Saturday, March 31, 2012

Some of My Favorite Plants Are Carnivorous

As houseplants go, carnivorous plants can feel like oddballs. Impulse buys from the back of a comic book that are surely doomed to die (if they make it to your door alive in the first place!) My first mailorder purchases a few years ago arrived tiny and without pots, came with confusing instructions, and promptly died. Then I got the hang of it.

Let me preface the rest of this post by stating clearly: I am NOT an expert, or even seasoned grower of carnivorous plants. This is merely what's been working for me. Bright light (direct at my previous home, filtered through a white sheet here), and shallow trays of distilled water. That's it!

Bolstered by these encouraging experiences, I decide to try growing Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plant) from seed. I bought Nepenthes inermis off Ebay from a grower in Indonesia, even though I'd read on several forums that this practice can be futile since seeds need to be fresh in order to germinate properly. They weren't very expensive, so I figured it would be worth a try. First I filled these plastic cups with a carnivorous plant soil mix I bought from, and placed them in a plastic tray.

Here are the seeds with the pod...

...before planting I soaked the soil cups in distilled water for two days to ensure they would be moist enough (I spritzed the soil surface, too).

According to the instructions that came with the seeds, they are to be scattered on the surface. I was tempted to push a few under the soil too, but figured I'd play by the rules this first time.

I had to use tweezers to handle them...

...okay now-grow!

I spritzed them down with distilled water to ensure good soil contact...

...then set one cup next to an established sundew (currently in its' annual dieback, pardon the drooping).

The other cup will go under the LED grow light to see how that goes. I just hope at least one seed sprouts somewhere, but only time will tell.

As for the carns I have growing currently-these two are in need of division to their own pots, but were so small when I got them that one pot seemed big enough. I bought this Nepenthes bicalcarata (a.ka. "Fang") from Carnivorous Plant Nursery, and they included a free bonus sundew Drosera capensis. They both arrived in decent shape but were small and un-potted. I put them together in here, but will repot to seperate quarters soon.

This flytrap was part of an order from my favorite carn nursery, Sarracenia Northwest. Everything I've purchased has been good sized, healthy, and potted up. Check out the bloomscape arising from this beauty, Flytrap 'Dente'.

I like the rounded leaves of this sundew Drosera burmanii, also from Sarracenia Northwest. Dining on a gnat as well, goodie! The third plant from the same nursery is the sundew in my wardian case, Drosera capensis 'Red Leaf'. It actually had two plants in the pot they sent!

This is the happy plant that inspired my carnivorous confidence-Nepenthes unknown (I bought it in 2008 from a big garden store in Green Bay, and the tag it came with just had a silly cartoon and some basic cultural info). One thing the tag said was to keep it "moist but not soggy", which to me says "impossibly fussy about moisture". When I first tried to grow carns, I followed this acvice and they died. So when I got this nepenthes, I kept it in a tray of distilled water at all times. This is how it responded, so that's my new growing rule.

It was so happy last fall, it bloomed!

There's even a baby plant growing alongside, with pitchers and everything!

Just goes to show that even the largest consensus of garden advice can be ignored with good results. So blaze your own trail, no matter what the experts say. Success is in the results anyhow!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

LED Grow Lights

Okay, I'm back! With any luck, my posting frequency will drastically increase from here :)

Anyhow, I recently discovered LED grow lights while shopping for grow lights on Ebay. Have you ever tried these? The red and blue variety I'm trialing are said to emit no heat and use 80% less energy than MH/HPS bulbs, and the red + blue combo stimulate a comprehensive range of plant growth processes.
I purchased this stick light on Ebay, and decided to use it in this wardian case. It's located away from the bright natural light coming through my southern bedroom window, but I won't cover it to keep all extraneous light out as a truly scientific method may require. I run a very informal garden hobby here.

Using a couple twist-ties at each end, the light is suspended from the peak of the case. No heat concerns make this part a breeze!

I chose two plants for which I have comparables in the natural light as well, this way I can determine the difference in lighting benefit: a sundew plant and a pothos cutting rooted in water. The peaks of the case have no glass, but the other panels will maintain decent humidity.

The more vigorous pothos is in the LED experiment, and his smaller cousin is in the window. The natural light here is filtered through a white bed sheet but no curtains.

Looks pretty cool! I may try some seed-starting in here as well, but for now it should be interesting to see how these plants respond to the LED's.

I'll keep you posted!