Posted on Leave a comment

Using carnivorous plants as part of integrated pest management in your greenhouse

The idea of using nature to control pests is not new. I say control and not eliminate because modern ideas of pest control are often more focused on eradication and elimination, rather than control. There’s a big difference between the two mentalities. Removing something entirely from an ecosystem often has unintended negative consequences. Whereas controlling a pest population to make sure it doesn’t grow big enough to damage plants has many benefits, including stronger and more resilient plants.

Using carnivorous plants as part of pest control in your greenhouse or glasshouse is a great idea. Carnivorous plants not only trap and kill insects but they also actively entice and attract pests to them, hopefully sparing your plants from becoming a tasty meal.

There are a some things to remember before introducing carnivorous plants into your integrated pest management plan. Carnivorous plants won’t remove every insect and every pest from your growing environment. You’ll might even still need to use chemicals, although hopefully much less. Carnivorous plants plants also have their own set of unique requirements, and can’t just be treated like the rest of your greenhouse. They’ll need their own water source and their own soil. You will also need to maintain them to get the best out of them. Just like most other plants, you’ll have to remove dead leaves as they are replaced with new leaves and cut off flower spikes to promote continual growth.

Sundews or Drosera, often make great additions to keep insects under control. The two Drosera I recommend are Drosera capensis (Cape Sundew) and Drosera adelae (Lance-Leaved Sundew). They are low maintenance, tolerant of a variety of growing conditions and produce lots of new leaf growth quickly. They also also very efficient at hunting and trapping insects.

You will need to provide them with their own pots of carnivorous plant soil and a tray of distilled or rainwater to sit in. After which, they can safely be placed among your other plants to help control insects. They won’t be able to control molluscs such as snails and slugs. These pests are too big to be captured.

You’ll need a carnivorous plant for each few square meters of growing area. Less is more when it comes to carnivorous plants as pest management. In order to be able to see whether you’re getting success, you’ll need to examine each carnivorous plant for dead insects. A plant which doesn’t have any bugs doesn’t need to be there.

Carnivorous plants don’t need fertilizer, they’ll receive all the nutrients they need from the insects they are removing from your growing area. Carnivorous plants also don’t like being sprayed with pesticide. If you use chemicals as part of your integrated pest management plan you should remove your carnivorous plants before spraying. They can be re-introduced as soon as the spray has settled.

Posted on Leave a comment

What’s in a name?

Botanical nomenclature, the term used to describe the formal naming of plants, has been around for a long time, actually since the mid 17th century. The current system of nomenclature has its beginning with Carolus Linneaus, a Swedish botanist, who formalized today’s system of naming plants.

Botanical nomenclature is independent of zoological nomenclature. Therefore botanists do not have to be concerned with the names or rules associated with animals and bacteria.

The current nomenclature system is known as Binomial nomenclature. Under this system plant names have three components: (1) the genus name; (2) the specific epithet; and (3) the authority or individual(s) responsible for the name. Components 1 and 2 are either italicized or underlined.

An example is Drosera capensis L. Drosera is the genus name for the group of plants commonly known as sundews. The specific epithet is capensis, Latin for cape, and is descriptive of the Cape in South Africa, where this plant naturally occurs. The authority is L., an abbreviation for Linneaus, who first coined a formal name for this plant.

So the proper Binomial name is Drosera capensis L. It is common, and acceptable to see a Binomial name without the author. As in Drosera capensis.

There are also a number of levels of classification below that of species, with the most common being subspecies and variety, abbreviated to ‘subsp.’, (or less usefully ‘ssp.’) and ‘var.’ respectively. This allows further subdivision of plant groups to reflect the variation in form and distribution we see in nature.

An example of a subspecies is Sarracenia purpurea L. var. venosa (Raf.) Fernald. Also written as Sarracenia purpurea var venosa. As you can see from the example above, each name below genus has a author attached to it. Again, the name can be written without through author components.

What about families? You’re probably familiar with the term family when it comes to plants. Family sits above Genus, and is a collective term encompassing every member of the genera it’s represents. For example, the Sarraceniaceae family consists of all plants. Including cultivars in the genera Sarracenia, Darlingtonia, and Heliamphora.

