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Carnivorous Plants/Heliamphora mistake


dry heliamphora
dry heliamphora  
QUESTION: My Heliamphora went a little dry one afternoon, the humidity tray was low but not empty, the pitchers were quite empty, the soil seemed okay but I couldn't tell but for the bits of moss growing on them they looked moist and fine. I decided to leave it until the next day to water it as it was already nearing the evening. Anyway, my plant has been getting worse and worse ever since, it has been about a month. The plant was very healthy and vigorous before then for several months.
What exactly is happening to it? will it survive? should I cut somethings off of it? How can I ensure this wont happen again?

ANSWER: There are many factors that can cause this in Heliamphora.  Unfortunately, I can't list every single factor.  That would be beyond the scope of this service.  I need your assistance in providing me relevant growing information as listed on the submission page.  Without that information, I simply don't know what direction to point you in.  For instance, in your photo, your plant is right next to a window.  Has it been there the entire time?  How warm does it get there?  

The only clue you provide is that you possibly allowed the soil to go completely dry.  Whether or not this is true, I don't know.  It would be helpful if you stated how frequently you watered your plant and how many days it had gone since you last watered.  You also brought up this issue in the past, so I don't know if you still kept the soil dry since you last wrote or you've been watering regularly and keeping the soil moist.  

The only thing I can advise is to hydrate the soil thoroughly, cut off the wilted leaves and monitor your plant.  Pour lots of water through the soil and allow it to drain through.  Do this daily for three days.  This will ensure that the soil is saturated.  

Cut off the wilted leaves.  Once a leaf wilts on Heliamphora, it will not recover, regardless of how much you water, so you might as well cut them off.  This will help you keep track of the healthy leaves.  If the remaining healthy leaves also start to wilt, despite keeping the soil hydrated, then you potentially have a problem in the soil, such as a pest or fungus.  Overheating of the soil is also a possibility.  Each of these possibilities require different actions.

Right now, based on your description, I can only assume that you allowed the soil to dry out up to this point.  In the future, whenever you suspect dry soil, always water immediately.  There is no need to wait for a special time of the day to do it.  Keep in mind that in the wild, it will rain day or night.  Plants in the wild will receive water regardless of the time of day.  The longer you wait to water your plants, the more at risk you place the plant in developing irreversible damage.

I can't say whether or not your plant will survive.  Heliamphora is a very temperamental plant.  Only time will tell.  Sometimes you have to give the plant a full month after initiating changes to determine of those changes are appropriate.  As long as you water appropriately and the remaining leaves continue to be rigid, your plant will pull through.  It could also be that the period of dehydration damaged a part of the rhizome.  Again, only time will tell if the remaining portion of the plant will survive.  

I also can't guarantee that this won't happen again.  As long as you keep the soil moist, prevent it from becoming completely dry, provide the appropriate sunlight and temperature, the plant will likely remain healthy.  Only you can ensure that the soil remains moist at all times.

If you need further assistance, please provide detailed information about the care of your plant.  The accuracy of my response depends heavily on the accuracy of your description.  The photo is helpful, but I need to know the time frame of your watering habits, whether or not the plant has been in that window the entire time, the amount of sunlight the plant is getting and other growing information.  Dehydration may or may not be a factor.  I just don't know enough about your watering habits to determine if this is indeed the actual cause.

Good growing!
Jacob Farin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yup, I only ever watered it when the tray was low, the pitchers close to empty, or every three/four days. The pot does feel a bit warm sometimes on really intense days, the plant gets around 4-5 hours of good full light and it can warm up, but generally the room is very cool, it is growing among highland nepenthes and hybrids.
I do believe it is suffering intensely from the dehydration, possibly losing it's energy or something, I'm not sure though.
I will go snip some useless leaves off, will it be okay if all the elaves end up gone? How close to the rhizome should I cut? And how exactly do I discern a useless leaf, since some are still green but slowly dying? Thanks

First, stop using your humidity tray as a gauge when to water your plant.  The humidity tray has nothing to do with soil moisture.  The water in the pitchers are also unrelated to soil moisture. In both of these instances, the soil could be bone dry regardless of the amount of water in the humidity tray or pitchers.  The only indicator of proper soil moisture is feeling it.  If necessary, remove the moss on the top soil so you could better feel how moist the soil really is.  If you also allow the soil to dry slightly, you risk overheating the roots.  This can weaken and eventually kill your plant.  

Second, place our plastic pot in larger ceramic pot to shield the plastic pot from the intense sunlight.  You're heading into your summer season, and the sun will only get warmer.  Forget about the humidity tray for now.  The size of your tray is negligible.  Ideally the humidity tray should cover a much larger surface area than that.  In any case, by shielding your plastic pot, you will keep the soil temperature down and reduce evaporation.  I suspect the extra warmth from sunlight hitting your pot increased moisture loss, which made your watering schedule inadequate.

Review my previous recommendations regarding soil moisture.  Get the soil saturated.  When watering your plant, make sure you're watering the soil, not only adding water to the pitchers.  The water in the pitchers is unrelated to soil moisture.  Only the water that you purposely add to the soil affects soil moisture.

Cut off the dried leaves as close to the soil line as possible.  If you end up clipping off all leaves, you risk killing your plant.  However, if all leaves are showing signs of wilting, then you likely lost the plant from overheating the roots.  What may have happened is that the roots died off and the plant was living off of the rhizome.  As it depletes the reserves in the rhizome, the plant will slowly shut down since it may not have enough time to grow new roots.  

Finally, consider getting a copy of Volume 3 of the Grow Carnivorous Plants DVD series.  We cover these issues in the DVD.  It will be a wise investment for your plants and avoiding common mistakes.

Good growing!
Jacob Farin  

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