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Carnivorous Plants/Use of Public Water for Pitchers


I have been growing Sarracenias flava, Ladies in Waiting, Tarnok, purpurea, and Judith Hindle for several years.  When I got my first flava, I read to never use chlorinated water on them, but that chlorine would evaporate if you let the water sit for that is what I have been using, letting it sit in a 5-gallon bucket for days.  Recently, a friend sent me instructions he received with an order of sarracenia, which said city water chlorine had no effect on pitchers.  It did mention that minerals and salt could be a problem.  My question is, do I need to be concerned about chlorine or not?  Assuming minerals and salts do not dissipate in a standing bucket of water, can I assume that since my pitchers are doing well, my water is okay in that regard?  I looked at the on-line water analysis for my jurisdiction (Chesterfield County, VA), and it lists a lot of things, but I don't see a specific value for minerals, salts, or hardness.  It's probably in the report, but perhaps I don't know the proper term to look for.  Thank you for your help.

Hi Terri,

I'm going to answer all your questions together here, so the other questions will appear as duplicate questions rejects.  Also, all the information your looking for can be found in great detail in our volume #1 DVD with lots of "how-to" information on growing, seasonal care, water issues, soil, etc...  It can help you avoid many of the pitfalls so common to new growers, and help you avoid the minefield of internet information.

First, your water quality.  What carnivorous plants object to the most is mineral content in the water such as calcium and magnesium, hard water minerals.  I looked up your Chesterfield County reports (kind of a mess, most cities have this laid out on a one page chart), and from what I could determine, your Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are about 32ppm.  If it's under 50, usually it's safe enough for carnivorous plants.  Chlorine is much less of an issue unless it's unusually strong because it does dissipate.  

A great inexpensive way to test the water yourself, and get a great filter is to go buy a ZeroWater pitcher.  They come with a TDS meter, and they are only common pitcher filter that removes minerals.  Brita, PUR and all the others don't.  They're great for small quantities of purified water.  I'm not making a pitch for this company, but they are the only filter aside from much more expensive reverse osmosis units that will remove any minerals.

The next topic, undrained containers.  In gardening of any type this is a big "no-no".  Even with carnivorous plants which like being wet, it's a recipe for root-rot from lack of oxygen, and you'll build up minerals which carnivorous plants hate.  Always use containers that have drain-holes and water trays underneath.  You can use screens or BTi mosquito dunks to control mosquito larvae.

Trimming leaves/pitchers.  Be ruthless.  Cut off anything that is even starting to turn brown, and for thick growers like S. rubra types cut everything off before the new growth starts.  With plants like S. purpurea and S. psittacina be more selective.  Those don't tend to have big rhizomes, so they need more leaves to photosynthsize.  Bigger plants like S. flava, S. oreophila, and S. leucophylla cut off everything except the phyllodia, which are the non-carnivorous winter leaves.  Just like with trees, shrubs, and other perennials this removal opens up the rhizome crowns to light.  You get better fungal control, and better development of new growth.  Even though you are still having frost (we are too in the Pacific Northwest), this is the time to trim them.  

I saw the most dramatic example of this a few years ago when my partner directed an employee to cut all the leaves off of a batch of Scarlet Belles, which are a psittacina/leucophylla hybrid.  Up till then I had just carefully trimmed off dead leaves because the leaves tend to last through the winter.  When I saw them, I was a bit miffed, thinking it might set them back since if you cut off all the leaves on a psittacina, it will.  Two months later the plants that had all the leaves removed with bigger, and much nicer looking than the ones that had only been selectively trimmed.  I was a firm believer at that point.  You will often run across growers that disagree with this, but I firmly believe you need to get most of that old foliage off for better plant health.

Good Growing!

Jeff Dallas
Sarracenia Northwest  

Carnivorous Plants

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If your carnivorous plant is showing poor growth, discoloration, abnormal leaves or possible infestation, the expert growers at Sarracenia Northwest can help! They have a great depth of experience dealing with diseases, pathogens, and abnormal growth in carnivorous plants.

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