11 Aug HOW DO YOU GROW SARRACENIA?
Although very different in shape and size, Sarracenia and Dionaea muscipula share the same natural habitat and require very similar care.
Fortunately, many of the rules seen for Dionaea muscipula also apply to these beautiful carnivorous plants with a very distinctive trap that at first glance may resemble a “trumpet.”
The carnivorous leaves of Sarracenia are called “ascidia,” which in some species can exceed one meter in height. at the furthest point of the ascidium and away from the rhizome are the peristome and operculum which differ in shape and color depending on the various species of Sarracenia.
Sarracenia is a carnivorous plant belonging to the family Sarraceniaceae (a family to which the genera Heliamphora and Darlingtonia are also members) native to the southeastern belt of the United States D America, from texas to South Carolina. It lives in bogs, “flooded” peat plains constantly soaked with rainwater.
Please refer to the article on the cultivation of Dionaea muscipula for a detailed description of the peatland environment (https://www.diflora.it/guide-en/come-si-coltiva-dionaea-muscipula/?lang=en).
We summarize here only briefly the main characteristics of peat:
- It exhibits an acidic pH
- It has a very low nitrogen content (and other compounds easily assimilated by the plant). Nearly zero!
A. SUN EXPOSURE
Full sun all year round! It is possible to shade slightly in the warmer summer months to avoid excessive temperatures that can stunt the plant’s growth. Sarracenia is, however, much less sensitive to heat than Dionaea muscipula.
Why full sun?
For energy issues. Catching prey requires a lot of energy from the plant. Energy comes indirectly from photosynthesis. So more light intensity = more energy = more capture!!!
- For habitat-related reasons. In bogs, the number of plants that can grow is very limited and these are mainly small shrubs or sporadic trees that can withstand acidic, nutrient-poor soil.
- An environment without much vegetation = nothing to shade the plant by shielding it from direct sunlight.
3-4 cm of distilled or rainwater always present in the saucer. Alternatively, all waters that have an extremely low mineral salt content are suitable. For example, all condensation water (air conditioner, dehumidifier). The conductivity of the water must have a value of less than 50 micro-siemens.
Peatlands are ecosystems with an impermeable bottom, mostly clay, which does not allow rainwater to penetrate the lower layers. The result is permanently waterlogged soil that results from the condensation of atmospheric water vapor, which is naturally devoid of mineral salts.
Mineral salts, on the other hand, are commonly found in fresh water and in our aquifers and result from the dissolving of limestones that make up rocks and go into the waters of rivers and lakes. Sarracenia has adapted to grow in an environment devoid of mineral salts derived from water, particularly carbonates, which in the long run would raise the pH of the substrate, irreparably damaging the plant.
Sarracenia likes stagnant water. 3-4 cm of distilled water always present in the saucer,even in winter (even if it freezes). This is to faithfully mimic the natural soupy environment in which they live.
50% pure sphagnum acid peat / 50% perlite
Sarracenia does not tolerate nutrients. We avoid pH-neutral or nitrogen-amended peats often found in acidophilic potting soils. Peat must be pure. Perlite is an inert substrate that helps aerate the substrate. In nature there is obviously none, but forced cultivation in small volumes (our pots) requires adaptation to increase the shelf life of the constantly wet substrate.
CAUTION: Do not breathe in unprotected perlite dust, moisturize it properly before handling it, it is a very fine dust and harmful to our lungs!!!
Outdoor plant. Outside even during the coldest months!
It has evolved to grow in a temperate climate with hot summers and cold winters. It also tolerates subzero temperatures even for extended periods if during the day the substrate can thaw and the plant can adsorb water properly.
What happens in winter
In late fall, the ascidia begin to dry out. Sarracenia in fact stores energy in an underground stem called the rhizome, which is white in color, and lets most of the aerial part die off as the cold weather arrives.
DO NOT BE ALARMED
This is normal. The plant is doing well and should be hydrated with a few inches of distilled water in the saucer as usual, in the same outdoor summer location. In Spring, as temperatures rise and light hours increase, the aerial part will sprout again and the plant will begin to vegetate again.
What to do in spring?
In spring, temperatures increase as do the hours of available light. These stimuli are perceived by the plant as the beginning of a new growing season.
Sarracenia’s awakening is characterized by flower growth. In appearance, the flower emerges from the rhizome as a small ball (immediately recognizable compared to the forming leaves, which are instead flat and thin).
Unlike Dionaea muscipula the Sarracenia flower is nothing short of spectacular. By cutting it off you gain in ascidian vigor, which will begin to grow soon after the flower, but you certainly miss an unusual sight: each flower has its own shade of color, its own smell, its own bearing.
The decision is up to you!
If you want to fully enjoy all the beauty of this fantastic carnivorous plant, I recommend letting the plant bloom.
If, on the other hand, you want to push ascidian production to the maximum, then you can cut off the flower with a common scissors as soon as it reaches 3-4 cm in height.
