New Terrarium

plowboy91(6)March 10, 2008

Hi everyone,

I am currently looking at turning an old aquarium into a terrarium but I don't know if I can put all of the plants I want to in a common soil that will work for all of them. When it's finished I will have:

2 venus fly traps (Dionoea)

3 sundew (Drosera)

1 Tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes)

1 north american pitcher plant (Sarracenia)

1 butterwort (Pinguicula)

Is there anyway that is going to work and if so what media mix should I go with (60% peat, 40% sand with long fiber sphagnum moss on top)? Are there any plants in there that aren't going to work with the rest? Please help! Thanks

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I'm kind of simple with my "soil", I just grow everything in long fibre sphagnum. Most other people here seem to prefer mixes, so maybe they can answer that part of your question better.

The problem I see with your set-up is that you are combining things like flytraps that need an annual dormant period of reduced temperatures and light, with things like tropical nepenthes that like to grow year-round. So I think it would only work for a year or less, then you'd have problems. The other things you mention -- Drosera, pings and pitcher plants -- might or might not need dormancy, it depends on the species. You could use two aquariums and combine plants that need dormancy in one, and plants that don't need dormancy in another.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 9:16PM
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So it would work if all the things that need dormancy are in one and they would all be fine in long fiber sphagnum?
Because it's no problem leaving the Nepenthes out.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 9:35PM
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I've had no problems growing flytraps, nepenthes, pitcher plants and sundews in pure long fibre sphagnum. Whatever soil mix you choose, I think the same mix would be fine for all those plants. And I grow my plants in aquariums, so I like that idea.

If the Nepenthes is the only plant needing dormancy, yes, leave it out. But some sundews need dormancy, some don't. Same for pitcher plants and I think Pings. So check your species out to see if they need dormancy or not, and group them together accordingly.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 10:53PM
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Ok, I am fairly certain that all of the plants beside the Nepenthes have some dormancy requirement. Do have any suggestions on where to get the sphagnum moss from? Thanks for all the help! Also, do you keep your plants in their pots or just stick them right into the moss?


    Bookmark   March 10, 2008 at 11:13PM
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You redally need to provide different conditions for the variety you have projected.

2 venus fly traps (Dionoea)
3 sundew (Drosera)
1 Tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes)
1 north american pitcher plant (Sarracenia)
1 butterwort (Pinguicula)

The VFT's & Sarracenia are outdoor plants and can be kept together. Mix sand and peat and topdress with LFS.

The Nepenthes is more an indoor plant and should be in a mix of Perlite, orchid bark, and peat. Hanging baskets or terrariums work.

The sundew (D.adelae?) and butterwort (P. primuliflora?) (sounds like a Lowes "cube of death" purchase) can be grown at a window sill and you can mix sand and peat, having their pots (with holes for drainage) in a plastic container of distilled water.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 11:14AM
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Another issue is with lighting. If you're using lights that are set high enough to accommodate the sarracenia, they will will be far too high for the smaller plants. Why have them in a tank? Display purposes? The temperate plants that I have inside are inside because they're either wal mart rescues that couldn't go out for the winter this year or they're sarrs that I am bringing out of dormancy. None need to be in tanks.

I don't think that anybody has said this yet, but the watering needs are different for different species and most neps would not care to share the same amount of water as the other plants you've mentioned. Unless you're plopping a N bicalcarata or something in there, you'll need to keep the nepenthes watering. I think that peat/sand is too think for most neps, but I'm sure others grow 'em just fine in there.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 11:32AM
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Well I have Drosera and Dionoea in pots under a plastic cover with a light on top so I can maintain temp. and moisture. I got the plants in October and they showed no signs of dormancy so I left them growth rather than forcing anything.

My vison was to create a terrarium with a large amount of plant variety pending they would all grow well in the same environment. However it seems that they won't all work.

I live in Pennsylvania and I am not familiar enough with the plants to try this outside for the summertime since I don't have much free time due to work.

Right now I think I am going to remove Nepenthes from my list because it is going to be an oddball at this point.

In fact it seems like a terrarium with sundew, VFT, and Pings would work for me at this point. I would like to create an outdoor display with all of these plants but I have no idea where to begin figuring out how I can them to thrive in my area during the warmer months.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:37PM
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Hey TJ, aka Plowboy91,

A lot of this is experimentation -- finding out what works or does not work under your specific growing conditions, then tweaking things until you find out what works best for you.

