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Tips to create your own carnivorous plant bog garden

Lots of carnivorous plant enthusiasts flirt with the idea of creating a bog garden. They look great, grow and change over time and above all, they host lots of interesting and beautiful carnivorous plants. So here’s some tips to help you create a beautiful and unique garden that will make people jealous!

If you’ve ever taken the steps towards making a bog garden you’ll realize it’s a lot harder than digging a hole and filling it in with carnivorous plant potting mix. Why? Well because nutrients from the earth quickly infiltrate the carnivorous plant mix. When it rains nutrients are washed in. When the wind blows nutrients are deposited on top. And all the time nutrients seep up from underneath.

Lots of carnivorous plants grow in areas called ombrotrophic bogs. These areas were formed in the last ice age. Theyare completely hydrologically isolated. No nutrients seep up from below. No nutrients are washed in from the rain. You can think of an ombrotrophic bog as like a swimming pool. Your swimming pool doesn’t turn brown from run off when it rains (or at least it I hope it doesn’t), nor should a carnivorous plant bog.

Common ways of replicating an ombrotrophic bog at home include using polystyrene boxes, kids pools and fiberglass ponds dug into the ground. You can also consider creating a raised bog garden. The same materials used below ground can also look amazing above the ground too.

What ever method you choose, there are some common gotchas that continually catch people out. First make sure the bog is deep enough. Carnivorous plant bogs are full of deep peat based sandy soils. They need to be able to withstand flooding and give enough depth for roots to burrow deep into the bog. A bog should ideally be at least 50-60cm deep. But really, the deeper the better.

The second gotcha is where to place the bog. Lots of people assume building bogs in lower ground is best. Carnivorous plant bogs build with this logic may very well have a fatal design flaw. It increases the chance of nutrient pollution and inundation with garden soil. Higher ground or at very least flat ground is best in our case. A fun fact, pocasin is the term used by Eastern Algonquian indigenous people to describe the type of bog we are building. In English, the term roughly translates to swamp-on-a-hill.

The last common mistake is not leaving enough of a rise between the earth and the bog. Make sure your normal garden soil can’t just wash into your bog. Nothing will kill your carnivorous plants quicker than normal garden soil.

Plant your bog sparingly. Your bog plants will multiply and expand over time. An over planted bog starts to look tired really quickly. In time it will become necessary to transplant, divide and thin plants from your bog too.

When choosing locations for your plants in the bog choose where the front of the bog is going to be. Plant your plants from back to front with taller plants being planted at the back. It’s no good having the most amazing patch of Dionaea if they’re completely obscured and surrounded by Sarracenia and can’t be seen.Taking plant height into consideration also helps make sure all of your plants get access to the light they need.

When it comes to watering your bog, the same rules as any carnivorous plant apply. Use the right water and keep water which is not safe well away. In summer you should artificially flood your bog to imitate natural habitat and weather conditions. This will create a hot and humid environment you plants will thrive in

If you’ve created a bog garden, let us know how you decided to do it or share some tips with everyone.

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The problem with the wind

Wind can be damaging for our plants. Not only from sheer force and speed, but also when it comes to drying plants out. Hot winds often cause Drosera to loose its mucilage and can burn off Sarracenia, ruining their pitchers. Wind can also cause Dionaea teeth to become brittle and burnt. Hot and dry wind will decimate Pinguicula. This type of physical damage is pretty obvious, and to a large extend anticipated and relatively easily dealt with. Just provide some protection from the scorching sun and physical protection from the winds and plants will quickly show their appreciation and resilience.

The wind also brings another serious threat, one which thanks to land clearing and unsustainable agricultural activities, is becoming a more frequent problem. Strong summer winds often carry top soil with them. Top soil is the most fertile and precious soil because that’s where much of the nutrient content is. Nutrients will burn carnivorous plant roots and eventually kill our plants. If you’ve ever had a carnivorous plant suddenly up and die on you for no known reason, the answer may literally be blowing in the wind. If wind deposits nutrient rich top soil in the plant’s pot, it can cause the total dissolved solids to increase, killing your plant.

