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Thread: Advice picking plants for a new terrarium

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    Advice picking plants for a new terrarium

    It's been a while since I've been around here. I enjoyed dabbling in CPs in the past, throughout the 2000-2007 area, but a combination of economics and my cats forced me to abandon the hobby for a while. I gave my last few CPs to a budding enthusiast some years back. I've been itching to start back up again over the past year, though, and for Christmas my partner bought me a beautiful terrarium giving me that opportunity. Glass sides and top should keep the cats away and let me control humidity as needed.

    My problem, of course, is that I've forgotten almost everything I used to know :P. I'm hoping much of it will come back with experience, but in the mean time I was hoping to get some advice on if the plants I've chosen so far will fit well together in the space I have, and maybe get some thoughts on what else I may want to add to the mix. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    To start, the terrarium is freestanding with a 18"x18" growing area. The interior measures 22" from the soil tray to the glass top, but that top can be slid open or removed to provide a little extra space. Above the glass roof is a pyramid-shaped cast-iron grill that extends about another 8" to a peak in the center; cats can probably reach their paws in there a bit. Assuming about 4" of soil that gives a 18" cube safe growing area, with some wiggle room on height.

    Just going from memory and some quick web surfing last night, here are some plants that I think I'd like to drop in:

    • 'Dente' Venus Flytrap
    • 'B-52' Venus Flytrap
    • Drosera Capensis
    • Sarracenia 'Scarlet Belle'


    There are also these, which I had some questions about:

    • D Scorpiodes - I remember always wanting one of these, but I don't recall why I never got one. I also recall them being very hard to find. Could anyone shed some light here?
    • Nepenthes - This is the one CP I never had any experience with. I'd like to find something small enough to fit comfortably in my growing area, and hardy enough to ease me into this little corner of the CP world. Any recommendations?


    I'm having some trouble visualizing how those will fit in my 324 cubic inches, and what sort of root space will be needed/left for what I described. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated, as would any recommendations for medium depth. My current plan is a 4" bed of medium with the CPs planted directly; I'd prefer not to have pots. If possible I may want to try some landscaping with rocks and even flowing water; had some thoughts of researching the possibility of adding frogs or other small creatures later if it would work. Though all that's getting a little pricey.

    I don't foresee the possibility of getting more growing space free of feline predators anytime in the next couple years, so I'd like to avoid/minimize the need for repotting into a larger growing area. I also need to keep costs in mind. Part of my gift was also $50 to buy plants (she knew I'd want to pick them out ), but I doubt I'll have much discretionary cash beyond that anytime soon. That being said, good plan recommendations are welcome as well.

    Thanks for taking the time to read, and thanks in advance for any responses.

    Nicholas

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    ermahgerd petmantis's Avatar
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    Welcome back!

    You'd probably want to be careful with keeping the temperate CPs in that terrarium, as they require periodic cold dormancy. Perhaps substitute the Venus Flytraps & Sarracenia with some more Drosera & Pinguicula.

    You may want to have a bit more soil than 4" along the bottom, for plants to grow in more "comfortably", though you could probably get away with that for a few years.

    Do you know how the daily & nightly temperatures are? That could be a determining factor for the choice of Nepenthes species you'd need. As for a slow-growing Nep (*really* slow growing, hehe), there are none that are terribly easy to care for. I hear ultra-highlanders can be tricky about temperature drops, and N. clipeata (a lowlander) is difficult as well... hopefully someone can chime in on this.
    <Heli> How are you guys losing your hamatas?
    <Brokken> Heli: The hamburglar.

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    I hate bugs. Carnivorous plants get me. jpappy789's Avatar
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    As mentioned the VFT and Sarr will need to have a winter dormancy period. I think it would be unwise to try to keep them with the other plants you would like, unless you plan on keeping them in separate pots so you can remove them. The scorp also has dormancy requirements, although in the summer instead as they are winter growers. Nepenthes care largely depends on whether it's a HL, LL, etc. grower.

    There are some amazing looking terrariums using pots put into some sort of top dressing, such as live Sphagnum. Using pots also helps since oftentimes CPs need different media. Not all Neps will appreciate the typical 50/50 soil that Sarrs, VFTs, and some Drosera do very well in, nor may they like the same watering conditions. Neps tend to like better drainage. It also helps in case you need to remove a single plant for something other than dormancy, like disease.

    I only have a couple years experience with CPs but I remember receiving similar advice when I thought I wanted to do a full-on terrarium setup.
    -Josh
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    Thank you for the advice.

    The dormancy is something that I admittedly had not figured out yet. Perhaps I'll keep those particular plants in pots buried in the soil for easy removal in the winter and let the other ones free-root it. You mentioned the Scorpiodes needing dormancy in the summer, but does it really have any effect? The plants don't know what month it is; so long as they get their one dormancy a year, it should be fine to do it in the late fall, is that right?


    Regarding the soil depth, could you tell me what depth is good to shoot for with the plants I listed?


    This terrarium will be in the house, probably pretty close to a window. So I'm guessing temperatures in the room will range from 69-73 F, and the terrarium will experience a noticeable increase over that during the day when the sun is pouring in.


    Thanks again.

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    I hate bugs. Carnivorous plants get me. jpappy789's Avatar
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    Depends on where you get the plants from...if they are on a clock to get dormancy in the summer (ie. from the same hemisphere) and then you skip it (like I did) they may not last longer than a year or two. I had a scorp die off this fall that can only be attributed to skipping their dormancy last summer as nothing else changed and they were thriving. And to top it all off they never produced gemmae. If you could somehow get them from the Southern Hemisphere then it would be expecting dormancy during their summer, which is out winter. You could also try growing from seed and sow them to be on opposite seasons, I would think...

