How to keep carnivorous plants alive in the office


How to keep Sticky Plants Alive
Keep the soil wet.
Use only distilled or rain water.
Plant only in coconut coir or sphagnum moss for soil.
Give lots of light.

Problems for Office Plants
The biggest problem that I’m seeing with the carnivorous plants brought back to me is

Image

The white powder in the middle of the picture is salt build-up.

that they have a little bit of salt build-up. Just a little salt can be fatal to bog plants.
You should suspect salt of being a problem if you see white powdery build up on the sides of the pot, or soil surface; or if you see that the leaves of the sundew are dying back about half-way.

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The leaves ends are brown. This is a symptom of salt build-up.

For house plants, salts come from one of two places: potting soil or water. Since I have planted the sundews in coconut coir with no rock particles in it, no salts are coming from the soil. That leaves the water.
Water picks up salts from rocks and the soil and moves them around. Tap, well, and spring water all have dissolved salts in it. Only rain water or distilled water are completely salt-free. You can buy distilled water in a jug at the supermarket on the bottled water aisle.
The other problem that you might see is that the sundews aren’t getting enough light.  You can tell that a plant isn’t getting enough light if it becomes pale and “leggy” – there is a lot of thin stem between leaves, and the leaves are long and straggly. That shows that the plant is trying desperately to grow to find some light.

 

Background
Most soil is made up of small to tiny rock particles and organic material – partially decayed plant roots, stems and leaves, micro-organisms, and a few animals, mostly worms and insects. The rock particles provide nutrients. The rock particles also provide a tiny bit of  various types of salt to the soil. The salt is dissolved in water and either builds up on the surface or is washed away. It is salt that makes water “hard”. Hard water builds up scale around your faucet and white powder in over-watered plant pots.
There are no rock particles in bog soils. The soil of the bogs is usually made up entirely of organic matter. Organic matter holds water very well, but provides no nutrients. Without rock particles, most plants can’t live in bogs.
All carnivorous (meat-eating) plants live in bogs. Since the soil provided no nutrients, carnivorous plants developed ways to eat bugs. The famous Venus flytraps close on flies. Pitcher plants lure bugs into bowls they can’t escape from and they drown. Sticky plants, or sundews, ooze sticky sap that traps gnats and other tiny insects.
Carnivorous plants grow in the middle of a bog, with very little shade beyond cloud cover. They need light, as much as you can provide in an office environment.

About coloradogeography

Amy Law is a second-generation Coloradoan with a passion for her native state. This translated into a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from Colorado State University, and continues as a lifelong fascination with how people and nature interact. From family vacations in the station wagon to travel for work, she's covered the state, and everywhere she goes, she finds new things to see and ideas to explore.
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4 Responses to How to keep carnivorous plants alive in the office

  1. Heather says:

    Howdy outstanding website! Does running a blog like this take a great deal of work?
    I’ve no understanding of programming but I was hoping to
    start my own blog soon. Anyhow, should you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share.

    I understand this is off topic nevertheless I just had to ask.
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    • Hey, Heather!

      Glad you liked my site; I really have a lot of fun thinking up topics to post.

      The biggest thing that blogging takes is the discipline to make yourself sit down and write. You don’t need any previous programming experience, WordPress (and other blogging sites) have made it pretty simple. It might help to pick up a book on blogging from the library to help with some of the quirks that come up, but I don’t think it is a requirement. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s free; all you are investing is a few hours to get it up and running. Go for it!

  2. Alyxandra Vogt says:

    Love your blog! I recently got a great desk sized planting pot and wanted to put a carnivorous plant on my desk. Are there carnivorous plants that are better suited for office life? (Recognizing the best place is outside of course)

    • Alyxandra —

      So glad you enjoy my blog. It’s a lot of fun to write.

      So far as carnivorous plants in the office go — hmmm. Although we grow enough that we can share our sundews (the sticky plants in my post) with people at my husband’s office, I am not an expert on carnivorous plants. I just happened to spot a mistake that people were making BECAUSE I HAD MADE IT MYSELF.

      But here’s what advice I can give you — no promises. Sundews and Venus flytraps tend to grow in open bogs. That means that they get a lot of light, more than I had realized until I saw some in the wild (in Alaska, of all places!). I think the pitcher plants, like Sarracenea and Nepenthes, are more used to growing in forests, and so would be more used to lower light levels that you would have in an office. Even so, I think they are going to need as much light as you can give them. A window is a must, unless you get some grow lights. We are able to grow them because we have a south-facing sunroom — essentially a greenhouse attached to the house. The more light the carnivorous plants get, the more red shows up and the prettier the plants are.

      If you can’t put them next to a window at your office, you might try is to have several plants, one at home and one at the office. Keep the one at home next to a window, so that it gets plenty of light. When the one at the office starts looking “leggy” with long stems, or a lot of leaves start dying, you can swap them out. A hassle, I know, but what price beauty?

      The other piece of advice I can give is DO NOT LET THEM DRY OUT. NOT EVEN ONCE. THEY WILL DIE. I keep the potted plants in dishes so that I can monitor how much water they are sitting in. In Colorado, you probably will be watering them once a day with distilled or rain water.

      The International Carnivorous Plants Society has some good recommendations: http://www.carnivorousplants.org/howto/GrowingEnvirons/WindowSillGarden.php

      Sorry I couldn’t give you some never miss tips. I think you can make carnivorous plants at the office work, but it might not be as easy as you’d hoped.

      Good luck!

      Amy

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