It doesn’t take much nutrient rich top soil to raise TDS to fatal levels. Of course it depends on the specific elements being deposited, for example we know copper and zinc are poisonous to our plants in very low concentrations. The same is true with nitrates, which are often found in high levels in top soil from agricultural areas because it is a large ingredient in fertilizer. Whereas inorganic particles from metamorphic and igneous rocks are less of an issue for our plants.

So the bad news is that winds, especially those originating from agricultural areas and inland Australia, can bring with it materials which may be poisonous to our plants. The good news is now that we know about this semi-invisible threat we can be on the lookout. A $30.00 TDS meter can be used to test water which is sitting in your plant trays, as well as the water which has been collected after being watered through your pots. Take a reading from the water you’re using to flush your pots so you’ve got a base level. Then collect and test the water coming through your pot. The water will dissolve and transport nutrients and salts. The reading you receive is what TDS your plant roots are living in.

TDS Meter
TDS Meter

If the TDS is 50ppm or greater the water should be replaced. In a tray situation it’s easy to replace. Empty the old water, wash the tray and replace with acceptable water. If the high TDS water is coming through your pot, you’ll have to keep flushing the media and the plant from the top until the water reaches a new acceptable level. You’re aiming for as low as TDS as possible.

If you test your plants every few months you’ll be all but guaranteed to catch any issues with nutrient build up before they become toxic to your plants. Of course you can run the check as often as you like but the more plants you have the more time it takes.

The last point on this topic worth mentioning is make sure your TDS meter is calibrated and accurate. When you buy your TDS meter you will also be able to buy some calibration solution to keep the instrument accurate. False positives waste water. False negatives kill your plants.

The images below shows a pot of Drosera capensis suffering from wind and scorching sun damage.

Wind damage of D. capensis

The same pot is sown below four weeks later, after the plants has been placed in a greenhouse and protected from wind. The sun intensity was also reduced. The plant still had bright, indirect light. Just not, direct, scorching sun.

D. capensis recovered from wind damage.

You’ll even notice, the Sphagnum moss has grown and looks greener and healthier than before.

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Over winter care

Winter care isn’t about keeping your dormant carnivorous plants growing. It’s about modifying conditions for their winter rest. Dormant carnivorous plants look quite terrible – Venus Fly-Traps will die back and shrink into their pots. Pitcher plants will brown off and die back to their rhizomes and Sundews can retreat to a hibernacula in preparation of the cold and anticipation of warmer and brighter days.

When carnivorous plants are dormant they need less water. It’s quite acceptable to not stand dormant plants in trays of water. Their media still needs to be moist. They can even still be watered every day. Just, during winter, let the water freely flow away.

Dormant plants still need as much light as possible, so keep them outside. Here in Australia, our winters don’t get cold enough to warrant sheltering carnivorous plants over winter. You’re more likely to kill your plants from kindness by bringing them inside. Winter is an ideal time to divide and re-pot your dormant plants.

Sarracenia, Dionaea and some Drosera can tolerate very cold conditions, including frosts. The photos below show Dionaea covered in ice from a below 0 morning. It is important for these plants to experience a cold dormancy period, which lasts for at least 10 weeks. When I say cold dormancy period, I mean conditions which average below 8°C for 10 – 15 weeks. Nepenthes should be grown inside on a windowsill or in a warmed greenhouse over winter if conditions drop below 18 – 22°C.

Dionaea experience a short freeze over winter. (late June 2018)

All of these Dionaea will not only survive, but grow beautifully and strong during spring and summer as a result of their winter rest. But if we put these sane Dionaea on bottom heat and protected them from the winter elements, they would grow slowly become sick and eventually die.

Dionaea experience a short freeze over winter.

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Equipment you don’t want to be caught without

There’s one piece of equipment which stands out as a clear winner when it comes to growing beautiful, healthy and robust carnivorous plants. It’s not good quality stock or pots with lots of drainage holes. It’s not top quality media either. All those things are definitely important. But today I am talking about a TDS meter. In my opinion they are the most underrated and underutilized tool in the carnivorous plant growers arsenal. If you’re serious about the long term health of your carnivorous plants, I can’t suggest investing in a TDS meter strongly enough. This one piece of equipment can prevent absolute disaster if used properly.
 
