Growing North American Carnivorous Plants

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Most of the carnivorous plants that have been discussed are not too difficult to grow successfully, given a few basic but rather strict requirements. There is clearly an increased interest in things botanical today, and there is special horticultural interest in unusual plants. Carnivorous plants now appear frequently in general houseplant catalogues, on the shelves of nurseries and commercial greenhouses, and in local discount and grocery stores. The number of dealers specializing in carnivorous plants is slowly but definitely growing.

What follows is a highly personalized version of my experience in growing carnivorous plants. I have successfully cultivated and propagated nearly all the species in this book, as well as numerous foreign carnivorous plants. I have found that in many cases several methods will work well, while in other instances one must adhere to a specific protocol. I do not pretend that my methods are the only useful ones, and the reader will very likely come across several other methods claiming equal success. You will do well to beware of brief and overly simplified instructions for a species inhabiting certain rather narrow ecologic situations. And by all means remember that any plant that has not been specifically bred and developed for the nursery trade — and this includes all our carnivorous plants — is never going to adapt perfectly in culture, no matter how apparently successful that culture may be. Plants always grow best where they are found wild, assuming that man or some other force is not destroying the surroundings to which the plant has adapted during millenia of evolution. We can never hope to duplicate nature exactly, and certainly not by taking a few minutes to stuff a plant into a pot, taking it home to greenhouse or windowsill, and contentedly concluding, "Well, that's it."

This chapter is arranged in five sections. The first will deal with some general principles and definitions of the basic elements of the culture of carnivorous plants. Its main purpose is to be sure that we understand important terms and required growing conditions, and to lay out a broad overview of how North American carnivorous plants can be cultivated. Most of the information you will need is in this section. The second part will deal with specific genera and certain exceptional species within each genus; we will funnel the basic principles of the first part into the discussion of each genus, mentioning certain factors requiring emphasis in each case. There will be a third section on how you might manage or construct an outdoor bog. A fourth section will list a few specialized commercial mail order sources for carnivorous plants native to North America. Finally, we will say a few words about field collecting.

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