Carnivorous Plants/Curling leaves
QUESTION: Hello Sarracenia Northwest,
I enjoy your web site, and I have all (3) of your DVD’s There great very informative! I have started growing my favorite plants again this year! Some of my Sarracenia’s however are having problems! The first week in June I received an order of CP from an online nursery. Sarracenia Minor, Sarracenia Rubra, and Sarracenia Psittacina. They are medium size plants. They came wrapped in sphagnum moss. They had many cut leaves from last years growth, so they were doing quite well last year. I was told they are just coming out of their winter dormancy. I planted them in the cp mix sphagnum peat, perlite, and silica sand, and have them sitting in trays of distilled, and rain water. Since I live in Florida this environment should be excellent for them. I grow them out side in pots!
Now three weeks later I have seen very little growth. My S. flava, my S. leucophylla, and my S. Judith Hindle I have previously purchased, have taken off. One new leaf on my rubra had been chewed on by something, I thought maybe a worm, but I never saw anything, even at night. Another leaf came out and that leaf has curled over, deformed. I know this problem could be caused by insect pests, but I see no pests! My Sarracenia Minor is having similar problems. My Psittacina, is slow growing, but have not seen curled leaves. I have never seen any insects on the plants. I am giving them about 3 hours of sun in the morning, and 3 or so in late afternoon if it's not raining! I thought maybe they could have had aphids. Close inspection revealed nothing. I am wondering if they could have some kind of root pests. I sprayed with Bayer Rose & flower insect killer with Imidacloprid. Like your recommendation in a video! Several of my fly traps had aphids. The aphids are now all gone. I am wondering what could be the problem with these pitcher plants. Here is a photo of S. Rubra deformed leaf. Please let me know what you think could be the problem. Thank you! Bill
ANSWER: Hi Bill,
The problems your experiencing are from lack of light. Sarracenia need about the same amount of sun as tomato plants and other vegetables. Ours here in the nursery get around 10 hours of sun on a sunny day. In nature they are not shaded, but out in the open. To minimize splash erosion on their pots during thunderstorms layer long-fiber sphagnum moss or coconut chips on top of the peat media. Thin wispy pitchers along with no color is a dead giveaway of low light conditions. Move your plants out to full sun, give them about 3 weeks, and you should notice a dramatic difference. You'll probably see some burn on the older pitchers/leaves, but ignore it. Just cut those off, and they'll be replaced with new healthy ones.
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QUESTION: Hello Jeff,
Thanks for your answer to my question! I have been wondering about that but I have been giving them direct sun light from 7:00am to 10:00 am. 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours or so in the afternoon from about 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The problem in Florida the sun gets hot up to 110 degrees +. The soil in the pots gets warm to the touch, if I leave them in the sun all day the roots will bake, and the mid day sun will kill the plant. In nature they don't have that problem because of the shear mass of the soil. That's why I give them morning sun and late afternoon sun. I shade them with covers as much as I can. And I have heard of pots double insulated made of Styrofoam that would help. I can't find them. Any suggestions how to keep the soil cooler during the day would be appreciated! Thanks Bill
Here's some things you can do to keep soil temperature down in the pots.
1. Group you pots together and place them in a white tub of some kind that is tall enough to block sun on the sides of the pots. Rubbermaid makes tubs like this. When you water, only keep the water depth at 1/4 the height of the pot. If the water is too deep, the soil becomes anoxic, and the peat breaks down. Doing this makes it so that the sun hits the top of the pots, but not the side, and you don't get as much heating. Also, top-water the pots frequently on hot days. It helps to oxygenate the soil.
2. Set up some low percentage shade cloth. If you make a small canopy out of 20 or 30% shade cloth it disrupts the intensity of the sun dramatically, yet the plants are still getting a large amount of sun over the course of the day. Although expensive, we have a customer just outside of Phoenix, AZ that uses Aluminet cloth very successfully in Arizona for his plants. http://www.shadeclothstore.com/default.aspx
You might also try using lattice. This can achieve the same effect.
3. Transplant your plants to bare terracotta pots. The evaporative effect from the sides of the pots keeps the soil relatively cool. You have to water more, but this is very effective. The sides of pots will feel cool to the touch even on hot days. You do need to be attentive to the watering since the terracotta will dry the soil more rapidly if the water reservoir goes dry. Here's a fun video on using this technique for cooling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcuSlaecvIw
These techniques will help keep pots cooler. Your plants do need more sun, however, so you just may need to experiment to see what works for you. Sarracenia can take quite a bit of heat.