A Tale of Two Growers
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Greetings! Dan here.
This is our first of hopefully many species profiles. In essence, species profiles will include a generous amount of growing information about a particular species, including tips, our experiences, and photos. Please let us know if you find this article helpful. I hope you enjoy!
Some general information on Utricularia:
Since we haven't talked much about Utricularia on our blog, I'll write a quick overview of the genus. Utricularia (bladderworts) is a genus of over 200 carnivorous plants. While very diverse, all Utricularia essentially share the same underlying structure. They have a network of underground stems (known as a stolons) that grow under the soil surface for terrestrial species, along supports (usually mossy tree trunks, rocks, etc.) for epiphytes, and free-floating for aquatic species. Attached to the stolon are small bladders, which are sealed with a "trapdoor." Water is pumped outside of the bladder, leaving the interior of the bladder with negative pressure relative to the outside and creating a partial vacuum. The outside of each trapdoor contains trigger hairs, much like a Venus fly trap (although the trigger hairs of Utricularia are purely mechanical in nature, in contrast to those of Venus fly traps, which work on irritability). When these hairs are touched, the trapdoor opens and the vacuum sucks in the nearby prey, usually consisting of protozoa and other soil inhabitants. In order to photosynthesize, the stolons produce leaf shoots that penetrate the soil surface.
I think that lots of people find D. regia to be so frustrating because they try to grow it like their other Drosera. In reality, Drosera regia is only distantly related to other sundews (some people actually believe that it should be separated into its own genus entirely) and has cultivation requirements that closely resemble those of Heliamphora and Highland Nepenthes. Under the correct conditions, this species has actually been very hardy and tolerant for me. Still, being that plants online can sell for close to $40, I wouldn't recommend this species to someone that hasn't grown a decent amount of Drosera already.
I'd imagine that a big drop at night, as well as keeping the roots cool, can help offset daytime conditions that are a tad too hot. Other growers have reported that excessively cold temperatures can trigger dormancy, but, since dormancy isn't required, I maintain the same temperature conditions year-round (which probably isn't very feasible if you grow them in a greenhouse in a temperate climate).
I've kept my plants in both the most humid (70%+) and the least humid (around 40%) parts of the terrarium. To be quite honest, they didn't really seem to have a discernible preference. So long as other conditions are favorable, it doesn't seem to me as though humidity is overall a major factor in cultivation success.
The overall takeaway from this should be that, given the right conditions (bright light, cool temperatures, airy media), D. regia can actually be a fairly fast-growing and tolerant species. In my opinion, it's definitely one of the best species out there, and anybody contemplating whether or not they should cultivate it should bite the bullet and give it a try - you won't regret it! I'll now pass the mic over to Alvin, who's going to speak about his experiences propagating D. regia.
Despite the relatively high prices it commands in the market, D. regia is actually quite easy to propagate. The two methods used most often (aside from those with access to tissue culture equipment) are by seed and root cuttings.
watching the leaves dramatically curl over the hapless creature over the course of several hours. It does not matter as long as the plants are getting a suitable amount of nutrients. Some growers report that this species is difficult from seed since their seedlings tend to die after they have developed a number of true leaves. I think that this is likely a result of the seedlings starving to death as I have never had this problem.
Additionally, if you have a larger plant that is declining in health for some reason, root cuttings may be used as a final resort to propagate it before it croaks as long as there are still healthy roots.
Drosera schizandra is one of the first Drosera species that actually stuck in my head when I first started getting into CPs (I think it was the novelty of owning what looks like carnivorous lettuce from a place called "Wooroonooran National Park" that really got to me - the Aussies really do have brilliant names for some places). Despite its position near the top of my want list however, I held off getting this species initially for two reasons: 1), all sources I could find pointed to it being a tricky grower not suited to the noob who had yet to grow D. adelae or D. prolifera and 2), I simply couldn't find it for sale anywhere for what I was willing to pay. I did eventually manage to locate a small one for a good deal however, and although I had no prior experience with any of the Queensland sisters, I impulsively bought it anyway. Luckily it survived, and I've propagated that clone dozens of times now.
D. schizandra is typically considered to be the most difficult of the three Queensland sisters to grow (hence the order of progression recommended by most starting with D. adelae), but growing D. adelae and D. prolifera first is certainly not a prerequisite for growing this species successfully - I know people who have killed heaps of D. adelae but grow D. schizandra very well. That being said, I wouldn't recommend this species for a fresh CP noob without experience with Drosera at all, as in most cases I suspect that would result in frustration and wasted dollars.
D. schizandra usually grows in shady understory in nature, and this is reflected in its lower light requirements than other CPs. This is one of the few species that can perform well on a windowsill that receives mostly indirect light, given that it is kept reasonably cool (it does still require a decent amount of light however, you cannot simply shove it into a dark corner). I have tried this species under both natural light and artificial light from T5s and have noticed that it tends to burn easily (in my conditions, at least) when exposed to high light without acclimation. I would avoid placing it under very strong lighting if it is your first time growing it, at least until you have extras to experiment on.
In terms of temperature, the clone I grow seems to prefer cooler temperatures suitable for most highland Nepenthes. Originally I kept some plants in a tank that would reach excesses of 85F or more during very hot summer days - after about a week of this the plants lost their dew and crapped out on me. The individuals that grow well for me are kept at temperatures that never exceed 75F with about a 5-10F drop at night. I don't think that having a temperature drop at night it vital as long as the plants aren't kept too warm during the day. I have not tested the lower end of this plant's temperature tolerance but you certainly should not allow it to get anywhere near freezing. Depending on where you live, a cool windowsill may offer the temperature range that this species enjoys.
D. schizandra grows best for me under high humidity, although there are growers who have successfully grown it with typical room humidity levels. I grow all my plants in sealed terraria. The windowsill plants are kept out of too much direct sun to avoid cooking them, while the ones under T5s are kept about a foot away from the lights. Under my conditions the clone I have prefers Sphagnum as a substrate - whether it is live or not does not seem to have any significant impact on its growth. I like to top dress my media with live moss as I quite enjoy the aesthetics and fluffy feeling, but this is not necessary. I would advise using only high quality Sphagnum, none of that crud from Mosser Lee or something like that (I do know several growers who have managed this plant in peat-based mixes, but my attempts at that have resulted in less than satisfactory results). I keep my plants moist but not waterlogged. If you are growing them in drained pots, sitting them in a thin film of water should be fine. If you're growing them in planted tanks or the like, do not flood them as they do not take kindly to being drowned. D. schizandra, like other Drosera, is sensitive to water with high TDS.
Although it can be a bit tricky to initially pin down the exact conditions this species needs, it is incredibly easy to propagate via leaf cuttings. I'm surprised that it's not more available in the US than it is at the moment (if you're now inspired to raise an army of these and flood the market with cheap D. schizandra in order to undercut competitors, don't tell them it was my idea). Select healthy leaves for your cuttings (it does not seem to matter if the leaf has dew or not as long as it's green, I get strikes on both), lay them on moist Sphagnum under conditions you would grow adult plants in, and wait. You should see little plantlets within a month or two. Depending on the size of the leaf you can get anywhere from two or three to over a dozen. Once the plantlets have formed roots it is safe to separate them.
I am currently looking for different clones of D. schizandra of seed-grown origin. If you have any and would like to work out a trade please let me know!