensland, Australia.
The habitat of this species includes tropical lowland swamp areas as well as mountainous cloud forests. N. villosa, which is found on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo can be found at some three thousand metres.
When young the plants form rosettes of leaves, at the tip of each is a cup or pitcher.
The older the plant becomes a climbing vine forms in the centre of this rosette which can then clamber over bushes and up into the canopy of trees.
These plants are grown in cultivation mainly for their unusual pitchers (cups) as the flowers they produce are quite insignificant. The traps are passive, the lid not closing down as many people think. The nectar glands are situated around its lid attracting insects and in some cases small mammals who simply fall into the 'trap' which contains digestive fluids which break down its catch.
For cultivation purposes nepenthes are divided into two groups, the highland and lowland varieties. Highland requiring a night time temperature of 10 - 12 degrees C and day of around 21 degrees C. Lowland species need a minimum night time temperature of 18 degrees C. with day time of 24 - 28 degrees C. All however require high humidity, this is MOST IMPORTANT, around 70 - 80% making a greenhouse or terrarium a must. Never stand these plants in trays of water, they are best grown in hanging baskets watering from above only. If in pots they should be stood on slatted staging in the greenhouse allowing the compost to dry out between each watering. If kept in a greenhouse 50% shade cloth will be required through out the summer months.
There are many mixes that can be used for Nepenthes successfully , what you are looking for is an open airy mix so the plants are damp rather than wet, this is very important as Nepenthes rot easily when too wet or over watered
A mixture of pine bark, perlite and long fibre sphagnum moss has been found to be a good growing medium. Also German course peat is good too , akadama mixed with perlite and sphagnum can be good too some orchid mixes can be good , pure sphagnum can be used as long as it’s not compacted around the roots
From stem cuttings in early spring or from seed which must be fresh and sown on to a mixture of peat and sharp sand. When large enough to handle transfer to the above recommended medium, again a propagator is essential.
Heliamphora (Sun Pitcher)
Heliamphora are found solely in South America, on the flat top mountains (known as rapuis) of the Guyana Highlands of southern Venezuela and also parts of northern Brazil
They are seen growing with their companion plant the Bromeliad amongst mosses and scrub on the plateau of these 'flat topped mountains where there is very little soil and what there is, is extremely low in nutrients which quickly get washed away with the heavy rains. The plants are either exposed to full sunlight or to the other extreme mist and fog with humidity levels reaching saturation point.
The leaves grow directly from a rhizome, similar to Sarracenia, and have the appearance of a 'rolled up' leaf with an obvious seam at the front of the pitcher. To the rear of the pitcher there is a spoon shaped lid, known as a nectar spoon, this initially attracts the insects. The flowers are borne on long scapes producing two to seven pendant like flowers. The flowers produced by N. nutans are pure white and are long lasting whilst the flowers of N. minor become pale pink with age.
top of the pitchers of this
Plants grow best with a temperature at night of 10 degrees C. at night and with a daytime temperature of around 21 degrees C. The plants like a very humid environment and should be misted frequently with rainwater. I have found that plants are best kept on damp capillary matting rather than standing in water, making this another plant that should be kept in a greenhouse or terrarium.
Although these plants will tolerate high light levels, never allow the temperature to exceed 25 degrees C if you can help it .
Use a mixture of 50% sphagnum moss based peat and 50% horticultural sharp sand or again 50% long fibre sphagnum moss to 50% perlite.
During Winter and Spring crowns can be divided, making sure there are a few roots on each divided piece, also take great care as the roots are extremely brittle Heliamphora can be grown from seed (if you can get hold of it!!) in the same way as Sarracenia. Sarracenia.
There are many species of Pinguicula found in most parts of the world. Pinguicula moranensis, a native of Mexico, grows in the mossy forests of the mountainous regions, sometimes epiphytically growing on trees producing a profusion of pink flowers. Closer to home, the Pinguicula grandiflora, a native of Ireland, is fully hardy and is frequently grown in bog gardens in the UK., its flowers are beautiful violet contrasting well against its florescent like coloured green leaves.
These herbaceous plants form their leaves in rosettes, usually several centimetres in diameter. Their leaf colour varies from lime green through to, in some cases bronze.
Their common name of butterwort is not surprising, as when touched with the fingers, they really do resemble butter, this is due to the very small mucilage producing tentacles which cover the upper surface of the leaves. In cultivation these leaves attract fungus gnats and white fly in a similar way to the bright yellow 'trappits' (fly papers) we hang in our greenhouses.
The Mexican varieties make ideal plants for either the east or west facing window-sill, never exposing them to direct sunlight as the leaves scorch very easily. Stand the plants in a shallow tray of rainwater throughout the spring and summer months, whilst keeping the plants just' damp during the autumn and winter. The temperate varieties such as P. grandiflora and P. vulgaris should be grown in an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or as already mentioned, in a bog garden.
For the hardy varieties such as P. grandiflora and P. vulgaris a mixture of 50% each peat and sharp sand should be used. Whereas the Mexican varieties do well in 40% perlite, 40% vermiculite and 20% peat.
For the Mexican varieties divide crowns in early spring. The hardy varieties over winter form resting buds called hibernacula, these can be transplanted in very early spring before growth commences without too much trouble.