19 Oct

How To Water Carnivorous Plants

How To Water Carnivorous Plants

All carnivorous plants need water but to varying degrees. Many sundews, flytraps, and American pitcher plants thrive in bog-like conditions while most Mexican Pinguicula are happy in a seasonal desert-like environment. No matter how wet or dry a plant prefers conditions though, one way to water carnivorous plants safely and effectively at home is to water them using reverse osmosis.

Osmosis

Reverse osmosis using a semipermeable membrane

Reverse osmosis is the process of purifying water using a semipermeable membrane to filter out salts and chemicals that can be harmful to carnivorous plants. The easiest way to water plants using reverse osmosis is with the tray method.

 

How To Water Carnivorous Plants Using The Tray Method:

  1. Partially fill a tray or saucer with water.
  2. Using a pot with drainage holes in the bottom, place the potted plant in the tray so the water can wick up through the holes.
  3. Refill the tray or saucer when it runs almost dry or as needed depending on the type of carnivorous plant you are growing.

Water TraySaucer partially filled with water

Pot with HolesPot with drainage holes

Tray Method - Watering

Watering a Venus Flytrap using the Tray Method

With this method, the soil acts as the semipermeable membrane and filters out unwanted salts and chemicals, delivering cleaner water to the plant’s roots. Pretty simple right? It’s important to note though; while this method helps a great deal to filter out unwanted contaminates, it won’t filter out everything. For this reason, using cleaner sources to begin with like rain or distilled water along with cleaning trays regularly to prevent salt and chemical buildup is still a good idea.

 

Secondary Benefits of the Tray Method

The tray method also has some other benefits like preventing media erosion and for bog species, providing a consistent supply of water to the plant’s roots without having to water the plant everyday. To an extent, the tray method can also help keep water away from plant crowns; an area often susceptible to disease and rot if too much water is present.

Pinguicula - Brown Heart Disease

A Pinguicula lost to Browning Heart Disease from too much water near the crown

 

Other Methods

As with most things, there’s usually more than one way to do something. Do you have a favorite method for watering your carnivorous plants other than the tray method? What are some of its benefits? Please comment below and tell us, we’d love to hear about it!

21 Sep

How To Feed Carnivorous Plants

Sundew

The easiest and most obvious way to feed carnivorous plants is to let them do what they’re designed for and that’s to catch bugs! But what if your carnivorous plants are indoors and don’t have a chance to take part in the bug buffet outside or you don’t have time to collect bugs for them? In this article, we’ll cover some alternative food sources along with how to feed carnivorous plants so they don’t miss out on important nutrients.

 

Alternative food sources

 

Fish Flakes & Crushed Pellets

Fish flakes or crushed pellets are a great alternative to bugs for carnivorous plants. They contain several nutrients that can be easily absorbed by the plant. We have used both TetraFin Goldfish Flakes and TetraFin Floating Pellets (crushed) with good success.

 

 

Bloodworms

Freeze dried Bloodworms are another good food source for carnivorous plants and they may even boost disease resistance. Bloodworms contain a polymer called chitin in their exoskeletons; a polymer also found in the cell walls of fungi. Carnivorous plants (along with most plants) have the ability to detect chitin fragments from fungal infections, triggering a defense mechanism that protects the plant. The extra chitin in bloodworms helps activate the plants defenses without introducing actual fungus. This immunity can be important for helping prevent infections in vulnerable plants like Mexican Pinguicula (Butterworts) which are prone to browning heart disease.

 

 

Fertilizer

Fertilizers like Maxsea and Oscomote are another option for carnivorous plants, but use them sparingly. Sarracenia and Heliamphora both appreciate small amounts of fertilizer in their soil or pitchers and often Nepenthes can benefit from pitcher-fed fertilizer. If you notice pitcher or leaf burn, this is a sign the fertilizer is too strong and needs to be diluted further.

Pitcher Plant with Food

Fertilizer in a Nepenthes pitcher

The ICPS has some good information on using fertilizer for Heliamphora and Sarracenia.

The Carnivore Girl also has a great article that explores fertilizer for carnivorous plants in more depth.

 

Carnivorous plants and meat

Despite the name, carnivorous plants rarely eat meat. (Except for some Nepenthes which have been known to snack on rodents). Meat doesn’t contain many of the nutrients carnivorous plants need and it will invite harmful bacteria to start growing, so it’s usually best to stick with one of the food sources mentioned above.

 

How do I feed my carnivorous plant?

