Containers

Any container specifically designed for the growing of plants is suitable for carnivorous plants. In addition, less obvious containers such as plastic pails, child-size swimming pools, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, aquariums, large glass jars, and brandy snifters can be used.

While pots are made of almost every kind of material, the more commonly used are plastic, clay and wood. Generally plastic pots are more economical, lighter and easier to use. A problem associated with a porous container, such as a clay pot, is that when water evaporates from its surface the minerals that were in the water are left behind in the pore spaces and on the surface. In time, the mineral build-up in the walls of clay pots or on the rim of plastic pots will adversely effect plants growing in them. A clue to mineral build-up is deposition of variegated crusty-like material. It is very difficult and time-consuming to remove the minerals from clay pots. Soaking in water for several days will remove some of the minerals, but usually the pots must be treated with acid to remove the balance of the minerals. It is easy to remove mineral deposits from the rim of plastic pots by using steel wool, a metal brush or scraping with a sharp tool.

The pore spaces in clay pots provide ideal homes for pests such as fungi while algae and moss may grow on the damp sides. Plastic pots are less likely to harbor disease organisms. Another advantage of plastic pots is that watering need not be as frequent because there is no evaporation from the walls of the pot. We strongly urge the use of plastic pots with drain holes until you become experienced with growing carnivorous plants.

Plastic pots are made with and without drain holes, both kinds are used succesfully in growing carnivorous plants. There are some advantages in using pots without drain holes, the major one being reduced watering. If this type is used, then provisions must be made for monitoring the depth of water in the medium. This can be done by inserting a piece of perforated plastic tubing near the edge of the pot. If perforated plastic tubing is not available, it can be made by drilling numerous small holes in the lower end of solid tubing. (If the media used has a high sand content, it is best to use tubing without perforations.) The water level in the tube will be the same as in the surrounding media so water level can be accurately gauged. An alternative is to plunge a small plastic pot with drain holes into the media in the larger container. These water level monitors not only assure the maintainance of a given water level, but can also be utilized to water the plants by pouring water into them. As experience using containers without a drain hole is gained and/or a grower is very careful in watering, water monitors can be discarded, but they do make it easy to water the plants, particularily Drosera and Pinguicula whose leaves should not be wetted too often.

We have used wooden pots occasionally, but find they are not as convenient as plastic or clay, because they tend to become heavy when the wood is soaked and will eventually rot, providing a haven for insects and other pests. Redwood pots will last a considerable time, but become heavy when water-soaked. Wooden pots can be lined with plastic to prevent water from soaking the wood and to delay decay. Wooden pots are sometimes treated with a wood preservative to delay decay, but we have never tried them for fear the chemicals might enter the medium and adversely affect the plants.

Some carnivorous plants like to have their root ends in standing water. To accommodate them, obtain a pot or pail without drain holes and drill a hole in the side a few inches from the bottom. When the pot is filled with soil, planted, and watered, the soil below the level of the hole will be saturated with water while any excess water will flow out the drain hole.

The type of container chosen will, in part, be determined by the environment in which the plants are growing. If the growing environment is humid, plants can be grown successfully in pots. If not sufficiently humid it will be necessary to provide humidity by growing them in a second container such as an aquarium, terrarium, large glass or clear plastic jar or greenhouse.

Providing high humidity within a secondary container is not difficult. Choose a glass or plastic container that allows light to pass through and whose opening can be covered if too much water evaporates. Such a container can be as fancy as a large brandy snifter or as practical as an old aquarium or gallon (4 liter) jar.

When selecting your carnivorous plant terrarium, be sure to consider the size attained by mature plants to insure that the container selected will be tall enough for fully grown plants. Most Dionaea, Drosera, and Utricularia do not create problems, bul plants such as Darlingtonia, Nepenthes, and some Sarracenia species have leaves and/or stems that can exceed 4 ft. (1.2m). Young plants of all terrestrial species can be grown in terrarium-like containers for several years.

Care of your carnivorous plant terrarium consists basically of providing water and light. The plants should be watered when peat moss in the high spots becomes lighter brown, indicating that it is starting to dry out. The other built-in signal for watering is the pulling away of peat moss from the sides of the terrarium, again indicating drying out. Over-watering can be remedied by leaving the cover off of the terrarium to let it dry out. The plants will not be damaged by occasional over-watering.

Carnivorous plants thrive in direct sunlight as long asthey are adequately watered and are surrounded by a highly humid atmosphere. The danger from direct sunlight is the build-up of lethal temperatures within the terrarium. In such a case simply remove the cover of the terrarium. Air circulation will not only keep the internal temperature down, but will also help prevent the growth of fungi.

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