setting up a bog terrarium

flower8750May 11, 2007


I am new to keeping carnivorous plants. I have four carnivorous plants right now. Three of them are doing great. The other one isn't doing as well, I'm hoping to get it going good again. The plants I have are two venus fly traps, one trumpet plant, and one picther plant. The plant that isn't doing well is the one venus fly trap. I got it from a nursery wednesay afternoon. The poor this looks like it needs to repotted badly and his soil was somewhat dry. Anyway, I would like to set up a bog terrarium for my carnivorous plants. I have an empty 10 gallon and an empty 20 gallon tank. Which one would you reccomend? What all would I need to set up a bog terrarium? Would I need to buy a growing light? How often do you feed carnivorous plants? I'd appreciate any advice and info anyone could give me.

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Hi flower8750,

The Venus Flytraps and Trumpet Pitcher are North American plants that really do not need a terrarium. Are you using the terrarium idea just to set up a bog and keep it open to air or do you intend to cover it for humidity? North American plants require open air and can adapt to low humidity. They also need full sun to grow properly and a terrarium would cook them if you put it in full sun. Another consideration would be drainage. A terrarium does not get much drainage, so bacterial rot and fungus could take hold and kill the plants.

I place all of mine in uncovered pots and adapt them to room humidity slowly over a couple of weeks if they come covered. (punch holes in the cover or raise it a little every 3 days until it no longer holds humidity in, then take it off) If you really want to make a terrarium, you could put tropical sundews or Nepenthes in it. They do better in terrariums than temperate plants do, but you have to ensure good drainage and constantly change out the soil every year or sooner to keep it from souring. It is just easier to keep them all alive in pots, even the tropicals.

The flytrap that is not doing well is probably dried out as you surmised. Since they are bog plants, they get water constantly and die rather quickly when they dry too much. They like well drained, but always moist soil.

1. Soil needs to be acidic mix of one part sphagnum peat moss and one part horticultural silica sand or perlite, your choice. The main thing is to make sure none of the ingredients have fertilizer in them as that would kill the plants.

2. Water them only with distilled, fresh rain, or reverse osmosis water that has all minerals and salts removed. Venus flytraps like a tray of water up to about an inch up the pot and the pitcher plants would like water up to 2 inches or so deep in the drainage tray.

3. Do not worry about feeding them anything until they are getting plenty of light and are growing well. If they are healthy, they will likely catch plenty of insects on their own anyways, especially if you do not have them in a closed environment. Carnivorous plants grown in low light can never gain any advantage from eating insects no matter how many you feed them as they simply cannot get enough energy to digest them. Insects are their fertilizer, thats all. Light is primary, insects are much less important, like vitamin pills for us, a supplement. Never fertilize them, it rots their roots.

4. Dormancy is required for temperate carnivorous plants during winter. In a terrarium it is hard to get the plants to go dormant unless you can completely control the light level and temperature at a whim. It is usually easier to place them outside on a sunny patio where they are protected from animals yet get plenty of sun, air, and insects. As the photoperiod reduces and the colder air comes in, they will go dormant in winter until February or so. Just protect them from temperatures over 100 in summer and lower than 30 degrees or so in winter.

It is possible to grow temperate carnivorous plants indoors, but it is much more time consuming and prone to difficulties since most people can't provide full sun conditions and dormancy requirements. Fungus often infects carnivorous plants in enclosed spaces (small pots and terrariums) too.

I am assuming when you say pitcher plant that it is a Purple Pitcher plant (or one of the Sarracenias) and not a Nepenthes? Nepenthes are tropicals and require very different conditions than the temperates.

Good luck with your plants.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2007 at 11:18PM
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Thanks for all the information.
So Just repot the plants I have in bigger pots and put them outside? They have been growing very well so far. Even the venus flytrap that wasn't looking good looks much better than when I got it. So Just leave them outside for winter? It gets pretty cold up here in Pa. I'll just use the fish tanks I have for fish lol. I don't know what kind of pitcher plant I have it wasn't marked so I don't know what kind it is.

Here are pictures of my plants.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 1:05AM
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For the pictures to show up in the forum, the TAG tab on Photobucket is designed for this type of forum. Just click the URL and it will copy. then paste to the message box.

I don't have an elaborate bog set up, but use plastic buckets with handles, filled with sand & peat, and topdressed with long fibered sphagnum. I live in Ny State, so their time outside is limited from mid-April to mid-October. Then I tote them to an attic window for the cold months / dormancy period. Everybody has their own approach, depending upon climate, money, and home.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 10:29AM
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Hi Flower 8750,

I just copied and pasted your links and got a look at your plants. They all look like North American species.

The Venus Flytrap is making a flower scape, so clip that off right now or it might weaken the plant since it is coming from low light conditions, it might kill the plant to complete flowering. It should grow sturdy, short petioles with large traps that stand up in spring.

The tall straight Trumpet Pitcher looks like Sarracenia minor and seems to be growing lanky leaves seeking light. Their leaves will be a bit stouter in higher light.

The short, squat pither plant is a Purple Pitcher subspecies Sarracenia purpurea purpurea. It can live in very cold northern regions down to zone 4-5. As you can see, it is not very purple right now as it needs that full sun. In full sun, it will develop very deeply colored red and purple pitchers.

All of those plants need to go dormant in winter and require full sun to really thrive. You can get them full sun by first acclimating them. They have been in low light for now, so need to get a tan by experiencing increases in light for the next couple of weeks. Place them in a well lit east or west window for one week, a south facing window with high level sun all day for the next week, then place them outside on a patio or balcony where they are protected from squirrels and birds but can get good sun all day. They might experience a little leaf burn at first, but just keep them watered and watch for new growth. You will be surprised at how much faster they grow (Pitcher plants are never fast about anything though) and how colorful they are in sunlight.

Keep up the good work and they will look great in a couple of months.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 7:40PM
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I'll repot them as soon as possible and put them outside where they can get more sun. I have an old bird cage I could keep them in so they will be protected from birds and squirrels.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 18, 2007 at 8:35PM
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The bird cage idea is one that intrigues me. I can get my minibogs through a winter dormancy just fine, in our cold attic, but putting them outsode in the spring has been a disaster for 3 out of the past 4 years. Can't tell if it's birds, squirrels, or kids, but something has ravagewd my VFT's, Sarrs, and temperate sundews, let alone 3" rainstorms and aphids.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 7:39AM
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Actually, you can make your own cheap cage with chicken wire of 1/2 to 1 inch mesh. Just get a roll and cut it into an appropriate length, wire it together along the edges, make a top for it, and you have your own cage. Make sure it is a few inches distant from the plant leaves just in case. That way, larger animals cannot get to the plants, insects still can, and light is still able to pass without humidity or heat buildup. This is what we did on the farm I was raised on when we wanted to protect individual plants from goats and birds.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 7:59AM
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