Feeding depends on the type of carnivorous plant in question:

Butterworts

Butterworts do a pretty good job of catching food on their own. If they seem to be having trouble though, sprinkle some fish food or bloodworms on a sticky leaf or two every 2-3 weeks. Try to keep food away from the sensitive crown though to minimize bacteria and mold growth.

Some Butterworts will enter a state of dormancy during certain times of the year. They will stop producing sticky leaves and the plant will usually shrink in size. There’s no need to feed Butterworts during this time.

Pinguicula with FoodButterwort with fish flake food
Dormant Pinguicula gypsicolaDormant Butterwort

 

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher Plants are probably the easiest carnivorous plants to feed. During their active growing season, drop bugs, fish food, or fertilizer pellets in a few of the pitchers every 2-3 weeks. If the pitchers are dry, squirt water in them with a pipette or eyedropper after feeding, otherwise they won’t be able to absorb the nutrients. If you move plants after the pitchers are full, do so carefully. Partially digested food from a spilled pitcher smells atrocious.

Feeding Pitcher Plant with Pipette

Adding water to a young Sarracenia pitcher

 

Sundews

Sundews can be one of the more difficult carnivorous plants to feed. If they aren’t catching bugs on their own, feed a few of the dewy leaves dry fish food or bloodworms every 2-3 weeks. If you’re in a hurry, store the food in an old spice shaker and give it a few shakes over the plant occasionally. Just be careful not to pour too much out or get food near the crown of the plant.

Bloodworms

Mmm do I taste a hint of Bloodworms in this spaghetti?

If you’d like a more targeted approach, use a pair of pointed tweezers to stick food on the tentacles. After feeding, most sundews curl their leaves around prey within about 20 minutes. If a sundew doesn’t have dew on its tentacles, this could be a sign that it’s stressed. Only feed it after the dew returns.

Feeding Sundew with TweezersTweezer feeding D. capensis a bloodworm
Sundew Curled Around FoodLeaf curl after about 20 minutes

 

Venus Flytraps

Venus Flytraps are some of the most fun carnivorous plants to feed! Using tweezers, gently brush a bug, damp fish food, or bloodworms against the hairs inside one of the traps. The trap will snap shut after a couple of strokes, getting a mouthful of food. The amount of food you give each trap depends on the size of the trap. Generally, the size of the food should be about 1/4 of the size of the trap.

Feeding Venus Flytrap with Tweezers

Tweezer feeding a Venus Flytrap fish flakes

For food that isn’t fed live, gently massage the trap after it has snapped shut. This mimics a bug moving inside and stimulates the trap to seal more tightly and produce extra digestive enzymes. Learn more about this amazing process here. Feed a few traps every 2-3 weeks during the plant’s active growing season.

Massaging Venus Flytrap

Massaging a trap to stimulate digestion

 

Now who’s hungry?

This article gave a brief overview of what and how to feed carnivorous plants. Hopefully you found it useful but please check out some of the linked resources for more specifics. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave questions and comments below, we’d like to hear from you!

06 Jul

Carnivorous Plant Pesticide & Fungicide

Thrips

What do you do when one of your carnivorous plants has a pest or fungus problem and neem or other natural  pesticides or fungicides aren’t cutting it?

Obviously something needs to be done or you run the risk of losing the plant or infecting others in your collection.

The first and most important thing to do is isolate the infected plant(s) from the healthy ones. Then, treat the pests or fungus. We recommend using one of the sprays below and have found them safe to use on several types of carnivorous plants noted at the end of this article.

 

Active Ingredients

The active ingredients in both of these sprays are Tau-fluvalinate, Imidacloprid, and Tebuconazole.

Tau-fluvalinate is a contact killer for pests. It works fast to stop the immediate damage.

Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide meaning the plant will absorb the insecticide through its tissue and roots. If a pest takes a bite out of the treated plant, it will also ingest the pesticide.

Tebuconazole is a systemic fungicide. It works by inhibiting fungal growth and spore distribution, slowing the spread of the disease.

 

Which spray should I use?

The only difference between the two sprays above is the concentration of active ingredients. The “Ready-To-Use” version is just that; it can be applied to carnivorous plants immediately. The “Ready-To-Spray” version on the other hand is designed for hose attachment for large areas and is more concentrated. Using a hose to douse all your plants probably isn’t the best idea, but the concentrate can be economical if you have several to treat. All you need to do is dilute it to equal the concentration of the “Ready-To-Use” spray by figuring out the ratios.

