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Thread: Do we baby our plants too much?

  1. #1
    Lauderdale's Avatar
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    I recently visited a collector…big understatement…who lives near Homestead, South Florida. It gets well into the mid nineties in the summer and has only three or four chilly days…mid thirties…in the winter. He has hundreds upon hundreds of CPs in approximately 4000 sq ft of sparsely shaded area...VFTs and Sundews grow wild in the sandy soil beneath the wire rack shelves. Some of his collection are very rare and all are in beautiful shape, so he knows what he is doing as he has been collecting for thirty years.
    He waters them once every day or so, from his well which he says is no way near acid enough. None are setting in water. No provision is made for dormancy and most are in full, hot Florida sun. I saw one five year old Typical VFT that had very close to three inch traps…it has never gone dormant and was a plant that any collector would be proud of. All of this leads me to two questions: Are we babying our plants too much? Is dormancy really necessary here in South Florida…or anywhere else for that matter?
    [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/confused.gif[/img] [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif[/img]

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    I too live in South Florida and would like to know the answer to this question. It will be hard for me to provide an artificial winter for my plants this winter.

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    BobZ's Avatar
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    I would agree that there seems to be a fear of experimentation by many CP growers. Take for example the gospel on using distilled or RO water. In many parts of the country, the tap water is just fine. To be sure, in a lot of areas the local water is too mineral laden. I use my domestic well water on most of my CPs and haul tap water from town for those plants that I have not thoroughly tested for sensitivity to the iron and sulphur contained in my well water. People that grow CPs in a terrarium don't use much water, but those of us that grow plants in greenhouses and outdoors use a lot of water. It saves money and effort if you can use the local tap water. Try it on a few plants that you can easily replace and watch the result for a few months. You might be pleasantly surprised -- then again, you may kill the experimental plants.

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    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    I would agree that tap/well water is ok for many and for many it is not.

    The key to me is you mention he waters every day and the plants are not in trays. Here is the kicker!

    Many use the tray system or grow in terrariums. Using less than pure water causes problems in time because the salts accumulate! With this type of setup even RO water will eventually cause a problem but this is often avoided unknowingly because the plants are repotted before trouble occurs. When you don't use the tray system and water very frequently the rules change! But in some instances the water is indeed bad enough to damage the plants directly. The only way to know for sure is to try it.

    As for dormancy... I suspect the plants slow down in growth during the short winter days for a long enough time period. I keep my VFT in the greenhouse where they receive 70 day temp and 58 at night.. When they receive this from November through March they most deffinately go into a dormant phase with winter growth. Dormancy doesn't only mean 34 degrees for 3 months in the vegetable crisper. Again, just what your plants need for your particular area to remain healthy long term is a matter of experimentation. Alot of these 'rules' are around because they work and are easy for new folks to understand and follow. Bending them takes years of experience and careful observation by each grower in their own situation. Something that is not easily explained to newer growers.

    Tony
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

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    I'll add to this two thoughts:
    1- make sure you only change one variable at a time when experimenting, so you can be more sure that the outcome is due to a specific cause.

    2- It takes MONTHS sometimes for any change to manifest itself in the plants. If you want to try something new, make sure you keep at it for a long enough time for it to be meaningful. Otherwise it's really easy to get confused what change led to what behavior.

    For example, due to my laziness, i've been watering my plants with tap water for a couple months, and i'm seeing some burn on the tips of my trumpet pitchers. I think that the problem is the water, but the increasing temps from summer and the much greater sunlight through my window makes it hard to be sure.

    OTOH, my neps seem to be fine. It may just be that they haven't had time to react yet, being the glacial-time critters that they are. In fear of doing irreparable harm, i've returned to distilled water, but now if the neps take a sudden dive, i'll never know if it was because of the water or something else, because i haven't waited long enough to be sure.
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    goldtrap2690's Avatar
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    imagine someday , they make a flytrap that requires nor dormancy , a sarracenia that can handle tap water , a sundew that can handle drier soils , and may be nepenthes that can eat my annoying brother ( j/k ) .

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    Regarding the dormancy issue: I have a friend in Brazil that successfully grows Sarracenia and Dionaea despite the relatively warm conditions in their winter. The plants never stop growing, but the growth slows and the traps are much smaller. With the return of spring and longer days, they return to full growth, flower, and are quite happy.

    Experimentation is to be encouraged. I am always suspicious of ultimate statements because every grower has different conditions. The best thing to do is to try to push the limits with plants you can spare.

    As Tony stated, we usually base our advice on the methods that are safest, and apply to the most number of growers, but they are not meant to imply there are no other possibilities. Different cultural methods produce different results, and only the individual can discover these. We can't tell you if your water is acceptable, but we can tell you that if it isn't, your plants will suffer for it in the long term.

    My personal gripe is that when the author of a successful book says something can't be done, it tends to discourage many people in attempts that may prove fruitful. Just because it didn't work once doesn't mean it cannot be done. I would like to see more people try to do what is said can't be done: there are many surprises that can come about as a result of having an open and inquiring mind. Remember, there is no "CP Bible".

    Even a failed experiment is a tool that can teach others. But in order for the data to be useful, it must be communicated. We are lucky to have a public forum where this kind of communication is possible.
    "Grow More, Share More"

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    Lauderdale's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies guys. Your answers have prompted me to start a little experiment this fall. I am going to put one of each type of my collection…a total of ten plants…in the refrigerator when thy show signs of going dormant and leave the others out in the yard. I would really miss not having at least a few plants to "fuss" with. By this time next summer I should get some indication of how the experiment works.

    Muscipupla, I agree with you about "one change at a time" and will continue keeping the "outside" guys standing in full sun and distilled water. I may arrange a screen to filter the sun between 12 & 3. [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img]

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