Impulse Purchase- 'Cobra Lily'. Help!

lorrifreitasOctober 28, 2006

I'm new to this site and carnivorous plants. Recently was at Trader Joes and bought this cool looking plant at the checkout stand (silly me). It looked like a pitcher plant to me, although prettier veination than I remember. The only thing the plant tag said was it was a 'Cobra Lily', a carnivorous plant, no genus or species (darn those crappy tags). From pictures on the internet, it looks like a Sarracenia of some kind. The plant consists of 6-8" tubular funnels, some green with white veination toward the hood, some green with red veination at the hood.

I've had it a few weeks, stuck it outside in our backyard created 'stream'. We live in San Diego, so it is still 70's daytime, 50's at night. The stream turns on & runs about 8 hours a day. The plant pot sits in an inch of water, maybe less when the stream is off, and it is in filtered shade. Lots of bugs out there!

I've been watching for signs of water stress (as in getting too much) but haven't seen any. Good turgidity, no signs of rotting at the base of the tubes, new tubes are appearing. Overall, it looks good, although I'd say the coloring seems a little less vivid than when I bought it. Maybe not enough sun? I understand that there is supposed to be a dormant period coming up soon.

So here's my questions: are these desirable conditions for this plant? Can I keep it outside all winter (it can get to freezing here but almost never below)? If not, when do I bring it in and how do I store it?

Thanks for your help!


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It sounds like you may have a Sarracenia and probably a hybrid. Right now, the most popular hybrids on sale are S. x 'Scarlet Belle' and S. x 'Judith Hindle' but first, to be sure. Does the opening on the hood have a pair of appendages that look like "fangs"? Then it is a Cobra Lily.

This pic is Darlingtonia californica, commonly know as cobra Lily.

The second pic is S. x 'Scarlet Belle'.

Finally this is S. x 'Judith Hindle'.

In your case, your plant is still growing and not going dormant. And where you have it placed sounds good. Now the question is the water, does your water run through a filter of some sort to remove chorine and fluorine? These two chemicals in high quantities can affect your plants. If it's growing nicely then thereÂs nothing to worry about, just keep in a very sunny spot and it should do fine.

If it becomes dormant, you will now right away as it no longer sprout new pitchers. Where to do with your plant once itÂs dormant seems itÂs up to the growerÂs experience. Some leave them outside as long it doesnÂt freezes but I have seen pictures of Sarracenias with there leaves and pot covered with snow. I leave them inside my greenhouse, almost forgetting about them when they become dormant, but I do make sure the soil is kept moist. Other people bring them inside their home, place them in a cool shaded spot but making sure the soil is kept moist.

Hope this is helpful, good luck!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 3:01PM
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I think your cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica) is doing just fine where it is. It is actually native to the northern West Coast. They can take the cold and DO go dormant. I think you have two dynamics going on. One is that you have a reasonably healthy plant and fairly decent growing conditions. The other is that it might be reacting slightly to the somewhat different conditons that it had been. Give it time and stability. It should be heading into and staying dormant, over the next 4 months or so and come back next next spring. This species does very well on the West Coast and the UK. For most of the rest of us, it is a challenge! I think you're doing very well!

I got this little guy, a tissue culture plant from Lowes:

Of course you realize, you'll just have to invest in a VFT and a some sundews and some butterworts and some bladderworts and.....

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 6:10PM
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Thanks for all the help, Hunterkiller & Petiolaris! With those pictures, it looks just like the S. x 'Judith Hindle' (no fangs for sure). The water we add to the stream for evaportaion is chlorinated but we add a few gallons at a time into the pond and it doesn't seem to hurt the water plants at all. By the time it hits the cobra lily, it has mixed with a large volume of water.

The spot it is in is fairly shady, so I may move it down stream to a sunnier spot. I'd like to build a rock alcove for it into the side of the stream, so you can't see the pot.

Love the Darlington pics- how cute! Sundews sound good, not sure I want anything with a bladder, butter's ok. What is a VFT?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 3:29PM
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Ok, now I just feel stupid. VFT=venus fly trap, of course. Nevermind.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 3:41PM
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You may not need to move it. They're not a full sunshine type of plant and as long as it is doing well where it is, like the old saying, 'If it aint broke.... don't fix it'. But you would be the best judge as to how it is doing.

For pictures to other carnivorous plants (CP's, click on the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: jimscot's plants

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 10:00PM
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Here's another link, of more recent pictures, but not a clear.

I forgot to comment about your pun, LOL! But just in case you're not familiar with the bladderworts, the term, 'bladder', erefers to their method of catching prey, which is beneath the soil surface. Their above-ground leaves resemble that of herbs and are rather boring.... BUT their flowers are very attractive. They look like miniature orchids. A few of the very easy and common ones look like "bunny ears". So that's their appeal.

