Thumbnail for 3949

By (Simon Eade)

The Pitcher plant – Sarracenia species is a carnivorous plant that captures its prey within a specialised leaf structure and drowns them in a pool of water at the base. Native to most of north America, Sarracenia are broadly distributed and even include a cold hardy species Sarracenia purpurea. So hardy is it that it has even successfully naturalised in Ireland.

Prey items of the pitcher plant include flies, ants, spiders, and even moths, but in their native habitat they tend to mostly attract mosquitoes and midges.

As you would expect with specialist plants they will require specialist conditions, but when it comes to pitcher plants these are relative easy to replicate.

Pitcher plants require waterlogged conditions in an acidic, nutrient poor soil. They will also need to be planted in a sunny position. With regards to being waterlogged the water should be relatively clean and fresh but so long as the water isn’t stagnant there shouldn’t be any problems.

You can grow pitcher plants in pots either indoors or outside, but if you have the space you can create a specific bog garden to display them. If you are artistically inclined then old bathtubs can be used to make an especially attractive bog gardens, as can old half-barrels lined with plastic. However perhaps the easiest way is to use a pre-formed plastic pond. Just remember to never allow your pitcher plants to dry out and always place them in a position of full sun.

Remember that pitcher plants have evolved to survive in an acidic, nutrient poor environment and as such the root systems will not be able to cope in conditions with high nutrient or mineral contents. With this in mind do not use cement, concrete or terracotta containers as the minerals that can leach out will damage the plants. Instead, grow them in a non-draining container such as a plastic or glazed ceramic.

Pot on in a one-to-one mix of peat and sterilized horticultural lime free sand or grit. Do not use river sand or beach sand as the salts within them will quickly kill the roots. Placing a layer of sphagnum moss on top of the soil mix to reduce evaporation and help to retain moisture.

Pitcher Plants like boggy, humid environments, so make sure their soil remains constantly moist. Use only distilled water, rainwater or water collected from condensation, like from an air conditioner. Now this is the important part! You cannot use tap water to water your plants as the soluble minerals within it will also damage the root systems of your pitcher plants. This problem is compounded if you water source is collected from a chalk basin, such as you find in south-east England.

Even if your local water is relatively soft, it is still not a good idea to use tap water as your main water source (unless you pass it through a reverse osmosis filter) as it will reduce the acidity of your water as well as adding unwanted chemicals and minerals. It goes without saying that you do not add plant fertilizers to the water.

Pitcher plants require a period of dormancy in order to maintain their healthy condition and are quite happy to overwinter outside if the species you are growing are hardy enough for your climate. In northern European climates the less hardy species can be overwintered in a cool garage. Those plants tough enough to left outside can be given a dressing of moss peat in late autumn.

If your plants have been grow indoors and you do not have access to garden space then you can force dormancy by overwintering your pitcher plants in the refrigerator! There is of course a knack to this.

At then end of autumn, gently remove the soil from its roots and wash with clean rainwater. Trim off any dead leaves and place in a clear, sealable polythene bag with some moist sphagnum moss and a small dressing of fungicide to prevent rots. Leave the plant in the refrigerator for at least three months, and replant in spring.

Source: blogspot/IynqY