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Not all plants are created equal. There are some that may look oh so sweet and yet so deadly.
The Pinguicula plant, or better known as the Butterwort, is one of those. Don’t be deceived by its beautiful blooming flowers. It is carnivorous by nature.
Nevertheless, don’t let that scare you off!
Butterwort is actually a gorgeous and quite interesting plant to grow. And, if you are looking for something more unique, then this definitely is the perfect plant for you.
In this article, we will teach you the tips and tricks in taking care of this type of plant. Furthermore, we will also include the links of the best products to use when tending to Pinguiculas.
Care Guide for the Pinguicula Plant
- What is a Pinguicula plant?
Pinguicula is a carnivorous variety of plant that belongs to the Lentibulariaceae family. Its
origin is quite widespread across different parts of the world. From the Northern hemisphere to Europe, South America, and the Caribbean various species can be found. With that diversity in climates, you can see how adaptable the plant is.
On that note, it sounds more fitting to classify the Pinguicula plant in three categories: Cool, Warm, and Tropical species. Care approaches to each may differ from one category to another.
- What are the physical characteristics of Pinguicula plants?
Pinguiculas are tiny flowering plants. They start off as plain and non-descript until such time it blooms into low rosettes. The flowers usually come in white, pink, purple, or yellow colors. While its leaves are in greenish to yellowish shades.
- How does Pinguicula trap its prey?
Pinguicula is technically like a special kind of fly-paper. Unlike other predatory plants such as Venus flytrap and pitcher plants, butterworts are more like a passive trapper. It consists of glands that produce sticky mucilage. This goo-like substance is so tacky that when small insects come into contact, it instantly gets trapped. Once prey is caught, the surface of the leaves releases digestive enzymes.
To further help digest the prey, the leaves very slowly roll towards the bug until fully consumed. Once done, the leaves flatten back up ready for another round of victims.
- Why is it called Butterwort?
Pinguiculas are referred to as Butterworts for a very specific reason. The plant itself is covered with grease-like film. Thus, giving it a creamy buttery texture when touched.
How to grow Pinguicula plants?
Even though butterwort can adapt to various light conditions, it grows best under partial sunlight. Take advantage of the bright morning sun and the dappled lighting for the remaining hours of the day.
In as much as possible, steer clear of exposing it to the afternoon sun. This light is too intense that it may cause the plant to shrink in size. That said, it would be a great idea to place them under a tree canopy. This will provide it the amount of sun it needs while giving it some shade at the same time.
When being grown indoors, a sunny windowsill may be its perfect spot. Nevertheless, when there just ain’t enough lighting, you can always opt for grow lights<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> instead. You can use a high -output fluorescent lamp with at least 40 watts of total actual output.
Start by placing the lamp at a distance of 12 inches above the plant. Adjust the height accordingly depending on how well the butterwort reacts. As for the duration, you can give it a light cycle of about 14 hours per day. This should be long enough to provide the plant the light it needs to thrive.
Our top picks for fluorescent grow lights:
One thing is for sure, pinguiculas love water!
In fact, it yearns for water so much that you cannot let it dry out. Otherwise, it will have a negative impact on your plant and even lead to its death. Again, do not ever let it dehydrate!
To sustain its persistent demand for moisture, it is more fitting to plant butterworts in wet trays permanently. Even more so, you can also add overhead watering to keep the topsoil moist as well.
Be careful though not to drown out the flowers. To avoid that, you can water the plant at least 4 inches from the topsoil. Make sure to do this below the budding heads to prevent the flower from getting soaked.
The quality of the water is also equally important when hydrating pinguiculas. It is quite sensitive to certain minerals and as well as high salt concentrations. Thus, it is ideal to look out for possible instances of build-up when watering.
On that note, it is rather best to use rainwater if possible. This natural water is slightly acid and contains more oxygen than your regular tap water. Moreover, rainwater also contains micronutrients. This may well include zinc, copper, manganese, and iron. All of which are essential for plant growth and are often lacking in garden soils.
Nevertheless, we all know that rainwater is not always available. Thus, a possible alternative to this is to instead use distilled water. This type of water underwent purification processes to remove minerals and other contaminants. This extra treatment consequently adds up to its cost. As always, premium quality calls for a premium price point too.
On a more practical side, butterworts can fairly tolerate regular tap water. But because of its inherent mineral and salt content, you should already lay low using fertilizers. And, try hard to give it a good rinse of distilled water every now and then. This will somehow help flush out possible build-ups.
Our top picks for distilled water:
The origin of the Pinguicula plant is so diverse that there is not one standard soil mix. However, there is a set of recommended components you can use to create the perfect soil medium for butterworts. This includes peat moss, sand, perlite, and vermiculites. The ratios may vary though depending on the category the species belongs to.
For cool temperate species, it is ideal to mix 2 parts peat, 1 part sand, and 1 part perlite. Butterworts in this category sit well with acidic soils. The larger mix of peat moss also helps to enhance its acidity level.
