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Sowing and growing Venus Fly-Trap seeds at home

I’m going to show you how you can germinate your own baby Venus Fly-Traps for around $10.00. No specialist nursery equipment required!

It’s easy for a nursery to write up plant propagation guides. If we’re being honest, those steps frequently involve greenhouses, bottom heat, misting and attentive propagation staff. But despite this, it’s still more than possible to germinate your own plants, including Venus Fly-Traps at home. You just need to get a bit creative.

Greenhouses and bottom heat seek only to provide a more humid, constant and stable environment than outside. But then again so does a clear plastic zip lock bag placed over a pot. It will raise humidity, retail  warmth and protect from the elements too.

Generally speaking bottom heat accelerate germination, but seeds will still germinate without heat. They will likely germinate over a longer time, but they’ll get there none the less.

To germinate Dionaea seed at home you’ll need a few common items, most of these things can be found at cheap shops:

  1. Fresh Dionaea seeds (25 pack).  $5.00
  2. 1 litre of carnivorous plant potting mix$2.50
  3. A small plastic pot (85mm square plastic pot is ideal). $0.15
  4. 1 Large (~ 230 x 305mm) zip lock bag.  $0.40
  5. A small plastic spray bottle  $1.50

Fill the pot with carnivorous plant potting mix. water the pot gently with rainwater or pure water until you’ve watered through 2 – 3 liters of water. water will be coming out of the bottom of the pot.

Place the Dionaea seeds on top of the wet carnivorous plant mix. Try to spread them out evenly with a few centimeters between each seed. The seeds are small so it make take some time and effort. Watch out for seeds that you think you’ve sown but have stuck to your fingers instead!

Next step is to water the seeds. When watering small seeds like Dionaea, use the spray setting rather than the jet setting. Otherwise you risk dislodging the seeds. Dionaea grow in bogs so you really can’t over water the seeds. Be generous and ensure the seeds have received a good soaking.

Place the pot in a large zip lock bag. Add a 3 – 5 centimeters of water in the bag so the pot sits in the water. Seal the top of the zip lock bag so that you’ve created a closed environment with near 100% humidity and warmth.

Congratulations. You now have a controlled environment, which will stay warm, humid and much more constant than if you kept your seeds outside in the elements. The bag will act as a mini greenhouse.

Keep the bag and pot out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will raise temperature inside the bag too much, and likely kill the seeds. You’re looking for somewhere which receives bright indirect light, ideally outside. The seeds won’t germinate inside or in a dark place. They need light. Not direct sun.

Germination will begin in 4 – 6 weeks. Don’t give into the temptation to tamper with the pot or seed mix! Disturbance will set back germination or in worst case scenario will prevent germination.

Once the first seedlings start to emerge, you can poke a few small holes in the zip lock bag, adding a few more holes each day. Take the pot of seedlings out of the bag three to four weeks after germination started. Keep the pot standing in a tray of rainwater in the same place it was kept during germination.

Dionaea seedlings are slow growing. They can slowly be acclimatized to some sun over 7 – 10 day period. Keep seedlings in their original pot for a few years. When they are large enough to individually handle they can be potted up into their own pots using fresh carnivorous plant mix.

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How to divide a Sarracenia the right way

Dividing Sarracenia plants is the fastest and easiest way to grow more plants and maintain vigorous growth. Divisions will give you a decent sized plant in one season.

Information below applies to both short and tall Sarracenia plants.

Step 1

Select a mature plant in winter dormancy.

Sarracenia during dormancy.

Plants should have multiple growth points. You’ll be able to see  growth points through the brown mature pitchers. Growth points will be swollen and have multiple small spikes protruding out of the base.

Sarracenia growth points. Old pitchers removed. Roots cleaned of media.

Step 2

Expose the roots and remove as much media as you can from around the root zone with your hands. Once excess media is gone, wash the plant in a bucket of water to remove the last of the old media from around the roots.

Step 3 (optional)

Cut off the old pitchers about 5-10cm up from the base of the plant’s rhizome. Use secateurs to make clean cuts.