TDS meters are used to test water purity. They indicate the total dissolved solids (TDS) of a solution. Dissolved ionized solids, such as salts and minerals, increase the electrical conductivity (EC) of a solution. EC can be used to calculate TDS. TDS is measured in parts per million (PPM). The greater the TDS PPM reading of water the less it’s suitable for carnivorous plants.

A safe long term TDS reading for carnivorous plant water is 50 parts per million (PPM) or less. By itself that doesn’t mean much so let’s put that measurement in perspective. Sea water is 30,000 – 40,000 PPM TDS. Fresh drinking water is up to 1,000 PPM TDS. Our tap water in Mount Compass fluctuates a bit, but generally averages 80 PPM TDS. Some growers say a TDS of less than 100 PPM is fine. Personally, in our nursery, we don’t use water with a TDS measurement greater than 10 PPM.

We based our decision of 10 PPM TDS on the TDS of clean rain water. Captured rain water has a TDS reading in the region of 5-50 PPM (depending on whether it is the first rain of the season, mid winter or at the end of a good rain storm). Rainwater does fluctuate greatly in terms of TDS, especially when collecting rain water of roofs and structures which collect contaminants during summer. As the rain washes down a roof and gutters it collects salts and nutrients which can quickly make the water unsuitable for carnivorous plants.

Using a TDS meter is very easy. Collect a sample of water (around 250ml will do) in a clean container. Turn on the TDS meter and insert the contacts into the water. Dont let the contacts touch the bottom of the container. Keep your TDS meter in the water until the reading on the LCD screen has stabilised, normally takes ten to fifteen seconds.

Test water going into pots and trays and also coming out of pots and trays. This way you can get an idea of salt and nutrient content of your media too. Without a TDS meter you are flying blind. You might be headed for disaster with no way of knowing until it’s too late. We test our trays once a week to make sure the water is within our acceptable range. We also test our product water from our Reverse Osmosis (RO) units frequently so we know when to change filters.

Every six to twelve months you need to calibrate your TDS meter. Calibration solutions are available to keep your TDS meter accurate. These solutions have a very accurate known TDS. The TDS meter can be tuned to match the calibration solution if it reports a discrepancy.

The TDS meter shown below is the unit we use in our nursery. This unit costs between  $25 – $45 depending on where you buy. Most hydroponic supply shops sell TDS meters. If you have trouble finding a TDS meter please get in touch. We are more than happy to recommend a few suppliers.

This particular TDS meter can also measure water temperature in °C. TDS readings are displayed as PPM. The other handy feature of this unit is the hold button. Pressing HOLD stops the reading disappearing when you remove the contacts from the water. This unit will also turn itself off automatically to save battery power if you accidently leave it on. On the topic of battery power, the battery life is fantastic. Used at least weekly, our units last years without a battery change.

To care for your unit always wash the contacts with water (ideally distilled water) and return the lid after you’re finished testing.

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Why has my Drosera lost its “dew”?

Mucilage is the name of the glistening balls of “dew” like substance found on Drosera. Before I begin explaining why your Drosera may have lost its mucilage and how to rectify this, let’s spend a minute talking about the substance itself.

Mucilage is edible. It’s a ingredient in some foods. It’s also used in medicine to relieve irritation of mucus membranes. It’s also an ingredient in some glues. Drosera use mucilage to catch, trap and digest prey. The plant can then access nutrients which aren’t in the media to promote health and new growth. Of course, from our perspective, it makes Drosera look amazingly interesting too.

The other fact you may find quite surprising is mucilage is definitely not exclusive to Drosera, mucilage can be found in most plants alive today. Drosera, along with a few other plants like Cactus and Aloe vera have much more mucilage than other plants, but it plays an important part in food production, seed germination and health for most plants alive today.

Mucilage is sensitive. It is a good indicator of plant stress. While it’s completely normal and unavoidable for Drosera to loose mucilage during transport and shipping, if your plant has started loosing mucilage for no obvious reason, it can indicate one or more of the four environmental conditions below may be out of whack. So What does a nice Drosera environment look like?