As we work with carnivorous plants it’s all but impossible to come a cross cultivars too. Names for cultivars (cultivated varieties) is more complicated and dictated by another set of rules known as the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants.

The cultivar name is always added after a valid Binomial name at the genus or species level, is not Latinised, is put in single quotes, and is not italicised. Some examples of cultivar names and their meanings are:

  1. Sarracenia ‘Alicia’ – a cultivar which is a man-made hybrid between two species
  2. Sarracenia flava ‘Maxima’ – a cultivar which is a selected form of a valid species.
  3. Sarracenia flava L. ‘Maxima’ – a cultivar which is a selected form of a valid species.
  4. Sarracenia ‘Maxima’ – is an alternative way of naming this plant, acceptable, but less informative.

You might have heard the term clone before? A clone is an unregistered cultivar. All cultivars are clones, but not all clones are cultivars. Often people will distinguish the difference between a cultivar name and a clone name by using a double quote to represent a clone instead of a single quotes.

An example is Dionaea muscipula “Dutch” (unregistered clone) vs Dionaea muscipula ‘Dutch Delight’ (registered name)

Cultivar names have author components too. The name is usually the person who registered the cultivar with the appropriate cultivar registrar authority. For more information on cultivar names, you might want to check out the International Carnivorous Plant Society website. The ICPS is the registrar for cultivars of carnivorous plants.

Plant names can seem overwhelming. My advice is persevere, read and ask questions. Any grower worth your time will be able to explain their plants and plant names to you. People spend years studying botany at universities to get a handle on this stuff. Don’t give up, you’ll get there.

Posted on 4 Comments

Scams on ebay

I’m really tired of seeing scammers on ebay take advantage of people who are interested in carnivorous plants. You may ask yourself, buy why? What’s it to you? Well the answer is simple. You screw people around and they get disheartened and disillusioned. When it comes to enjoying and cultivating carnivorous plants, that would be a real shame.

What this is not is a ‘buy from us’ lecture, as if we’re the only trustworthy people out there. (A) that’s not true, there are many honest growers, and (B) I don’t care who you buy from. It’s not like I’m the carnivorous plants God. I just don’t want to see you get ripped off and then give up. There are LOTS of excellent, trustworthy, knowledgeable growers out there who are more than happy to share their love of carnivorous plants with you.

This list shows some of the scams on eBay. I regularly update this page, but please don’t take this list as comprehensive. Always do your due diligence when it comes to buying online.

Insect-Catching Plant Enchantress Carnivorous Pot Bonsai Samens 100 SEEDS

Wow. What a great picture. Too bad it’s a complete crock of rubbish. I’m kind of glad these plants don’t exist, Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin would have probably died prematurely from a heart-attack.

This one also goes by the name 100Pcs/Bag Insects Catch Sorceress Carnivorous Bonsai Plant Seeds Garden Decor I. The words make sense, but the sentence is nonsense.

LOCAL AUSSIE STOCK – Dionaea Muscipula, Blue Venus Fly Trap, Plant Seeds ~10x

Check out how cool that blue colour is! I love it. I must have it! Only two problems, the plant doesn’t exist and even if it did, seeds aren’t guaranteed to produce exact copies of their parents, so my brand new blue Venus Fly-Traps might not even grow up to be blue themselves. Bummer.

Various Flower Seeds Ideal Garden Potted Seed Rare Flower Plant Ornamental Decor

Please, don’t even make me try to have a go at explaining this nonsense. In their “mix” they’ve got a blue rose for heaven’s sake. Roses do not naturally occur in blue because they lack the anthocyanidin pigment delphinidin, which is the cause of blue colors in flowers. No amount of breeding or hybridization of roses can result in a true blue rose. It’s not a matter of uncovering a recessive gene. There is no gene for blue. Lets move along.

Lots Fruit Strawberry Watermelon Lemon Plant Succulents Flowers Seeds Home Decor

Wait, haven’t I seen that image before? Yes. yes, I have. It’s the same photo as before. You’ve just changed the order of the squares. Man, scammers just aren’t putting in the same efforts anymore. If I’m going to be scammed, I at least want to be elaborately scammed.