For me, I've had trouble keeping Pings long-term, so I'm not the guy to advise you on that front.

Flytraps work great in an aquarium outdoors in summer, and given cold-windowsill dormancy in winter. But I'm pretty far North, so my flytraps spend most of their time in winter dormant in a partly-sunny basement window at 50-55F, with the coldest nights dipping to around 39F where the plants sit. After 15-20 years of growing the same original plant or two, they just seem to keep multiplying.

I only grow sundews under fluorescent lights, in partly-covered aquariums (in individual pots) because I find they need a lot of humidity to form nice beads of "dew", and they just don't get that outdoors around here.

I see you've received many different comments on watering, lighting, soil mix, etc. You will come up with own best conditions, but it will take a bit of experimenting, and tweaking what plants work for you and what plants don't.

You also asked about sources for long fibre sphagnum. As mentioned in an earlier reply, this is what I use exclusively as a growing medium, but I think more experienced growers here might frown on my choice. At any rate, here's the product I use. When rehydrated, two of these 300 gram blocks will fill a 5 gallon aquarium to a depth of about 6 inches of tamped-down long fiber sphagnum. I am in Canada, and I buy this product from a Canadian seed company, but it is actually Chilean sphagnum moss, packaged in the United States. Wow, talk about a global marketplace! You should be able to find this product at an online mail-order seed company, or perhaps even locally. Many local nurseries carry dried, compressed sphagnum, just make sure it isn't spiked with fertilizer. If you can't find it locally, I can give you the address of the company I get mine from.

Compressed sphagnum block:

Sarrencia grown in pure long-fibre sphagnum:

Ping in LFS: (Limited life-span on this one)

Venus fly trap in LFS:

Drosera adelae in LFS:

Have fun experimenting!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 4:57AM
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Hi Plowboy,

Welcome to the world of cps.

You said, "Well I have Drosera and Dionoea in pots under a plastic cover with a light on top so I can maintain temp. and moisture. I got the plants in October. . ."

It sounds like you may have purchased these plants with the plastic cover on the top. Many are sold that way in stores. Most call that set up the cube/dome of death. These plants can adapt to the humidity and temperatures in our homes and be healthier for it. The humidity and temperature within the dome are perfect environments for fungus and/or mold.

One of the first things I learned was how to remove the plastic top and adapt the plants to our normal humidity and their proper lighting. Plants go into shock being shipped, sold and from other sudden changes. Best is to ease the plant into any new environment. I slowly start raising the dome or cutting holes in it. Every 4 days or so raise the dome slightly or cut another small hole in it. Over the period of a couple of weeks the dome should be raised high enough or have so many holes in it that it can be kept off permanently. No reason to rush it. The plant should now be adapted to the humidity in your home and not show any signs of stress or shock from it.

Use the same graduating method with raising the lumens of light the plant is under. Slowly move the plant into the amount of light you plan to use. Of if moving the plant outside place it where it receives morning sun first, its not so strong, and dappled or sunscreen afternoon sun. Then gradually move it to full sun.

The VFT and sundew should be in tray of water, distilled, RO or rainwater. This also gives some humidity. I keep the level at a half inch or so depending on the size of pot. They like their feet wet but to high a water level can cause root rot. Top watering helps flush and aerate the soil.

Here is a pic of some seedling cape sundews with the domes being slowly raised on them. First one side then the other, etc.

Much success,

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 3:41PM
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That's interesting to know that they can adapt to my house conditions over time. I think I am going to attempt to grow my VFTs in an aquarium and put them outside for the summer as you mentioned Don. I may do the same for the Sarracenia like you have in your picture above as well. Sundew may stay inside but might go outside depending on my luck with the others. Oh and I found a place to get LFS so I will be ordering a block.

A big thank you to everyone that posted information here! The experience and advice are greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 6:34PM
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One more point of importance in attempting to grow North American carnivorous plants, like Venus flytraps, in terrariums is that 99.9 percent of the time, the plants will die due to the aforementioned mold, low light conditions, lack of dormancy cues, and root rot from poor drainage. Don seems to be using the terrariums more as open top planters, giving the plants a bit of added humidity, while keeping them open to some air. It is much easier to keep them in a large planter or pot, or several pots, with trays of water under them. The worst experiences I have had with growing carnivorous plants involved enclosed terrariums. The best, is now with all plants, Nepenthes, Flytraps, sundews and all, living open pot in the optimum light and temperatures I can provide in my region.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 2:34AM
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