Light

Lack of light will make a Drosera stop making mucilage. Don’t keep your Drosera in deep, dark shade all the time. Bright, indirect light is best. Even a sunny windowsill is a great place to grow Drosera. Some growers even grow their Drosera in full sun, with protection from hot afternoon sun during summer.

Humidity

Humidity around your Drosera should be between 50% – 70%. It’s not always possible or practical to achieve. In reality, any increase in humidity will be warmly received. The easiest way to artificially increase humidity is to stand your plant in a tray of water. But provided you’ve got the light and wind situation under control, many Drosera will be quite forgiving when it comes to humidity.

water

Always keep your Drosera very well watered. During the growing season, stand your Drosera pot in at least a few centimeters of water. Only ever water your Drosera with rainwater or demineralized water. Tap water often contains too many dissolved salts for Drosera. Ultimately, your plant will die from tap water.

Wind

Hot, dry and strong winds are not a friend of mucilage.They increase transpiration and water loss through evaporation. Wind also blows debris and dust onto your Drosera, further eroding mucilage. The low humidity typically associated with hot wind make it impossible for Drosera to replace lost mucilage, making leaves more susceptible to burning.

For the purposes of education, we have exposed a pot of Drosera capensis to the hot northerly winds and scorching sun of S.A. for four weeks weeks during hot summer conditions. The plants aren’t looking too good at all. There’s not a drop of mucilage anywhere, and the leaves are yellowing and turning brown. Even though we’ve kept the plant sitting in water, top watered once a day, started out with healthy plants and used the right media, these plants are very unhappy. And very helpless. Right now, they can’t catch and feed on insects. So how are we going to fix this?

Wind damage of D. capensis

Many people have enormous success growing their Drosera in hydroponic seed propagation kits. They act as mini greenhouses. They’ve got a tray to fill with water, and a plastic lid with vents to allow air movement and ventilation while protecting from wind and dust. We also put the plant in an area where it received bright light, but no direct sun.

Drosera does not absolutely require a mini greenhouse, any place sheltered from hot wind and sun will suffice. For example, under a verandah, next to a bright window inside or under the shade of a tree are all perfect spots for Drosera to recover and thrive.

The same pot, four weeks later, literally look like different plants. Even the Sphagnum moss has responded to some protection. By restoring the Drosera to health, it can now catch prey, digest nutrients and grow stronger and bigger.

D. capensis recovered from wind damage.

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Flower spikes

You’ve likely heard advice to snip off Venus Fly-Trap flower spikes as they start to grow. It helps the plant to continue making traps, rather than diverting energy into producing flowers. It’s good advice, but does it apply to other Genera as well?

Drosera (Sundews) can have their flower spikes removed when they start to grow. While a Sundew doesn’t slow its growth down as much as a Venus Fly-Trap does during flower spike growth, it does help keep your plants keep producing leaves. It also helps prevent Drosera from becoming a weed in your collection.

Sarracenia (Pitcher plants), Nepenthes (Hanging Pitcher plants) and Cephalotus (Albany Pitcher Plant) flower spikes can be safely removed too. Same rules as Dionaea and Drosera, cut them off when they’re a few inches high if you’re inclined. Many growers choose not to cut their Pitcher plant flower spikes off. The flowers are interesting, and having them there does not set the plant back.

Some carnivorous plants including Utricularia and Pinguicula are somewhat grown for their flowers. It’s not a good idea to remove flower spikes from these Genera.

If you’re planning on removing flower spikes, always do it when the flower spike is a few inches in size. It’s no benefit cutting off a mature flower spike, the plant has already spent energy on producing it. Use clean equipment, and make the cut cleanly.

Flowers are a primary method of identification of a species. If you’re growing a plant for identification purposes you’ll want it to flower. Use a flower key to help identify which species you have.

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Autumn fertilising

Fertilising your carnivorous plants in autumn is a great way to help next spring get off to a great start and give you plants a helping hand during winter. You’ve probably heard horror stories about never, under any circumstances being able to fertilize carnivorous plants. The trick is to use the right method and in moderation. So here’s what we do in our nursery.

For all of our fertilising we use distilled water. It might seem like over kill, but the reason is pretty simple. We want to start with 0 ppm water. Adding fertiliser to the water will dramatically increase the dissolved solids. Even after mixing our fertiliser we want the TDS to be < 50 ppm.