Warm temperate species, on the other hand, is more low maintenance. You can use a 50/50 ratio of peat moss and sand as its growing medium. It can tolerate fair amounts of acidity. Then again, it is best to keep its pH neutral.
Lastly, tropical species rather require more components. It calls for equal parts of peat moss, sand, perlite, and vermiculite mixture to thrive best. This category leans more on the alkaline side.
Our top picks for soil components:
As we already know, the pinguicula plant grows in different regions with varied climate conditions. And so, each butterwort is being accustomed to varied levels of coolness and warmth as well.
Nevertheless, most species thrive within a temperature range of 65°F to 85°F during the spring to fall seasons. The plants during this period are actively growing. Thus, they need to be within the optimum temperature to initiate growth and development.
In wintertime, though, each category has its own level of tolerance to cold. The cool temperate species demand temperature up to the freezing point. This allows the plant to go into dormancy.
Meanwhile, the warm temperate species can only tolerate light frostings. Extreme cold can cause it to freeze and eventually kill the plant. Thus, watch out for spikes in temperature and keep it warm if it needs to.
On the other hand, tropical butterworts are best kept warm at all times. Neither frosting nor freezing will do it any good. There’s just no chance for it to tolerate the coldness.
To best monitor the levels of temperature, it is advisable to always have a thermostat on hand. This simple device will help you keep track of the temperature changes.
Our top picks for temperature monitors:
Let’s not forget that pinguiculas are carnivorous. So, it can basically feed itself. Especially if grown outdoors, there are just plenty of chances for it to catch small insects.
But another surprising plant food for butterwort is the goldfish flakes. Really? Fish food as a plant food? I know it sounds pretty weird but it’s true.
The goldfish flakes contain nutrients that are easily absorbed by butterworts. Thus, most growers use this fish food as a replacement for actual bugs.
Our top picks for goldfish flakes:
As for fertilizers, it is not really necessary. But, it would be a good nutrient supplement especially when your plant is struggling. Once a month should be enough for tropical butterworts. The frequency is much lesser for cool and warm-temperate species.
You can use fertilizers that are being formulated for orchids or epiphytes. It should be prepared in diluted amounts to avoid overfertilization and burns. Moreover, never ever apply the solution in its flower stalks.
Our top picks for fertilizers:
As low maintenance as it is, pinguicula does not need much grooming and maintenance. These amazing carnivorous plants can shed wilted leaves on their own. However, there are certain species that may need help trimming off their flower heads once in a while.
To prune, always make sure to use sharp and sterile garden shears. Well-sharpened blades allow you to have a smoother and cleaner cut on the plant. Meanwhile, it is also very important to disinfect your scissors every after use. Doing so prevents the likelihood of cross-contamination of diseases from one plant to another.
Our top picks for pruning shears:
There are several techniques you can use to propagate your pinguicula plants. You can try the conventional planting of seeds but expect the progress to be much slower. Hence, most growers rather prefer propagating through leaf pulling or cutting.
In leaf pulling, you are technically dividing the mature leaves to create new plants. Since the leaves of the butterwort have a natural greasy texture, pulling them can be quite a challenge. So, this method is best done in wintertime when the plant is in its dormant state. During this period, the plant is hibernating and inactive. It won’t be producing much mucus thus making it a lot easier to handle.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for the leaf pulling technique:
- Gather your supplies.
- Soil mix
- Humidity dome or resealable plastic bag
- Fine-mist spray bottle
- Distilled water
- Fill your container with the usual soil mix you use for your pinguiculas.
- Mist the soil with distilled water to moisten.
- Using a pair of tweezers, grab the leaf as close to the base as possible. It is ideal to use a pair of tweezers with soft tips. This will minimize the chances of damaging or bruising the leaf.
- Gently pull the leaf off of the rosette. You can pluck as much as half of the leaves of the mature butterwort. This will not harm the mother plant as long as the leaf pulling is done with utmost care.
- Lay the pulled leaf face-up on top of the moistened soil mix. Do not further cover with soil.
- If following the tray method, fill your tray with water. Then, place your container on top of the water-filled tray.
- Cover the container with a humidity dome if available. Alternatively, you can also use a resealable bag as a cheaper option. Covering it with a dome or plastic bag helps to trap the moisture within. Thus, favorably increasing the humidity levels to encourage vigorous growth.
- Place your new plant under bright and indirect sunlight.
- Make sure to lift the covers for a few hours each day to allow fresh air to circulate. Doing this helps to prevent the development of root rotting.
- Mist the new plant every now and then to keep it moist. Make sure never to let it dry out.
- Wait for a couple of weeks for new nubs and roots to grow.
Pinguicula plants may be carnivorous in nature. But, they are not as scary as most people think. In fact, they are super easy to care for and quite pretty and unique too. We hope that the guidelines provided herein will help you grow butterworts more confidently. So long as you follow the basics, you can be assured that your efforts will be paid off in no time. And without a doubt, your pinguicula plants will flourish beautifully.