I’ve been lusting after an Australian carnivorous pitcher plant for a long time and today my first one arrived. This post will likely change as I gain experience with Cephalotus (aka, Albany pitcher plant, Western Australian pitcher plant, fly catcher plant, moccasin plant).
Spring brings non-carnivorous leaves, followed by the pitcher leaves in the fall.
In bright light pitchers turn red but will be smaller, pitchers will remain green under lower light but grow larger. The plant grows the pitchers in a rosette. Each loop around the circle giving larger pitchers until full size is obtained ~2″ but can reach 3″. Best pitcher size is reached with high humidity and light, but not water logged peat.
The spikes on the mouth of the pitcher allow insects in but not out, as does the slippery surface of the inside of the pitcher. The nectar glands near the mouth attract insects.
There is a digestive enzyme in the pitcher which the lids keep rain from diluting. The digestive juices are released into the pitcher through glands along the bottom of the pitcher.
The lid of the pitcher plant does not move to trap prey but does move to maintain humidity in the pitcher, closing over the pitcher on drier days, pulling back on humid days.
Like most carnivorous plants, they go dormant during the winter months, and prefer to grow in wet peat moss.
Botanist Robert Brown first collected them in 1801.
Terrariums are excellent for growing these at home, they need high humidity (65%-90%).
They grow along with grasses in the swamp so they are a bit sheltered from direct sunlight. Light should be bright, too much red on the pitchers means too much light.
Unlike other carnivorous plants these ones can be over watered and will die from root rot. The crowns also need to be protected from rot.
If grown outside they can handle an occasional light frost. Preferred temperatures are 38′F-95′F
Once the plants begin to maintain fluid in their pitchers a light dose of high nitrogen fertilizer a few times a year can be beneficial, put the diluted fertilizer in the pitchers, do not apply it to the roots.
Things to watch for:
Subject to sudden death from root rot or high heat
July 14, 2014
I only recently heard about water storing crystals and couldn’t find much information on them. I had hoped I could grow my carnivorous plants indoors with out a terrarium using the crystals.
I planted a new batch of carnivores in nothing but crystals, with in 24 hours the plants had mostly dried out. I am not sure if this is due to the lack of a terrarium, the crystals or both?
I took most of the crystals, put them at the bottom of a terrarium, put a thin layer of moss on top and replanted the plants. We’ll see how that works out.
Looking at the photos, you’ll see the healthy batch of carnivorous plants right after I placed them in the crystals, and the same plants dried out quite a bit just after I transplanted them into the aquarium.
July 15, 2014
Some one on a forum claimed the water crystals super heated some container plants she had, every one told her that wasn’t possible. The two terrariums with the water crystals became significantly hotter than the other ones today. I took pity on the plants, rescued them before they cooked. They are currently outside in a mix of crystals, peat moss and sphagnum moss. I wouldn’t use the crystals in a terrarium that receives a great deal of sunlight.
* The house humidity ranges from a high of 45% late at night to a low of 41% in the late afternoon. The temperature is about 79′F this time of year. The plants are in a south west facing window and I’m in Houston so they are receiving a long, high intensity amount of sunlight each day.
* The crystals typically last 3-5 years but are broken down by heat and light, and carnivorous plants love both. So they may not be practical for carnivore plants.
July 8th 2014
I tripped across water storing crystals by accident and could find no information about planting plants straight in the crystals. So I potted two orchids in them today and we’ll see how they do?
If that fails I’ll try mixing some up with bark and potting up a couple more.
You can purchase colored and different sized crystals to use in floral arrangements.
Probably one tablespoon per plant is more than enough. Next time I use them I’ll mix them into the soil or container dry, add the plant, then add the water. It was pretty messy soaking them then trying to get them in the containers and around the roots.
Several companies make them not all use the same formula. Some are polyacrylamide hydrogels (dissolve, last 3-4 months), some are cross-linked (not dissolvable, last 3-5 years) both seem to use potassium. The crystals are in the cross-linked group.
Exposure to heat and light breaks the crystals down, so if you have plants in sunny locations, bury the crystals in the soil.
The best results I’ve seen reported by gardeners is to put the crystals and some dry medium ( pebbles, styrofoam etc ), and soil at the bottom of the pot and soil above.
July 14, 2014
When I watered the orchids today, I took half of them out of the bark, mixed in some water crystals and repotted them in bark with a sheet of moss on top. The rest are still in bark with a sheet of moss over the top, no crystals. I’ve been watering them 2-3 times a week, I’d love to cut that back to once a week.
I also have two dendrobium cuttings I’m trying to root, along with some vanilla, both are outside in just crystals, no bark or moss. I did put a bit of rooting hormone dust on the cuttings.
July 22, 2014
So far planting plants straight into the crystals has been a fail. The roots rot from too little air. Still unsure how the crystals mixed with soil will work out, I don’t see much of a difference good or bad.
I’ll post more notes and photos here over the next few weeks and let you know how things work out.