Active ingredient percentages listed on each bottle:

Ready-To-Use

midacloprid………… 0.012%
Tau-Fluvalinate…….. 0.014%
Tebuconazole……….. 0.015%

Ready-To-Spray (concentrate)

Imidacloprid …………..0.47%
Tau-Fluvalinate ……… 0.61%
Tebuconazole ………… 0.65%

For these percentages, a ratio of 14mls of concentrate mixed with 650mls of distilled water is comparable to the Ready-To-Use formula. Tada! Now you can have gallons of spray at a fraction of the cost.

 

 

What types of carnivorous plants are safe to treat?

We’ve tested this spray on several types of pitcher plants, specifically heliamphora, cephalotus, nepenthes, and sarracenia.  It is safe to use on most flytraps and some sundews as well. The rule for all of these plants though is to keep the spray away from the trap portions of the plants (i.e. the dewy portions of sundew and inside pitchers). These areas of the plants are often more sensitive and absorbent and so will be more prone to burning. Try to focus the spray on the crowns, leaves, and growth points of plants as well as the soil around them. Pests and fungal infections tend to target these areas the most anyway.

Where To Spray Pesticides and Fungicides

Drosera falconeri, Dionaea muscipula, and Nepenthes ventricosa respectively

Follow the package instructions on how much of the spray to use and when. This particular one can provide protection for around 30 days depending on what you’re treating and whether the plant is indoors in a tray or outdoors and flushed with rain.

 

Some Notes of Caution

  • Even though we have used this spray on several types of carnivorous plants, it’s always good to test it on your own plants as well.  Treat a small portion of the plant and see how it reacts or only treat a single plant if you have more than one before spraying the whole batch.
  • This is a poison so please don’t taste the dew on your capensis after treating them. Be honest, we’ve all tried at one point. 😛
  • This is a chemical pesticide so if your plants live outdoors, please remember to save the bees!

Honeybee

 

What about you?

Do you have a tried and true pesticide and fungicide that you use? What plants have you tested it on?  Please tell us in the comments!

22 Jun

Watering Carnivorous Plants

Not all water is the same

Tap water

Using tap water for carnivorous plants in many cases isn’t a good idea. Tap water contains salts and chemicals (Also called Total Dissolved Solids or TDS). While harmless to humans, some of these salts and chemicals can have detrimental effects on sensitive carnivorous plants, causing root burn, leaf browning, wilting and eventual death of the plant.

The amount of salts and chemicals in tap water is measured by parts per million (PPM). The PPM of tap water can vary depending on location but often falls between 100 and 400. Most carnivorous plants can tolerate a PPM range anywhere from 50 to 140, but the lower the number the better. If you are considering using tap water for your plants, buy a TDS Meter to check your PPM first. It’s also important to note that if your PPM is in the upper end of the “safe” range, flushing soil and trays regularly with fresh water is a good idea to help prevent mineral buildup.

 

TDS in parts per million (PPM)

Source: “What is TDS?” HM Digital

 

Rain and stream water

Rain or stream water can be good and inexpensive alternatives to use for carnivorous plants, if the plants are outdoors. Using rain or stream water can have downsides for indoor plants though. The main ones being possible contaminants like algae, bacteria, fungus and plant pests.  Yes, even rainwater may contain small amounts of these! Exposing indoor plants to these contaminants is risky because there isn’t a balanced ecosystem like the one outside to keep various outbreaks at bay.

In addition, rain water tends to be acidic with a pH of around 5.6 due to interacting with carbon dioxide in the air. This may or may not be harmful to your plants but is still something to think about.

Rain Water

 

Distilled water

Using distilled water is the safest route when watering indoor carnivorous plants. The water is free from salts and chemicals and the steaming process kills organisms that may be present as well. You can purchase distilled water at the store or distill it yourself. We have found a basic household distiller like this one works well for the average hobbyist. It can produce up to 6 gallons per day. Using distilled water in combination with the tray method of watering is a good practice if you want healthy indoor carnivorous plants.

Distilled Water

 

And don’t do this…please.

A common misconception about distilling water is to leave tap water in a container overnight to give minerals and chemicals a chance to “evaporate”…there’s a problem with this method though, it doesn’t work! The only thing that evaporates is the water leaving what remains even more salty. Only use this method of “distilling”  if you want to kill your carnivorous plants.

Annoyed Cat

This cat doesn’t think it’s a good idea either

 

Who knew there were so many types of water

Hopefully this article helps you determine what type of water you will use for your carnivorous plants based on your location and growing environment. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!