Some growers skip this step. The argument for removing old pitchers is that it prevents dead pitchers from contacting media and growing mold. It also helps spring sun get into the new growth points, promoting faster spring growth. The argument for keeping old pitchers is it acts as an insulator to help keep new growth points protected from the harsh winter conditions.

Step 4

Cut the rhizome into clean sections, respecting growth points. Don’t cut through or damage growth points.

Use secateurs to do this job. If you try to use your hands to pull the rhizome apart without first cutting the rhizome, you will more than likely rip the rhizome and damage the plant.

Each plant division should have a complete growth point and a decent amount of roots. It may also have old pitchers too. Individually wash each division in a bucket of water. You’ll find more old media comes off once the division has been separated.

Sarracenia cut into divisions based on growth points.

As you divide your plants you might come across smaller divisions too, plants which are a 6-12cm tall, and appear more seedling like in appearance. You can certainly pot these up if you wish. They’ll take a longer time to produce mature plants (5+ years). They will also likely need extra protection over their first winter.

Step 5

Pot each division into a clean plastic pot no smaller than 120mm. Use a standard carnivorous plant mix of 1:1 Sphagnum Peat moss and perlite (or washed propagating sand).

Make sure all of the division’s roots are beneath the media and the growth point is centered in the pot. The growth point itself should be slightly above the media.

New division potted up.

Step 6

water your division into the pot with safe water for carnivorous plants. Keep gently watering the plant until two or three times the volume of the pot has been washed through.

Sarracenia divisions potted up.

Six months down the track your divisions will be established large plants. In a few years you divisions will be fully established plants with multiple growth points of their own. And so the division process starts again!

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A quick guide to buying high quality Venus Fly-Trap seeds without getting scammed.

I often see lots of Dionaea seed for sale on sites such as ebay, and I admit, I still slightly cringe. The listing normally goes something like this, “Dionaea ‘Some Fantastic Cultivar’ seed for sale”. So what’s the problem? Well, one of the problems is, it leads many people to think they are buying seeds which will germinate, and eventually grow into Some Fantastic Cultivar. Either through ignorance or deceptiveness, these kinds of listings don’t provide anywhere near enough information for a customer to make an informed decision about what they’re actually buying.

Before I explain more, let me start off by pointing out seeds are a result of sexual reproduction. They will never result in plants which are an exact copy of their parent(s). Actually, there is no guarantee seed grown plants will have any specific feature of their parent(s). If you want exact copies or clones of a specific plant, you must strike cuttings or look into tissue culture. This is the number one misconception lots of people who advertise “Dionaea ‘Some Fantastic Cultivar’ seed for sale” are hoping you are not aware of.

Now lets discuss the implications of pollination on Dionaea seed production. Dionaea can be pollinated in two ways. Self pollination, where pollen from the same flower or from another flower on the same plant is used to create seed. And cross pollination, where pollen from a genetically different plant is used to create seed. We know seed from the former has a lower germination rate, and produces smaller and less vigorous plants when compared with plants grown from cross pollinated seeds. Anyone who tells you they have cross pollinated seed from two different plants of the same cultivar is either flat out lying to you, or showing their ignorance. Since cultivars are genetically all the same plant, seed from such a scenario is self pollinated.

Lineage is important too, it’s really an extension of pollination. Essentially, it pertains to the parents used to create the seed. Was seed produced from two different typical plants? Or by cross pollinating two different cultivars? Or maybe from one cultivar parent, and one typical plant. Each type of seed has their place depending on what you’re trying to achieve. For example, the former is great for introducing more genetic diversity in your collection. If you are trying to create your own cultivar you’ll likely benefit from the later two scenarios.

One of the most neglected considerations when buying seeds is age. Seeds are alive, overtime if they are not given conditions for germination they will die. Referred to as seed viability, the percentage of seeds able to germinate decrease with time. Dionaea seeds stored in a fridge will have near perfect viability for 12 – 15 months. But if you’re buying older seeds you can expect less germination. Yet virtually no online seed sellers provide harvest dates or even answers questions to this effect.