Flytrap Flower Seeds Carnivorous Plants Seeds Unique 100pcs/Bag Balcony Living

These guys are producing some out of this world cultivar Venus Fly-Traps. They’ve got leaves like Drosophyllum, venation like Sarracenia and a evolved Dionaea mouth. So cool. They’re from a place, you may have heard of it, called… Fantasy land.

Venus Flytrap Maroon Plant Young (Dionaea Muscipula) Carnivorous Plant Rare YH

I especially love how they’ve got the colour maroon wrong.

I’ve been working with carnivorous plants for a long time. Sometimes, during the middle of winter, when my fingers feel like they’re about to fall off from dividing and re-potting, I think maybe too long. But, if this is the fruit of my labours, I hope I loose every finger I have to frostbite! And they’re offering a discount at the time of writing. How could I say no? Sorry, guys. You’re not fooling me. Big time scam.

Cheap seeds

Please be cautious of cheap seeds, that otherwise seem legitimate. If in doubt, ask questions. If you’re still in doubt, don’t waste your money.

Posted on Leave a comment

Buyback program

It’s the time of year when most people are dividing and re-potting their Venus Fly-Trap collection. As such, we thought we’d help people figure out what to do with all of their extra divisions.

Sell them back to us for hard, cold cash!

You choose between:

  1. 35% of our product retail value in cash.
  2. 40% of our product retail value in store coupon discount.


So if you have some extra divisions from your plants this winter / spring, shoot us an email to let us know what you have and see if they are varieties that we need. We’re always in need of more plants of some varieties and other varieties, such as typical flytraps, we may not need more of. But don’t hesitate to ask! This is an easy way to get rid of extra divisions while growing your collection through store credit or getting some quick cash.

Posted on Leave a comment

Safe water for carnivorous plants

The only safe water for many carnivorous plants is clean rainwater, deionized water, reverse osmosis water or demineralised water. That is it. Nothing else. Not river water, not tap water, not holy water, not water you import from Switzerland.

Certainly in Adelaide and other parts of South Australia the potable water is not suitable for carnivorous plants. Our advice is to assume your water is not safe for your plants until proven otherwise. An accurately calibrated TDS meter is a reliable way to show the amount of dissolved solids present in the water. We recommend using water with less than 50ppm dissolved solids. Though some other growers report water with as much as 100ppm dissolved solids is fine.

You may come across some bad advice when researching this topic. My favourites are, if you boil the water and allow it to cool down it will be OK for your plants. This is infact a big lie but nonetheless one which tripped me up when I was a kid. Boiling water will not remove dissolved solids, actually it will have the opposite effect. Dissolved solids will become more concentrated as the pure water evaporates away.

Another piece of bad advice is you can safely use spring water. Spring water is loaded with dissolved solids in the form of minerals. Great for us to drink but no good for carnivorous plants. The truth is almost all potable water has a lower TDS than spring water. Again something I learned the hard way when I was much younger. By now you’re probably getting the impression I was a cool teenager.

Posted on Leave a comment

How to divide a Venus Fly-Trap

Dividing a Venus Fly-Trap is actually pretty straight forward. This article will provide you with what you need to know in order for the job to be done efficiently and properly. Don’t let the task spook you. The best way to learn is get in there and give it a go. Learning how to divide your plant is well worth the learning curve. The benefit of division is restoring vigour and growth to the plant. Plus you increase your collection.

Division is ideally done late winter. That said, I have divided many a Venus Fly-Trap successfully during the growing season. Be prepared for your plant to suffer a minor amount of setback though. If the weather is hot when you divide your plant, you may consider giving the plant a two or three recovery time before introducing it back to full sun. Reducing the initial sun by half and then introducing more each day is more the adequate.

