Black Thumb needs help with Venus Fly Trap. Anyone know 'bout this plant?

Ben Levin benjinsl at astro.ocis.temple.edu
Thu Jul 27 13:08:47 EST 1995


Glenelf,

 When growing VFT's,  as well as many other carnivorous plants,  there 
are 5 main points about which to be careful for healthy plants.

1.  Light.
	The best thing is direct sunlight,  mine get over 8 hours of it in 
the summer,  although you may want to acclimate them to direct sun 
gradually.  For one thing sunlight has the spectral range that is better 
suited to plants than artificial,  although artificial lighting can and 
has been used successfully.  Second,  if plants are given natural they 
will be able to experience the change in daylength,  thus helping them 
get ready for -

2.  Dormancy.
	Giving the plants a period of rest (dormancy,  from french 
dormir,  to sleep) is essential for their health.  During the dormant 
period,  which should last about 3 months,  the winter (or if you're 
living in Australia,  the summer) when both daylength and temperatures 
are at their lowest.  One way of keeping plants during dormancy is to 
first acclimate them to lower light levels and then,  after about a week 
or so,  remove them from the pot,  rinse all soil from the roots,  cut 
off all dead or damaged leaves,  dip the plant in a fungicide like 
Benlate, wrap the roots with moistened sphagnum moss,  put the 
root-wrapped plant in a zip-lock bag and pop the whole thing in the 
fridge.  Make an occasional check that the moss isn't dried out.  If it's 
starting to go brown (dry)  moisten it.
	This is not something I have ever done,  but I heard it works.  
What I do is I leave my plants outside (Philadelphia,  PA) until after 
the first or second frost.  Then I take them in and put them on a 
windowsill until mid-end of-May when I move them back outside.
	One more thing about dormancy.  When the dormant season is 
approaching decrease watering.  This is important,  if the roots are left 
sitting in water over the dormant period they may rot,  thus killing the 
plant.  Over this period the soil should be kept just moist.  Which 
brings us to the next point - 

III.  Water.
	What to use?  The best thing is rain water.  Since I leave my 
plants outside this is also very convenient.  But to supplement this I 
bring home some distilled water from the lab in which I work.  If I would 
get around to it I would really like to set up the drain pipes from our 
roof to collect rainwater in large garbage bins.  This would make life 
even easier for me.  (Imagine lugging around 16 pounds of water on your 
back on the commute from work/school to home :<
	Tap water,  and even spring water sold in the stores has too much 
dissolved salts which can build up in the soil and cause the demise of 
the plants.
	During the growing season vfts like to be standing in a tray of water 
(about 1" deep).  And,  as I mentioned previously,  decrease watering 
during dormancy when the media should be just moist.  In fact one winter 
I let the soil go completely dry (by accident) and the vft survived.  And 
this was after I had left it outside in the winter until the entire pot 
in which it was growing had frozen solid!
	In short:  USE RAIN WATER.

IV.  Media (aka Soil).
	You can use all kinds of combinations of peat moss,  sphagnum 
(live,  milled,  or long fiber),  silica sand,  builders sand (as long as 
it isn't alkaline),  and perlite.  I wouldn't use vermiculite because it 
is an alkaline material.  In case you haven't noticed,  you should stay 
away from alkaline media,  VFT's,  as well as most CP's,  live in acidic 
soils.  I have my VFT in straight peat,  although lately I've been using 
a 1:1 mixture of builders sand:peat moss foralmost all my other CPs (BTW 
CPs stands for carnivorous plants).

V.  Temperature.
	Summers here in Philly can get pretty damned hot and humid,  
great CP weather (thank G-d for air conditioning).  Right now it's in the 
90's and you can taste the humidity.  VFT's can take a frost or two,  but 
I wouldn't repeat that frozen pot experience.  In addition to needing 
decreased water in dormancy,  it is also good to decrease temp's (hence 
the fridge idea).

VI.  Feeding. (Alright,  so there are _six_ points.)
	If your plants are outside you don't have to,  and no matter 
where they are,  never feed them pieces of meat.  The fat will cause the 
leaf to rot.  Occasionally I catch an earwig or a catterpiller munching 
on my wild rose bush and sacrifice it for my amusement as well as my 
plant's nourishment,  but my VFT does well enough on it's own.

Whew,  how the heck did I write all that?

Hope this helps.  If you,  or anyone else who is reading this fr that 
matter,  have _any_ more questions drop me a line,  preferably on my 
personal account.

Ben
benjinsl at astro.ocis.temple.edu



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