Finally, please beware of cheap seeds. If it seems too good to be true, it likely isn’t true. Dionaea seeds are not sold by the hundreds. They cost more than one to five cents each. In reality Dionaea seeds take time and substantial energy from the plant to produce. Some people have complained about the price of our seeds. While I am sympathetic to this, I ask you to consider the quality of our seeds and information supplied with them. As well as the fact we are not a sole seed producer. Not all of our plants set seed, so the amount of seed we have for public sale is not infinite.

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How to sow and germinate Dionaea seeds

Germinating Dionaea is quite easy provided a few proven rules are adhered to. Follow the rules below and you’ll be surrounded by baby Venus Fly-Traps in no time.

Fresh seeds

The first rule is to source yourself fresh seed from a reputable source. Old seed (2 or more years old) will have less germination. There are unfortunately a lot of scammers out there selling “Dionaea” seeds too. These seeds germinate into all kinds of things other than Venus Fly-Traps. Good quality seed from a reputable source is a must.

When to sow seeds

Seeds can be sown in mid winter to go through a cold stratification process. They will begin germinating in spring. Otherwise, seeds may be kept in the fridge for a few months and then sown in spring and summer.

Trays and pots

You’ll need a tray with good drainage, at least two to three inches deep to sow your seeds. Seed raising trays like the one shown below are ideal. Your seedlings will need to live in your tray until they are big enough to transplant. In all likelihood, this will be at least two years away.

The seed raising tray will need to sit in another tray which  holds around 1cm of water in it to provide bottom watering as your seeds are waiting to germinate.

Media

The media used to sow Dionaea is 1:2 ratio of Sphagnum peat moss and sharp propagating sand. You may also use 100% dried Sphagnum moss.

You’ll need to treat the media to kill bacteria, fungi and spores. All these things can detrimentally effect your seedlings and quickly over grow and kill germinating seeds if left in the media. Treatment is easy,  it’s just a matter of either pouring boiling water through the media a few time or microwaving the media for 3 – 4 minutes. Make sure the media is moist before employing either sterilizing technique. Always let the media completely cool before continuing.

Sowing the seeds

Sow seeds by gently placing them on top of the media. You should use your finger to make sure each seed makes good contact with the soil. Don’t bury the seed though. When all seeds have been sown, sprinkle a fine dusting of Sphagnum peat moss evenly over the tray. Not enough to cover the seeds, but enough to place Sphagnum peat moss along side of and between the seeds.

Watering the seeds in

Use a spray bottle filled with pure water to thoroughly water the media and seeds into the tray. I recommend at least 500ml of water for the initial watering. water should being dripping from the bottom of the tray. Apply to the surface of the sown seeds using a fine mist.

Where to keep your seed tray

The environmental conditions you keep your seeds in once they have been sown is very important. Keep your seed tray out of direct sun light, but bright indirect light is very important for germination. Outside, in a shaded or undercover spot is perfect.

Humidity needs to be very high for proper germination. I recommend using a mini greenhouse or seed raising box like the one shown below. The plastic lid vents can be opened as seeds begin to germinate. This helps air circulation and acclimatize seedlings to less humidity. A seed raising box like this also provides a bottom watering tray for the seeds to be watered from below.

Every few days check the media and spray with water to keep the media moist. Top up the bottom water as needed.

How long will germination take?

In ideal conditions, Dionaea will start germinating in ~4 weeks. Track germination by labeling your seed tray with the number of seeds and the date the seeds were sown. You’ll be able to gauge success rate and make modifications to your subsequent seed sowing attempts in the future to find the best method for your specific environment.

As your seeds germinate reduce humidity by opening vents. Your seedlings should be protected from direct, hot summer sun for at least six to nine months. But they will benefit from cool, dappled sun. You need to avoid the seedlings becoming so hot in their mini greenhouse that they cook.

 

Store any Dionaea seeds you’re not sowing immediately in the fridge. The lower temperatures help preserve the seed and maintain maximum viability.