Carnivorous Plants/Dividing Pitchers
QUESTION: Hi Jeff/Jacob,
I have finally done some trimming of my pitchers today, in preparation for repotting everyone. I've been postponing this because it keeps alternating between nice weather and snow/sleet. We have snow in the forecast for Tuesday in our Zone 7 area. My question is...should I divide my flavas (3 in a 24" pot) and Tarnoks (3 in a 18" pot), or is it okay for them to fill in the pot completely? (Do they like to be crowded?) (Pix attached.) I believe your DVD said it was okay to wait until they rubbed the pot, but I think that was referring to smaller pots with single plants. Also, there is juncus spiralis growing in both pots. Will this inhibit the pitchers, so I should remove it, or will they share the pot and cohabitate without incident? Tomorrow is supposed to be another nice day. Should I change the soil in all my pitchers and VFT now, or wait until after the snow on Tuesday? It's got to stop some time, right? Should I remove any more of the phyllodia on the flava? You had told me previously to leave them on, but there are right many still there, even after removing the brown ones. Will these shade the new growth, or did I open it up enough?
Thanks so much,
ANSWER: A lot of it is a judgement call on your part. The main concern is what you hope to achieve for the upcoming growing season. You can keep them in the same pot if you were satisfied with their growth during the previous growing season. There might be some crowding issues and misshapen rhizomes by the end of the season, but these issues are relatively minor. (Sarracenia need space to grow their rhizomes. They don't like to be crowded. Misshapen rhizomes and central rotting result from overcrowding.)
If you are looking to grow your rhizomes to their largest size, then you should separate each plant and place them in their own pots.
If you want to propagate your plants to have a bunch of smaller ones, then you should divide the rhizomes.
Though juncus spiralis is a bog plant, it grows along the margins of a bog where it can get some nutrients and the soil isn't as wet. Keeping it in with your Sarracenia won't harm the Sarracenia. If anything, it's the other way around.
As long as your temperatures are above freezing, you can safely divide your plants. Again, this is a judgement call on your part because you will need to pay attention to your weather. While it is very unlikely to have another snowstorm in early spring, you still need to be attentive to one. If it does occur, you will need to follow the proper protocol in protecting your newly divided plants. You can also wait until later in spring. It'll still be OK even if you have new growth.
Jeff's recommendations about phyllodia is different from mine. I prefer to cut all of them off before new growth emerges. If you wait until new growth emerge, you will have a harder time snipping off the phyllodia without accidentally cutting off the new growth. Again, there's no hard rule on this. It's a matter of care preference. If you keep them on, then you should cut them off when new growth emerges to allow light in.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi Jacob,
Thanks for your helpful answers. Since my goal is to have large, healthy speciman plants, I will keep just one of my flavas and Tarnoks in their current large pots by themselves. When I choose the largest plant to put back in a pot by itself, should I keep the clump intact to let the rhizone grow to its fullest potential, or does that make it crowd itself out in the center and be prone to rot? Or maybe the plant just expands from its outer edges? The alternative would be to divide the large plant and put the smaller pieces more spread out in the large pot. I'm thinking maybe that would make the plants "start over" and defeat the goal of getting the most growth in the rhizone, though. Just not sure how they grow.
If you want a plant to be its largest, you will need to keep the rhizome in tact. Once you divide it, it's no longer a large plant. If you suspect the center portion might be rotting out, then you should divide it. If the center portion looks healthy, you can keep it whole. (Each species and hybrid have their own quirks regarding this, so I can't offer a hard and fast rule that will apply to all plants.)
I encourage growers to learn by experience, which is why I regard much of this as a judgement call by the grower. Any of the actions you described will not kill the plant. At some point, you will need to decide what you want to do. I prefer not to make these decisions for growers because I want them to gain confidence via experience, not by what I say.
We have many Sarracenia that are quite neglected for many years. They're definitely not show-quality or market-ready plants, but they're very resilient and continue to grow. They rarely die on us unless we do something silly, like not provide the proper winter protection or overlook their watering. So whatever you choose to do will turn out just fine. Even if you kept the rhizome whole and the center portion rotted out this season, it won't kill the plant. It just means you missed out increasing the number of plants for the season. It happens to us a lot.