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Planting for the Classroom

I recently purchased and received one of each of the following: Sarracenia x Scarlet Belle [Sm],   Drosera capensis (Broad Leaf), Pinguicula agnata, and Dionaea muscipula "Dente Flytrap". I also purchased the nutrient-free soil recommended for the plants. I have a small glass aquarium that I was planning to transplant into. They will be in my classroom with plenty of sunlight.

My question is: Is the aquarium a sufficient choice for housing these plants? I'm hesitant because, as I'm researching, I realize that the soil and container should have aeration and drainage.  

I want these plants to thrive, of course, and don't want to make any mistakes. Any advice, suggestions, and comments about my situation are truly appreciated!

Hi Justin,

I'm glad you contacted us before proceeding with having carnivorous plants in a classroom for educational purposes.  No other group of plants suffers from more urban legend and mythology than cp in regards to how to grow them.  Your hesitancy is well founded on placing the plants in an aquarium (terrarium).  Let's see if we can get you headed the right direction.

First some background on the plants you have.  The Pinguicula agnata grows in cool mountainous areas of central Mexico, and is used to warm days and cool nights.  It often grows on hillsides in spring seeps.  It's not a bog plant like other cp, and likes a sandy soil.

Drosera capensis (Cape Sundew) comes from mountainous areas outside of Cape Town, South Africa.  It's a subtropical plant that experiences warm days and cool nights, with rainy winters.  It will see a frost once in awhile.  It grows in bogs, seeps and other wet areas.  It's also one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow in cultivation being quite happy as a sunny windowsill plant.

The Venus Flytrap and Sarracenia x "Scarlet Belle" are both U.S. native bog perennials.  They experience hot summers, cool to cold winters with regular spells of frost and even snow at times.  During the growing season they need full sun exposure, and they need to be allowed to go dormant in the winter with their temperatures in the 30's and 40's.  When properly set up in a bog garden or cold-frame, they can handle temperatures much, much colder than that.  In our nursery both of those plants have experienced temperatures in the teen's F. with protection.  They grow best when treated as tender perennials such as many Lilies, French Lavender, or Iris.

I mention all this Justin to give you an idea of how diverse the plants are that you have, and that the that putting them together in a terrarium is not appropriate.

The Cape Sundew and the butterwort are good indoor specimens since they are tropical plants, and are used to have the temperatures the same all year.  They don't have the typical dormancy requirements that temperate species do.  The Pinguicula agnata will have a dormancy, but you don't have to do that much to accommodate it.  The Cape Sundew has none, and often grows better in winter when it's cooler.

The flytrap and Sarracenia do best as outdoor container plants for summer.  They need about the same amount of sun as tomato plants.  They would need to be brought in to a cool location for winter (not a 70 degree house or building) since they won't survive an Ohio winter in pots.  Sometimes their dormancy requirements can be met by putting them right up in a window that will get cold during winter.  It's even ok if it freezes a little.  The Scarlet Belle will do fine with a windowsill dormancy, but sometimes it doesn't work for flytraps if the room is too warm.  I've found that North windows work best for this treatment since they will not get direct sun on clear days, and will stay cool.  When spring comes, and danger of severe frost is past the plants can go outside.

Getting into the specific care such as repotting, etc.. is beyond the scope of the Allexperts format, so here are some resources.  This is our caresheet pages:  http://www.growcarnivorousplants.com/Articles.asp?ID=256  You can link into the pages for the plants you have.  Also, I highly recommend you consider getting volume #1 and #2 of our DVD series.  These are hands-on guides that show you basics and help you avoid the pitfalls so common to new growers.  Volume #2 also has information setting up fluorescent lights which can be useful in a classroom setting.

After you've had a chance to read through the caresheets, feel free to contact me back here at Allexperts if you have specific questions.

Good Growing!

Jeff Dallas
Sarracenia Northwest

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