Today (Aug 13, 2014) my order of Dendrobium Moschatum from eBay arrived. These were grown in a flask, unflasked by grower prior to shipping.
Much like cuttings started in water these will grow new roots to replace the ones they grew in the flask. For now they’ll stay in a terrarium to keep the humidity up. As they grow new roots and leaves I’ll start leaving the cover off eventually planting them up in pots.
I tried putting them worm castings and sphagnum moss in the terrarium and inserting the plants. They are so fragile now that wasn’t really working. I removed them and took each plant, made a ball of moss around the roots and inserted that into the terrarium.
I’m told newly unflasked plants do better when they are kept near their siblings? I don’t know, maybe so. These are closely planted in two terrariums sorted by plant size.
The terrariums have worm castings and sphagnum moss, they’ll be weakly fertilized with rooting hormone added as the terrariums need more water.
The biggest trick is to keep up the humidity but not let molds or fungus attack the new seedlings.
Aug 15th, leaving the cover off the terrariums for a while, the seedlings still look good, so I’ll start to harden them off.
These are Dendrobium moschatum, which get as tall as 6′-7′ according to the grower.
I decided it was time to try something more challenging. So I ordered a couple of flasks of Ghost Orchids ( Dendrophylax lindeii ) on eBay.
The flasks arrived in a few days, everything looks wonderful.
I did have to break the flasks to remove the plants, not a big deal, wrap the flask in a towel and use a hammer.
After removing the orchids, I dropped them into a container of water with fertilizer and rooting hormone while I gently untangled them and removed the agar.
So far so good.
They are currently dispersed across 4 terrariums, worm castings on the bottom, sphagnum moss, then mulch, orchids are resting on the mulch.
For now I’ll keep the light levels low. The largest trick is to keep the humidity close to 100% and keep mold and fungus from killing the seedlings.
I use a light dose of fertilizer with rooting hormone to water my orchids, these included.
I’ve lost two of the ghost orchids to fungus, I’ve dispersed a few that didn’t look good into the carnivorous terrariums.
About a half dozen have grown their baby leaves, these two leaves are temporary and will fall off once the plants get settled.
Of all the carnivorous plants I grow these are some of the more challenging. For easy carnivorous plants, try a pitcher plant.
Flytraps do very well in terrariums. Any clear covered glass container will work. Fill the bottom with soil that does not have any fertilizer and sphagnum peat moss. A 50/50 combination of sand/peat works well. Soak the soil and wring it out. It should be damp not soaking. Place your flytraps in there, put the cover on, put it in a sunny window and forget about it. They will thrive. Another option is to grow them in just sphagnum moss. I’ve had that work very well for me also.
The only other way I have been successful with flytraps is to put them in a clay pot with a soil and peat moss mixture. Put the clay pot in a dish with about an 1″ of water. Water from the bottom, just top off the water every morning.
Fly traps grow slowly. You’ll need to be patient. When they are happy and large enough they will give you really cool flowers in the late spring. They rarely get beyond 8″ in height, most will max out at 5″. The flowers are white and will grow on long stems far above the height of the leaves.
Temperatures are not important, I’ve kept them in sunny northern homes with no air conditioning and drafty old Victorians in the dead of winter. Short of freezing them or baking them at 100′F or more they won’t complain.
I’ve found the most important thing for success is high humidity, it is more important than the amount of sun ( which should be as high as you can get)
Deadhead the old traps to encourage new growth. If a trap turns black, remove that leaf.
Do not feed your plants fertilized water. They will turn black and will die. Instead, if you must, cut your fertilizer to about 1/10th its normal strength, then spray lightly on the leaves. Do this no more than once a month.
Use tap water except if you live in a hard water area, then use rain water or distilled.
Flytraps are mostly dormant in the winter, do not be alarmed if yours do not grow then or die back somewhat. Ease up on the water a little during this time so as to not rot the tubers. You do need to create a dormant period. Many sites declare you need to stick them in the refrigerator for a few months. Not so. I grew beautiful, large flowering ones for years in New England. Not once did I create a dormant cycle.
Do not feed them meat. They eat bugs, not cows, not chickens, not lambs. ( and that is a very good thing )
Do not feed them bugs larger than half the size of the trap. The trap needs to fully close around the bug.
They hate to be transplanted. Since there is no danger of over watering them go ahead and put them in a decent sized pot to start with.
There are usually three trigger hairs on each side of the trap, sometimes more. You will have to look closely and catch the light just right to see them. There are also digestive glands on the traps inner surface which release enzymes to dissolve the bugs and to take up the nutrients. These are the red area of the trap. In the outer green edges of the trap are glands that release nectar to attract insects. This part of the trap reflects ultraviolet light that most insects can see.
The trap closes when two or more of the trigger hairs is bent over by an insect in less than a half minute or so. At the base of each trigger hair is a cell that allows the trigger to bend over, it acts like a spring. The upper part of the trigger hair is stiff and unbendable.
The trap rapidly closes when triggered, but leaves small air gaps. Smaller insects escape through these gaps. If a larger insect is inside and it can not escape through the gaps, the trap slowly closes the rest of the way. This is triggered by continuing movement of the trigger hairs or if the prey insect urinates or defecates.
The fully closed trap fills with acidic liquid released by digestive glands. Digestion takes time depending on the size of the insect. Digestion could take as long as a month. The trap reopens once all nutrients have been absorbed. The exoskeleton of the insect remains, waiting to be blown off by wind or washed off by rain. During this time the trap will not re-trigger.
These plants are native to bogs in North and South Carolina which is the only place they are known to grow in the wild. Temperatures there range from ~20′F to 100′F. I tried some outdoors but they couldn’t handle the summers of Houston or the winters of Boston.
Do not buy wild plants. They are endangered. Buy from reputable dealers. A lack of fires to clean out surrounding vegetation, and increased fertilizer runoff has damaged most of the remaining habitats of these plants.
These plants were a favorite of Charles Darwin who considered them to be one of the most wonderful plants in the world. Carl Linnaeus spoke of them as a miracle of nature. John Ellis was the first to describe the flytrap during his travels to the new world. Upon his arrival home there were lines of people waiting to obtain this plant, much like the iPhone lines of recent.
Aphids, mealy bugs, scale and thrips can all be a problem for fly traps. Orthene or some other systematic insecticide is best. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use soap based insecticides.
Black spot and other fungus can also be trouble. Captan is the favorite fungicide right now. You should be able to find it at any plant supply store.
They are difficult to grow by seed, division is a better way to propagate them. Take an outer leaf and gently pull down, you want to get as much of the white area at the bottom of the leaf as you can, that’s where it’ll root. Place the leaf in a terrarium, morning sun, moss, lots of distilled water and you’ll see roots in about a week. You want enough water to keep the terrarium walls clouded up but no water sitting at the bottom. You can purchase liquid rooting hormone, there isn’t any in this batch, I’ll try some with my next batch.