It all Started with a Venus Flytrap
I have always been fascinated by Venus Flytraps and other weird creepy plants in general. I vaguely remember having a VFT on our kitchen windowsill when I was a kid. Unfortunately, it didn't end up living too long. Now I'm all grown up (aka old), I decided to actually do some research, and give it another go. Excited and reminiscing about the awesomeness of Little Shop of Horrors and Nintendo Piranha Plants, I set off on my mission. Success! I managed to pick up a small green and red Fang flytrap at Bunnings.
I returned a week later, and rescued a rather sad looking Pitcher Plant...then a week after that it was another little green VFT! It was official - I had been bitten by the bug (pun intended). Throw in a well timed trip to Perth with Aunty and a rotund little Pitcher Plant and an awesome Sundew (originally grown by Redrock Nursery) came to join the family.
My Carnivorous Collection "Growing"...
A Few Simple Tips to Remember
Venus Flytraps and other carnivorous plants have a reputation of dying easily, however this probably due to the fact that they are rarely sold with any care information! Here's a few important tips I have learnt recently;
- They need sunlight and plenty of it - most carnivorous plants will prefer to be outdoors.
- They also need plenty of water - they are bog plants after all! Distilled water or rain water is best for carnivorous plants as the minerals in tap water can build up over time and kill them. Though some growers claim that if you can drink your water straight from the tap then it's ok for your CP's. Trial and error at your own risk I guess...
- A lot of CP's have a dormancy period during the year. Don't immediately assume your plant has died when it may just be having a snooze...
- Don't poke at your Venus Flytrap dude. VFT's use a considerable amount of energy to close their traps. They will become exhausted and die if their traps are constantly being triggered without the benefit of prey to digest.
- Never use regular potting mix for carnivorous plants - it will kill them! They thrive in nutrient deficient soils and absorb all they need by digesting insects and other small prey. A 50/50 mix of fertiliser-free Sphagnum Peat Moss and Propagating Sand works well for many types of CP's.
Since all of my plants had been purchased from low light conditions, I gradually increased their sun exposure by allowing them to soak up some rays on my windowsill before moving them outside to my balcony. A sudden change in environment can shock plants and set back their growth, so this little adjustment period made them happy (I could totally tell). I kept them sitting in trays of rain water, refilling when need be.
I admit I was drawn back to Bunnings one final time and was horrified to find all of their remaining Pitcher Plants completely bone dry. If they weren't still full price (even now) I would have rescued the lot of them. It seems they are considered very much disposable, like cut flowers. After much agonising, I picked out one very thirsty plant and took it home to be rehydrated and revived.
I was now the proud owner of two Venus Flytraps, three Pitcher Plants and one Sundew. The space on my windowsill was beginning to run out...it was clearly time to make a mini carnivorous plant bog garden!
Make a Mini Carnivorous Plant Bog Garden
You will need;
First take your Sphagnum Peat Moss and rinse it to remove any contaminants. Make sure it is genuine Sphagnum Peat Moss, without any added fertilisers. Squeeze out the excess water and mix it throughly with equal parts of rinsed Propagating Sand creating a 50/50 planting mix. I was lucky enough to be given some lovely True Grit Sand from Andy.
Take your clean planter or container and put down a layer of pebbles for drainage. I bought this nice green pebble mix from Bunnings, and also gave them a quick rinse to remove any excess dust.
Follow with a layer of Horticultural Charcoal, which will help to keep your water clean and filtered. Since my container is transparent, I also give this an initial rinse to remove the excess charcoal dust.
On top of the charcoal, next add a layer of 100% sand. The pebbles, charcoal and sand will all provide drainage at the base of your bog garden and help to prevent root rot.
Now, you can start adding in your 50/50 planting mix. Cut a small piece of plastic sheet and start forming a natural looking pond, shaping it with your hands. Trim the edges down and hide the lip under more planting mix, rocks, wood etc. Once you have a good pond shape, add a few pebbles for weight and a natural look. Using a sharp toothpick or needle, poke a few holes in the bottom of the plastic for drainage.
Plot out your arrangement and then carefully add your plants, filling any spaces in between with more 50/50 mix. This is where a small spoon comes in very handy! I put my Pitchers closest to the water pond, and my Venus Flytraps a bit higher up.
Carefully fill your pond recess with water, stand back and marvel at your hard work! The water will drain through the holes made in the plastic sheeting, bottom watering your plants. Top it up when need be, I usually do mine everyday since it's outside. Make sure the top soil always feels damp, and your plants should be happy. If you would rather skip the pond feature, then opt to use a planter with drainage holes, watering using the tray method. You now have a beautiful little carnivorous bog garden!
One Month On...
One month on and my mini carnivorous plant bog garden is looking very happy indeed! My much loved plants are catching plenty of insects outside and all of them are showing new growth. The Sundew that was completely dry when I first purchased it, is now it's covered in plenty of beautiful dew drops with little buzzy insects stuck all over it. With Winter approaching, some of the plants might go into dormancy but I'll keep careful watch over them and post another update of their progress in the future.
I've gotten so excited over my awesome little CP's, I have even purchased some seeds to have a go at growing them from scratch! Because clearly you can never have too many carnivorous plants...
Here's to your growing success!
Rachel continues to actively and passionately participate in a range of exhibitions, prizes, collaborations and community projects. She resides in her hometown of Geraldton, Western Australia with her partner, two dogs, two cats and carnivorous plant collection.
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