To every 1L of distilled water we add 4ml of Seasol concentrate. This is about 1/4 strength. We then mix the solution to ensure an even distribution of water and Seasol. We use a spray bottle to apply a misting of fertiliser to Venus Fly-Traps and Pitcher Plants. Don’t deliberately put fertiliser into the pitcher plants. Stop spraying fertiliser when foliage is wet and starting to drip. We don’t want the fertiliser to get into the media. This will just add unnecessary salts. Many carnivorous plant roots don’t take up much of their nutrients through the soil anyway.

Some Sundews can be fertilised too (e.g. D. capensis), but be very careful to only spray the crown of the plant and not the leaves. The fertiliser will interrupt the mucilage (dew) production if it hits leaves. In worst case scenarios, the sundew leaves can even die from being sprayed with fertiliser. It’s not always possible to spray a crown of Drosera, take D. spatulata for example. It doesn’t have a crown suitable for fertilising. In such cases we don’t apply any fertiliser.

Please take warning, don’t over fertilise your plants. There have been countless heartaches caused by getting carried away with fertilisers. They can easily kill your carnivorous plants. Fertilise once and at 1/4 strength using distilled water. Don’t let the fertiliser enter your plant’s pots. Don’t let fertiliser collect in pitfall traps. Don’t fertilise your carnivorous plants over winter.

We can’t speak for any other fertilizer other than Seasol. Fertilisers are not interchangeable. Experiment with caution.You might also like to incorporated autumn fertilising into your overall fertilising programme, where your plants can be treated every 8 weeks from September – April.

If you’re in any doubt you should always err on the side of caution. Either trial your fertiliser on a few plants and monitor long term results or just don’t apply fertiliser.

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Dionaea ‘Wacky Traps’

1st March 2019 – Update 5

The Dionaea ‘Wacky Traps’ has come a long way in growth and establishment in its pot. The plant has put on significant growth and has produced the somewhat standard eight traps per plant.

As the season changes from Summer to Autumn, the plant will slowly but surely start slowing down metabolic processes to prepare for the dormancy during Winter. A health and established plant such as this specimen is an ideal candidate for propagation when Spring comes. By the end of 2019 we aim to have successfully propagated this specimen from leaf pullings.

You can see the healthy ecology of the pot by the living moss which has established itself on top, and the odd Drosera sp. which has invaded too!

7th November 20187 – Update 4

Dionaea 'Wacky Traps'
Dionaea ‘Wacky Traps’

Wacky Traps have now completely broken dormancy, and are in active growth.

The Sphagnum moss media is starting to green up. The plant has been kept completely outside in full weather standing in a tray of water.

The plant is small, 7cm in diameter. One notable feature, the plant has six active traps with one trap developing. This is completely consistent with other Dionaea plants.

25th July 2018 – Update 3

The plants are completely dormant. There is no above ground growth. In this way, Wacky Traps appears to be similar in growth habit to many of the red Dionaea cultivars. I expect the plants to resume active growth again late spring, rather than early spring. The cultivar appears to be that kind of slow performer.

9th April 2018 – Update 2

South Australia is in the midst of an Autumn heat wave. Temperatures in the mid 30’s have persisted for four days. Wacky Traps is still outside on a full sun growing bench. The weather and additional light has made some of the leaves turn light rose red. This is not uncommon. The 85mm pots are standing in 2 – 3 cm of reverse osmosis product water.

There has been some die-back. But that said, there has been much more new growth of new leaves. Previously closed traps have also re-opened, although it may be difficult to tell because Wacky Traps is very small at the moment.

Wacky Traps has been fertilized for the Autumn (along with other Dionaea on the same bench). The fertilizers was 1/4 strength Seasol mixed into pure water, applied as a foliar spray.

31st March 2018 – Update 1

The weather is still conducive to establishment and growth.

Weather forecast

The Wacky Traps are less floppy then on the 28th of March, and both plants are showing signs of stress recovery. New growth is continuing development without browning off. The new growth is small, but not unexpected for a plant growing outside in current environmental conditions this time of year.

