Carnivorous Plants/Sarracenia


QUESTION: I ordered a sarracenia alata about three weeks ago and since it got here there hasn't been any good looking leaves there is abot three small pitchers on it and two of them have black tips as if it was starting to die I'm giving it 8hrs of sunlight and I live in a Phoenix like climate a bit less hot but just as dry can you tell me what is wrong with my plant ?

ANSWER: Hello Albert,

Well, first I would need to know where the plant came from, what conditions they kept it in, the general humidity your keeping the plant in as opposed to the humidity of the place it was raised in.. etc. There are a host of factors.

Do you have the plant indoors or outdoors?

What is your humidity where you live and what is the humidity of the place it came from?

How much water are you giving the plant?

Is it in direct sunlight?

What is the temperature during the height of the day?

What kind of soil is it potted in?

Has it been exposed to chemicals or fertilizers of any kind?

Do you see any pests on the plant?

How long did it take to reach you if it was mailed to you (how long was it in the box basically)?

Did you get it from a trusted source (someone you know or a specialist in carnivorous plants that cares about the plants they sell)?

In general, on first obtaining a plant, you have to remember that it may have come from a source that raised it in very different conditions from yours. Plants can suffer from low light if they were in a box for too long. Plants can often suffer from humidity shock if they were raised in high humidity, then placed in low humidity conditions all of a sudden.

Sarracenias are very tough and hardy plants, but like all plants, they do not like sudden changes in environment. Make sure the plant is kept in moderate temperatures but high light levels with low ultraviolet spectrum for now (you may need to slightly shade the plant during the midday sun if it is outside). Make sure the humidity is at least 50-70 percent. You can simulate this by placing a plastic bag over the plant and punching some pinholes in it for air to begin with, then every three days, punch about 3-6 quarter-inch holes in the plastic, allowing drier air and less humidity to remain in the bag over time, slowly. After about two weeks of this slow humdity acclimation, remove the bag. Do not place a bag over the plant if it is in direct sun as it can hold in heat and cook the plant. You may need to place it in a morning sun window and add florescent lights to provide enough light for the plant until it recovers in a few weeks. A basic 40 watt twin tube shop light would be fine in the short run if it is placed about 4 inches from the plant's leaves and the plant gets additional window light. Use cool white tubes if you try it.

If you have the plant indoors, it would require the combined effect of about 5-6 twin mount florescent cool white shop light mounts in a single square area over the plants. It would take about a 4 x 4 area to do this, I know because that is my setup for growing full sun plants indoors (including all of my Sarracenias and Venus Flytraps for the last 8 years or so.

Make sure your Sarracenia is getting a lot of water. Use only distilled, rain, or reverse osmosis water as anything else may contain too many minerals #which will harm your plants by modifying the Ph level of their soil). The water level for a Sarracenia should be around 1/4 to 1/2 the pot depth in water. A large 2-4 inch tall tray should be sufficient according to your pot and plant size.

Send me a followup with more information if possible and I may be able to pinpoint a problem area or two.

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

QUESTION: My sarracenia came from eagle creek Oregon it came from a website called verry good packing so I assume they do take care of their plants they are in full sun out side there days average temperature is about 83 farenheight my climate is very dry the water I use is in a plastic container outside I heard that if you evaporate the water the harmful chemicals will leave and it will be safe to give to carnivorous plants I don't know if its true I would like for you to clear that up for me I hope that information is enought to help me if not ill answer any questions nessesary to help you diagnose what is wrong .

Hello again Albert,

That is the same company I rely on for my plants and supplies. They are actually the experts on this site from Sarracenia Northwest, so you might send your questions their way as well. They are very knowledgable and their plants are top quality. They truly care about the plants they grow and provide.

First off, one big problem will be the water. Often the myths people provide are untested and untrue. One such myth is that placing tap water out in sunlight will allow harmful chemicals to dissipate. This is one myth that is true yet false. Yes, chlorine and some other chemicals do dissipate over time in sunlight, however, the truly harmful things in that tapwater (to carnivoroue plants anyways), namely, mineral solids like magnesium, calcium, and potassium salts are still there. Those are the minerals that are likely the number two killers of carnivorous plants since many people try to water with tap water that may be too hard for their watering needs. Carnivorous plant soil is acidic in Ph level. It lacks nutrients and bacterial action is slowed down in such soil. When you add minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium, the soil Ph level changes and burns/rots the roots of most species of carnivorous plants.

Start watering with distilled, rain, or reverse osmosis water only and do so heavily for the next few days to bleed out the minerals. Do a lot of top watering. If you feel your tap water is very heavy there, as mine here is (over 50 parts per million paticle solids of which mine is around 220), then you might even need to repot in fresh sphagnum moss/perlite mix.

The other problem may be the high heat and low humidity. Plants that require a lot of water, particularly bog plants like Sarracenias, will need a lot of water and care to ensure they are not dried out too much in low humdity, hot conditions. Sarracenia Northwest does have relatively low humidity and high heat where they grow their plants, but it may still be higher humidity than yours. Provide slight shade over the plant during the hot noon sun and try to keep it well watered all the time. Sarracenias are full sun plants, but even full sun in a hot near desert area can harm them if they dry out. They can handle temperatures of over 100 degrees if they are kept moist all the time.  

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Christopher Littrell


I am capable of answering questions about the most common carnivorous plants found in cultivation. I have no personal experience with Byblis, Drosophyllum, Aldrovanda, and Heliamphora. I have not cultivated gemmae forming pygmy sundews nor tuberous sundews. For information regarding those aforementioned species, I would suggest contacting other experts. I can answer questions regarding most species of Nepenthes, tropical and temperate Drosera, Mexican Pinguicula, Sarracenias, and Dionaea. I have some limited experience with growing Utricularia, Cephalotus, and Darlingtonia.


I have grown carnivorous plants off and on for about 27 years. I have made the same mistakes and suffered the same mishaps that many growers make as they attempt to separate the myths from the realities of growing these plants. Currently, I am successfully growing a variety of tropical sundews, a Nepenthes, several Venus Flytraps of varying ages, and Sarracenias. I have been successful in stratifying Sarracenia seeds and providing artificial dormancy requirements for my temperate plants when needed.

I hold a Master's degree in Educational Psychology. Over my lifetime, I have constantly read books involving the growing conditions of carnivorous plants. I hope to incorporate the educational aspects involved in psychology with teaching other people how to cultivate carnivorous plants.

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