The first question you need to answer is can your Venus Fly-Trap be divided? Not all Venus Fly-Traps are candidates for division. It largely depends on the age of the plant and how long it has been in its pot for. It’s easy for the trained eye to spot a Venus Fly-Trap which can be divided. What you’re looking for is multiple growth points. The easiest way to tell is to follow the traps down to where they emerge from the rhizome. Division is possible if all traps don’t originate from the same place. Another sign that a Venus Fly-Trap can be divided is to look for smaller traps. These traps will be very small compared to other traps and will likely be bunched or occurring in and around the same spot. The Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ below has been in it’s pot for about 12 months. Division is taking place during dormancy in late August 2017.

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ ready for division

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ ready for division

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ ready for division

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ ready for division

The next question is do you have all the right equipment and material? It is not uncommon for “single” mature plant to be divided into four or more plants. You will need enough pots and carnivorous plant mix to accommodate all of your divisions. The carnivorous plant mix needs to be low in nutrients, acidic pH, water retentive and have good porosity. You can buy the right carnivorous plant mix from us or make the mix yourself by mixing different ingredients in the right ratio. Running out of material half way through a job is frustrating and dangerous to your divisions. The ideal pot for Venus Fly-Traps is plastic and at least 70mm. You will also need plenty of suitable water for carnivorous plants. Make sure all materials and equipment are clean and ready to go before you touch a plant.

Standard Carnivorous Plant Mix

Standard Carnivorous Plant Mix

Take the plant from its pot by turning it upside down while supporting the plant with your hand. The plant will easily slide from the pot. Remove as much of the media from around the roots as possible without damaging roots. Gently break media up and allow it to fall off. You may find it helpful to pour water over the roots to help dislodge any stuck media. The idea is to remove as plantsmuch of the media as possible for visibility. You need to be able to see the white rhizome and roots of the plant in order to see where the plant divisions are. Don’t worry if traps are set off during this process. It can be unavoidable but they will re-open by the next day.

You can see individual clumps of plants in the two photos below. They look like small “bunches” of flowers. They form the basis of division. Each clump will be / is a new plant. The clumps will want to come apart really easily with gentle teasing. Often the hardest part can be to separate the traps without breaking them off their stems. As the clump is gently pulled and teased into individual divisions it is a good idea to wash and hydrate each division in a bowl of clean rainwater. The water helps remove the last of the old media and also stops the plant drying out while you’re working. Never use excessive force to break clumps apart or split a division where it is not already naturally dividing. Be very careful not to damage stem or rhizome by squeezing too hard when separating divisions.

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ clump

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ clump

When all of your divisions have been separated I suggest laying them out on a clean surface grouped by size. You may decide larger divisions are planted individually while smaller divisions are planted in a community pot. Or you may use a different sized pot depending on the size of the division. Either way you will be able to easily see what your options are.

Four larger divisions

All divisons

Two smaller divisions

Prepare your pots by filling them with media by hand. Tap the pot on a hard surface to help the media settle in. You may need to slightly top up the pot with more media afterwards. Don’t compact the media down into the pots. Make an appropriate sized hole to accommodate the plant and its roots. Long black roots can be trimmed with clean secateurs to help the plant fit if required. Do not trim any white roots. Hold the plant in the hole, while supporting it in place, fill in the media around the roots. Gently press down around the hole to remove air pockets. Don’t worry if (when) media gets inside traps and on the plant. The plant will be watered clean shortly. The plant should be planted to the same depth as in its original pot. Don’t leave the white rhizome exposed above the media. Once the plant is firmly and securely in place give it a gente water. The first water will settle the media and help remove the last of the air pockets which around the plant’s roots. After an initial water give the pot a label. In our nursery we use plant codes on our labels. The codes are connected to a database. But a label can be as easy as writing the name of the plant on it. Repeat the potting process until you’ve re-potted all of your individual divisions. Once all of the divisions are in their pots give each pot a very good water. water four or five times the volume of the pot. By the end clean water should be running out of the bottom of each pot.

85mm square pot

Dionaea ‘Big Mouth’ in a pot

Watered, labelled and settled in

Potted divisions

Move your Venus Fly-Trap divisions into a bright outside area immediately. The sun might not be shining brightly in late Autumn but as much light as possible will help get your new divisions off to a quick start. Within a few months each division will have filled their pot. They may even try to send up flower spikes! In a few years it will be time to divide these Dionaea “Big Mouth” all over again.