28th March 2018 – Wacky Traps arrival

We’ve got some very exciting news. A while back we sourced material of Dionaea muscipula ‘Wacky Traps’ B. Rice.

If you haven’t heard of Dionaea ‘Wacky Traps’ you’re not alone. It’s a cultivar of Dionaea muscipula (Venus Fly-Trap) which isn’t common in Australia. Dionaea muscipula ‘Wacky Traps’ was a clone which came from Cresco Nursery in the Netherlands. The plant is an extremely slow grower. It has abnormally thick traps and petioles, which are probably the reason why ‘Wacky Traps’ has trouble closing its traps quickly. It takes several minutes to stimulate trap closure even with repeated teasing of the trigger hairs.

‘Wacky Traps’ is one of those cultivars which never fails to draw strong opinion. Some people revel in its uniqueness and absurdity while other people outright hate it, convinced its only real contribution to horticulture is in the compost bin.

We are aiming to add ‘Wacky Traps’ to our offerings in the future. Because of it’s slow growing nature, we though it might be an interesting idea to blog our progress in cultivating and propagating this unique cultivar. We will investigate the speed of growth, self division potential, most effective media to grow in and dormancy. Before tissue culture or cuttings can be considered, plants must be healthy and ideally mature.

First steps

Plants can arrive from all kinds of places, having been through all kinds of stresses, in various conditions. The trick to maximizing positive results is to re-hydrate bare rooted plants as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to add pure water to a plastic container. Allow the plants to float in the water. Leave them there from an hour. Always keep them in shade or indoors while re hydration occurs.

Dionaea 'Wacky Traps' arrival

The two plants have since been potted in 85mm square pots. Pot A contains 100% long fiber Sphagnum moss. Pot B contains premium carnivorous plant mix. Part of getting to know a cultivar is to learn it’s growing habits. Some Dionaea (normally the more vigorous growing) do very well in Sphagnum peat moss mixes, while some of the more fragile and slower growing Dionaea find Sphagnum moss much easier for their roots to push through. We will be able to observe the growth difference in the two different media over time.

Dionaea 'Wacky Traps' potted up

Being around mid Autumn, our first priority is to get the plants acclimatized to outside conditions by providing sheltered conditions for 72 hours, and then slowly introducing to warm, but not hot sun. We want these plants to be settled in their pots and hardened by the time Autumn is finished. This will ensure survival over winter. If we wrap the plants in cotton wall and greenhouse them now we actually risk setting their development back further.

New plants can sometimes worsen before they improve, depending on the environment they’ve come from, their age, their health and the time of year. This is completely expected, no reflection of their history. If this happens to ‘Wacky Traps’ the season may provide enough time to recover enough to survive winter.

At this point in time it’s unknown how dormancy will manifest with ‘Wacky Traps’. My thoughts are the plant will die back to it’s rosette. Stronger and more vigorous cultivars e.g. ‘Paradisia’ can continue slow and smaller growth during winter. But weaker growing cultivars often die back severely. My feeling is ‘Wacky Traps’ fits into the latter.

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Are Venus Fly-Trap cultivars really all that different?

In summer you may find yourself out early one morning appreciating the new day while looking over your beautiful and vast Dionaea collection. You’ve likely taken the leap into the somewhat confusing world of Dionaea cultivars, so you’ve probably got different clones of Dionaea, most of which carry registered cultivar names.  Definitely a beautiful site, but something else may be dawning on you. Many of your cultivars look very similar to other cultivars and even some of your typical plants. And furthermore, some of the cultivars like ‘B52’ and ‘Big Mouth’, known for the so-called trap size are being out performed by other plants. Maybe some of your red cultivars e.g ‘Red Piranha’ or ‘Royal Red’ are no more red than other plants too.

The state of Dionaea cultivars has been described as being in shambles, and the differences from one so-called cultivar and another is fictitious at worst, or inconsistent at best. This is very evident when looking at Dionaea cultivars that are named, based only upon the details of red coloration or trap size. The plants with really clear cut cultivar characters do seem to be living up to their names.  ‘Justina Davis’ is still absolutely green, with no red at all. ‘Fused Trap’ plants are still fused, and ‘Bristle Tooth’ is still true to form with its unique serrated teeth too.