E. Pests and Diseases
The growing season brings with it, in addition to many beautiful satisfactions, also some possible inconveniences, particularly with the arrival of hot weather. As the weeks pass, in fact, the possibility of our Sarracenia being attacked by some pests or other stresses increases!
Let’s look at the main ones:
Aphids: stinging insects of varying color (usually white or green) a few mm in size, visible to the naked eye and easily eradicated. They sting and suck plant sap causing mainly leaf deformities and small galls.
The saliva of these parasites produces auxin-like substances. Auxins are plant hormones that, along with others, control the plant cell cycle. Disruption of the hormonal balance causes the plant to produce galls, small clusters of undifferentiated cells (tumors) that appear as leaf bulges.
How to get rid of it?
Sarracenia is attacked sporadically by these pests. If it happens they can be removed manually if early in the infestation or they can
be eliminated with biological pyrethrum-based aphicidal products. Repeat the initial treatment after 10 days to also eliminate any new hatchlings from the
eggs laid initially.
Mites: mites are very small arachnids (0.5mm for females and even less for males) with stinging mouthparts. They sting the leaves of our plants to suck their sap and feed. The main symptoms associated with red spider mite are leaf discoloration and leaf wilting/ browning much faster than normal, often when it should not.
Why is it dangerous?
Its small size makes it difficult to detect, and its symptoms can be mistaken for normal leaf browning due to excessive heat or the arrival of cold weather and vegetative rest. The effects of mites on Sarracenia are much less invasive than those on Dionaea muscipula however they retain some danger and are often complicated to eliminate completely.
How to get rid of it?
A contact acaricide insecticide for minor infestations followed by systemic acaricide for major recurrent infestations.
Cochineal: This is the pest that most commonly infests Sarracenia. Again, this is an insect with a stinging mouthparts that feeds on plant sap. It reproduces sexually, producing a huge quantity of eggs that are extremely hardy and difficult to kill with common contact insecticides. Fortunately, it is easily identifiable because of its appearance and its not-so-tiny size (it reaches almost a cm). Cottonwood cochineal is the name of the most common of these insects. Its body is red, but completely covered with a white waxy layer from which it derives its name. In Sarracenia we find it concentrated on growth points, at the bottom of the leaf base and, when infestations are more advanced, also along the entire length of the leaf. In addition to direct sting damage as with other stinging insects (recognizable because it gives rise to deformed leaves) it generates sugary secretions that coat the plant tissues. In the case of abundant infestations, the secretions cause fungal proliferation on the plant surface, especially at the growing points. Factor that in the long run can lead to rotting of green tissues.
How do get rid of it?
First we recommend the use of a systemic cocciniglycide insecticide. Then (after a week) we can proceed with manual removal of the pest (which should be dead). In this way we avoid, by removing it, distributing the still-living parasite to other nearby plants. It is advisable to repeat the treatment after one month. In case the infestation continues, it is advisable to treat in winter (at severed ascidia) with mineral oil to remove the eggs still present. Mineral oil acts by asphyxiation, apply it only when the plant is resting over the entire surface of the plant so that the covering effect is effective. Dispense it in the evening so that the plants are not exposed to direct sun in the hours just after the treatment. We recommend the choice of well-ventilated rooms and the use of appropriate PPE to carry out any chemical and non-chemical treatment to our plants.
In the warmer months, light shading is recommended to prevent temperatures from rising too high. Sarracenia exposed to excessive temperatures (especially when grown in summer in small greenhouses in full sun) can go into stress and stop growing completely.
What do we recommend doing to avoid heat stress?
1) Shade in the hottest months with the aim of lowering the temperature.
2) Cut back the flower in spring. The flowering
Managing our Sarracenia when we are on vacation is easier than expected. The fact that they not only tolerate but even love waterlogging
makes it possible to use the raft system.
Using a suitably sized piece of expanded polystyrene or any other floating support, a floating platform can be made for our pot.
1) We drill a hole in the center of our floating raft so that the jar can be placed there. The holes in the bottom of the jar must protrude from the bottom surface of the raft.
2) We choose a bucket or container large enough to hold the water needed to cover the plant’s water needs for as long as we are away (be careful to also consider evaporation and not just water absorption by the plant)
3) We place the raft with the pot in the container filled with water. Make sure the buoyancy is stable! Especially given the size of Sarracenia.
Such long ascidia can unbalance the raft if not done properly.
In this way, the raft will adjust to the gradually decreasing water level while keeping the peat moist and the aerial part dry!
In this article we have talked about all the main aspects of cultivation, not in a schematic and generalist way, but trying to follow a logical thread that starts from the natural habitat and aims to make the needs of the plant compatible with those of humans (including vacations). For all aspects unrelated to cultivation, including the mechanism of prey attraction and capture, evolution, and curiosities inherent in Dionaea muscipula, visit the appropriate article here: https://www.diflora.it/guide-en/come-si-coltiva-dionaea-muscipula/?lang=en