    Most people find that keeping Sarrs and VFTs outside is best. I'm growing S. purpurea, S. rubra and a typical under grow lights because I picked them up late summer from a death cube but I plan on getting them under some natural sun next growing season. Most of the amazing specimens you'll see on TF here are grown outside.

    I don't mean to be a stick in the mud but I honestly would rethink your choices for a terrarium setting. Would you be supplying additional light or just sunlight from the window?
    -Josh
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    I don't mean to be a stick in the mud but I honestly would rethink your choices for a terrarium setting.
    No need for apologies; I appreciate all the honest advice.


    I'm unsure on the lighting conditions as of yet, mostly because I don't know where the terrarium will be in the house. We've considered a few possibilities:

    1) In front of our dinette sliding glass doors. They would receive indirect sunlight all day and direct sunlight from approximately 2:00 pm til sunset. The room has a lot of artificial light, most coming from four 20 watt warm CFLs approximately 10 ft from the terrarium and four flourescent tubes (not sure on temperature or wattage; standard office lighting) approximately 10 ft from the terrarium. Plus another 3 26-watt warm CFLs will occassionally be on some 15 ft away. These will be on at various times during the day and until around 9:00 - 11:00 pm at night.
    2) On our second floor landing. This area would receive indirect sunlight all day, but only a short period of direct sunlight. It would be directly between two 26-watt warm CFLs approximately 7 ft away which would be on various times during the day and until around 11:00 pm. This area may require supplemental lighting for the terrarium, I assume.
    3) In front of our family room window. Similar lighting conditions to option 1, but with less direct lighting (as the window is smaller). The 4 CFLs and flourescent tubes would be approximately 20 ft from this location, and the 3 CFLs will be approximately 7 ft.
    4) In the bay window in the dining room. This is unlikely due to interior design considerations. This would receive direct lighting all morning until around noon, and then indirect lighting all day. This room would receive little artificial lighting as it is not currently used for much.

    Any thoughts on these would be appreciated. Can you tell me why VFTs and Sarrs are usually grown outside? Is it a lighting concern? And what exactly would you rethink about the terrarium setting? Is it temperature, lighting, or something else?


    I think you guys have convinced me that growing the plants in pots burried in a medium is the way to go. I also like the live spaghnum idea, but will need to learn more about it's requirements and considerations. This will also simplify dormancy.


    Depends on where you get the plants from...if they are on a clock to get dormancy in the summer (ie. from the same hemisphere) and then you skip it (like I did) they may not last longer than a year or two. I had a scorp die off this fall that can only be attributed to skipping their dormancy last summer as nothing else changed and they were thriving.
    The way you describe that it sounds like they missed dormancy completely. I was just talking about pushing their dormancy back by 6 months. Do you think that would be enough to risk shocking them?

    I'll look into Southern grown D Scorpiodes for simplicity. Would you happen to have any good suggestions on where I could look to buy something like this?

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    I hate bugs. Carnivorous plants get me. jpappy789's Avatar
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    It's pretty hard to replicate the sun in terms of available light for the plants so if you have the space it only makes sense to grow outside. With VFTs and Sarrs being also summer growers and native to NA it is pretty much the best option for people in this region of the world. Then when fall rolls around it's pretty easy to get them into dormancy. If you ask anybody I would guess that most people would agree that outside growing is the easiest way to get the best looking plants possible. I know I've been told a lot that I should just put my plants outside during the summer and I plan on doing so this coming growing season.

    I didn't mean to knock on terrarium growing entirely. I've had decent success growing sub/tropical dews and Pings in that setting. And plants like Helis, for example, need such high humidity that it only makes sense to grow them enclosed. But for temperates it just doesn't work as well.

    For your lighting options I don't think it would be wise to take into consideration the indirect light from the lamps in the room. Not only is distance a huge factor (grow lights tend to be measured in inches away from the plant more often than feet) but without knowing if they are even producing the right kind of light for the plants they become mainly a non issue. Most terrarium setups are supplemented with overhead lighting, however there are quite a few people who do windowsill growing so that could work depending on how much sunlight they could get as well as the temp/humidity. I've never tried it myself so I will let others comment on the best placement in your house if you go that route.

    For the scorps you may be correct concerning the time frame but I will say that most times it is best to follow the schedule of what plants would normally encounter in the wild. Also consider that while the VFTs and Sarrs are in dormancy in the winter time that the scorp would be growing during the winter so you wouldn't be "plantless". It would be WAY easier to buy them from a USA vendor and not have to go through all the legal import crud with plants.
    -Josh
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    Thanks for all the help so far. I think my plan for the terrarium is starting to come together a little better now.

    One last item I'm working on is the lighting. Based on your suggestions here, and some other research, I'd like to find a way to place some grow lights above the glass roof of the terrarium. However, the sizing is a bit odd (would need to be 16" or less to fit). I'm having trouble finding any good options as hoods usually come in 18" or 12" sizes, which is either too big or will end up looking 'mickey-moused'. I'd like to retain the elegant look of the terrarium.

    Would anyone have any suggestions for a good lighting solution? Perhaps an adjustable hood, light runner/strip, or some other option I'm not yet considering?

    Thanks.

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