Butterworts are drab leafed plants, whose flowers are stunning - mostly pink -to-purple. They get their name from the leaf surface, which has the same feel to it as butter. Their scientific name (Pinguicula) means, "little greasy one". It's the grease that captures their prey.

When I first saw a butterwort (P. primuliflora), as a new person to the hobby, I almost didn't buy it. It looked boring. Little did I know that within a few months, it would send up 8 consecutive flower stalks and produce baby plants (plantlets) on the tips of its leaves.

The very first bladderworts I received, from another hobbyist, (U. livida, U. sandersonnii, and U. sandersonnii - blue), I hadn't a clue as to what to do with them. And for months they did absolutely nothing for me, other than looking like green herbs. But when I got them at a window sill / outside, 2 of the 3 began to flower profusely.

In my opinion, sundews are absolutely breathaking, especially when the sun shines directly upon them. Their dew just glistens!

If you are interested in some of these someday, feel free to message me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Straus_2006 album

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 12:04PM
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Wow! Thanks, Petiolaris! Thanks for all the info & the pictures are great. I can see what you mean about the vegetation on some of them (boring when not in bloom) but having raised some orchids I know it can be worth the effort. The sundews are gorgeous and so are the 'Neps'(?)- the plant with strappy leaves and big bulby tubes.

Do you have to grow most of these inside? I'm not very good at taking care of any plant inside since one of my goals is to be outside as much as possible.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 11:13PM
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There are some plants that do best when outside, such as American pitcher plants (Sarracenia), VFT's, and cobra lilys. There are many that do well enough either inside or ouside, depending upon where you live and whether you have window sills that face the south for some portion of the day. Many will do well for 3/4 of the year outside but must be brought in for the winter, in the northern climates. If you live in the South or in Southern Cal, many can be grown outside all year long.Then there are other consideations - aphids, squirrels, birds,... for the outside and cats & kids for the inside. I know that it's somewhat of a nebulous answer, but it depends upon a variety of factors - species, sun, temps, money, preferences,....

I grow these plants inside and out, depending upon their needs, my climate, and what I can provide for them. They can all grow outside, to varying degrees, but some do best one way or the other. Once established, the plants do just fine with minimal maintenance - like making sure that they don't dry out.

LOL! I hear ya about indoor plants, though, but for a different reason. I stopped buying my wife miniature rose bushes because she forgets to water them! I thought I was doing a good thing by foregoing the long stem roses that die in within a few days, thinking a live plant would be able to perpetuate warm, fuzzies, but it backfired. Besides, she prefers the periodic long stem ones, even if they do die in a few days. Go figure....

    Bookmark   November 2, 2006 at 6:54PM
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IF I WERE YOU I would order a cobra orchid "Darlingtonia" and put it in the spot you have created which sounds absolutely perfect for cobra lilies! I have a bunch of Sarracenia (~100) and they do great, but I have trouble recreating the conditions you describe for cobra lilies in northern Ohio and they generally/always die by getting too hot once-or-twice in the summer. I'm envious.
Sarracenia do INFINITELY better outside than inside. They don't like excessive pampering.
I don't necessarily agree with the idea that they aren't "full sunshine" plants, but maybe that is just because of our difference in latitude. Over the years I have moved them from half sun to three-quarters sun to full sun and they become more robust, more colorful, and much larger with more sun. I noticed this year that the rhizomes seem to have grown much quicker in full sun (I dig up and refrigerate the rhizomes every year...yeah, I know, they are SUPPPOSED to be able to be left out even here on the Ohio/Michigan border, but the cold seems to knock the heck out of them and they have to struggle the entire next growing season just to catch up to the previous I was losing 20-25% over the winter and I have never lost a plant by refrigerating it for 4-5 months). On the other hand, your sun in San Diego is undoubtedly a lot perkier!
Good luck

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 10:05AM
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According to Savage Garden, page 107, they grow in full sun to partly shaded areas and at the same time they do well at east facing window sills. Go figure.... He also says that, "in warmer climates consider having the pots somewhat shaded, perhaps by other containers, if the plants are grown in sun."

But then again, this is why we have discussion forums to banter around ideas, pooling collective experiences.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 9:27AM
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FlytrpL8E(z8b CA)

well, since I have seen them growing in the wild in several places. here's my 2 cents.They can take their heads hot but their feet must be kept cool, like under 60 degrees F.
I have 4 dfferent set-ups used to grow them. The ones with the east sun with afternoon shade seem to do the best, except mine became infested with thrip. The plants in the morning shade and western exposure do okay, as long as I remember to water them everyday during the heat of the summer.My newest way is in a styrofoam cooler with slits halfway up the side. I use long fibered sphanum moss and pumice 50-50 as the mix,overhead water every other day. They get full sun from around 11:00 am to 3 pm.
My daughter grew one successfully in a South facing window on a plant stand that was about 6 inches from the window pane and she had shear curtains. The plant was on the outer side of the curtain.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 9:52PM
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Petiolaris, I'm with your wife, I want long stem cut roses inside, garden plants outside. Anything that lives inside my house has got to be thrive on neglect & low sunlight.