Some of the observations can be explained by incorrectly identified plants and even clones being promoted and registered when perhaps they should not be. But a portion of the observational anomalies with cultivar and clone forms come from variation between growing season to growing season. Many growers have experienced plants with very large traps one year and that same plant will have much smaller traps the next year. Conversely, a plant in an adjacent pot will change from having small traps to huge traps.

We have decided to selectively stock plants which show distinctive characteristics, and not every clone and cultivar out there. Why? It can really be disheartening to a enthusiast to buy an expensive cultivar just for it to be virtually indistinguishable from other cultivars. Or not display any physical characteristics of the cultivar. As discussed though, those characteristics may be there. They may just take a few growing years to become apparent.

 

 

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Can I grow carnivorous plants?

Lots of people want to grow carnivorous plants, but don’t because they think these plants are too hard. When most of us think about carnivorous plants we think of plants which are difficult to grow outside of greenhouses, plants which need constant tropic like conditions and are so fragile they need to be contained in plastic domes for their own protection. Chances are you’ve already had a carnivorous plant that didn’t make it too, further perpetuating the myth these plants are hard to grow.

In reality, most carnivorous plants are hardy perennial plants which readily lend themselves to growing exceptionally well outside, in places like Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra to name a few. There are of course tropical carnivorous plants, like low land Nepenthes which require constant warmth and the protection a greenhouse offers, but they are the exception, not the rule.

So, can you grow carnivorous plants? Yes, if you choose the right plants. At Compass Carnivores, we specialize in selling carnivorous plants which can be readily cultivated in Australia. That’s not to say these plants can be neglected. But rest assured, none of our plants absolutely need specialized growing areas like greenhouses or equipment like heat beds and misting systems.

What’s involved in growing carnivorous plants?

We’ve already established what’s not needed, but what does it take to grow carnivorous plants?

The first thing you’ll need is a sunny spot. A place that gets at least 4 – 6 hours of sun in summer is ideal. Preferably outside, but a sunny and bright spot inside by a window will also work. Growing inside can present some unique challenges, so we recommend growing outside and bringing your plants inside for a short time every now and again, if you really want carnivorous plants inside with you. Plants grown full time inside will be weaker, more susceptible to rot, mold and fungus, and not as colorful.

Generally, grow carnivorous plants in plastic pots sitting in a plastic tray filled with water. The water prevents the plants from drying out, provides bottom watering and helps increase humidity around the plants. Plus it mimics their natural habitat, pocosin bogs.Never, ever let a carnivorous plant completely dry out.

As the weather warms up, increase the depth of the water. In summer, having a Pitcher plant or Venus Fly-Trap standing in water 1/2 – 3/4 the depth of the pot is going to make for a very happy plant. You see, where these plants come from, most of the annual rainfall happens in summer. So the warmer it gets, the wetter it gets.

Most of our plants appreciate a naturally cool winter. Venus Fly-Traps, Pitcher Plants and many Sundew plants require a dormancy period. Dormancy is largely triggered by the reduction in day length. Despite popular belief, carnivorous plants need to be outside over winter. Trying to skip dormancy and keep your plants growing over winter will kill it.

Carnivorous plants can tolerate light frosts, short freezes and even snow. Australian climate does not prohibit growing and enjoying these beautiful and unique plants.

I want to point out, plants in dormancy look terrible. They are small, often covered with dead foliage and sometimes even retreat to underground. The plant is resting, not dead. Don’t make the mistake of throwing it away. Come spring, new growth will take off like a rocket. See Venus Fly-Trap Dormancy for more information about dormancy.

The amount of time and effort it takes to grow carnivorous plants is entirely up to you. A few plants will take just five minutes a day to top up water levels in trays. The more time you spend with your plants, the more you’ll want to spend. Dead heading, dividing, re-potting and generally appreciating these unique plants are all quite addictive activities.

For more information, check out Here’s the four commandments for cultivating happy, healthy Venus Fly-Traps.

If you’ve got any questions or concerns about growing your plants, please reach out to us. We are more than happy to help and discuss specific concerns.