Dneiter, I'm an expatriate from Iowa, so I remember what weather was like. I would like to try a Darlingtonia, besides being cool looking, they sound like they may do well where I have my Sarracenia.

Dneiter & Flytrpl8e, the sun & heat here is fiercer because I am inland San Diego, so now I'm a little worried about the summers. August and September are usually in the high 90's low 100's. The 'stream' runs 8 hours a day and tends to have a cooling effect on the area but still, it will be well above 60 degrees then. Guess we'll see.

My Sarracenia is in a shadier area of the stream (pretty heavy shade) and seems a bit less intensly colored than when I got it so maybe I'll move it downstream a bit.

Thanks again for all the info!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 12:43PM
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Alyss(Z 10 CA Coast)


I'm in the same climate zone as Greenfreek in SD (Zome 11 depending on who you ask......I'm in Corona del Mar, between Laguna and Newport beach.) However, I'm by the beach, so it rarely gets super-hot here for very long in the summer.

I did the exact same thing...purchased two varieties from Trader Joe's, generically labeled "cobra lily". I knew that one was definitely 'Judith Hindle' since I had JUST purchased one in a slightly larger pot for $25 (OUCH) at my local pond store. The other one I later determined was "Scarlet belle".

I had read that these both require a minimum of 5 hours of full sun a day, but different areas have such drastically different conditions...So I trust that you who have grown them successfully under similar mild beach conditions can give me better advice on what exposure works best in my area!

I have a stream I'd like to put them in, but it is always in dappled shade, perfect for ferns, but maybe not enough light for these Saracenia?.

My pond, however, gets better sun exposure with more or less afternoon exposure, depending on what time of year it is. So, which spot would be best, and can I overwinter them there?

Also, does it get cold enough here to give them proper dormancy? Minimum temp. is 40F, but my pond usually gets no colder than 55F.

Thanks for ANY info anyone can provide. This forum is really informative!!!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 3:46PM
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I've had more experience with killing cobra lilies than keeping them alive. But then again, it's the experimenting that has given me the results and I've learned a lot. One thing that I have learned about these plants is that one ought provide new surroundings with respect to not only what we have read from the experts, but also to go from point A to point B gradually (acclimation). My second cobra lily died pretty much from shock - taking it out of a Lowes cube and repotting into better conditions, but in summer heat.It withered within jours. My first plant was an attempt to provide it with cool, running water ovef its roots. So I anchored the pot at the edge of a streamlet. A 3" rainstorm dislodged it and sent it along a raging river, lost forever. I was given a group of seedlings and had them growing in a bucket, as a minibog. I asked about whether I should provide drainage holes and then decided to poke some in there. The water level went down and they withered. My last plant went through a proper dormancy in our cold attic and was placed outside in the spring. All was going well until they and my VFT's got attacked by mammalian critters. So I brought it (them ) inside to the screened window sill, where they began to recover. I asked about my suspended setup and was advised by a 14 year hobbyist to all ow the plant to be submerged in water. So I let it be 'open tray", sitting in water and the plant withered away. I have done cold stratification for seeds and so far I have nothing to show for it.

Another thing I have learned about these planst is to be patient. They may appear to be dead or shocked to death, but I have seen weeks go by and then new life appears.

Another thing I have learned is that while there a few absolutes, there's still a variety of ways, usually a variation on a theme, to cultivate them successfully.

Lastly, it is best to get the plants in the best conditions you can provide and then refrain from changing them. Too much tweaking could easily result in plants that react.

Greenfreak: Your best bet is to stick with cobra lilys, VFT's and Sarracenias, with maybe a few temperate sundews (D. binata, filiformis, rotundifolia, and intermedia)

Alyss: My guess is that your temps are on the warm side of acceptable, but dormancy is mostly photoperiod and secondarily temperature. I really defer to Flytrpl8e since she is more experience than I and is a native to California.

Lois: Your 2 cents is worth a million!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 4:28PM
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Alyss(Z 10 CA Coast)

Thanks for the additional info, Petiolaris! I think I'll post this as a new question to see if I can find anyone else with experience in my zone.

Wish me luck! Take care all.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 1:39PM
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Yes, thanks again, Petiolaris. I'll see how well my Sarracenia does. I did see some lovely CP at a plant sale this last weekend & it was tempting!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 7:01PM
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