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Thread: Darlingtonia Self-watering System + Temp Questions

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    Natalie's Avatar
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    Darlingtonia Self-watering System + Temp Questions

    So it's been a few weeks since I got my Darlingtonia, and I've been trying to figure out a way I can keep my plant in the sunlight all day without it getting overheated. I decided I was going to create a system where I would have a separate, insulated reservoir that would house a small water pump, which would (in theory) pump cool water over the roots of the plant all day. The pump would be solar-powered, so it would only come on when needed... In most of California, heat and lack of sunlight are mutually exclusive, so I'm not sure how this system would work out for those of you in the east where nights are warm too.

    My supplies were as follows:

    Solar-powered water pump - I used this one
    8" plastic pot - this is the main reservoir
    Decorative glazed clay pot - for insulating the reservoir pot
    Tray for a 10" plastic pot - just happened to fit perfectly as a lid for the 8" pot when turned upside-down
    A few feet each of 1/4" and 3/8" clear tubing - you can just use the 1/4" if you want
    And of course, my Darlingtonia plant



    Assembling this contraption was relatively easy. For the main compartment, I filled the clay pot with water (more insulation), then put the plastic pot inside of that and filled that with distilled water. I then cut a hole in the tray (lid) and fed the tubing and wire through. The 1/4" tubing connects to the output on the pump, and at the end of that tube I attached one of the fountain heads that comes with the pump using a small section of the 3/8" tubing. I also tied a knot in the 1/4" tubing because I found the water output was too strong for this purpose. Then one end of the 3/8" tubing goes in the reservoir pot, and the other into the Darlingtonia's outer pot (you need to remove the air from the tube so water can flow freely between the two vessels). As a final touch, I wrapped the tubes in white duct tape to prevent the water from heating up as it flows from one pot to the other.







    This system ran perfectly, but I still have concerns about the water temperature. Today was a relatively warm day with air temperatures in the mid-80s, and I found that by 3:00 pm, the water temperature even in the shaded reservoir (and consequently the plant's roots) was approaching 80°F, so I put some cold water in to cool things off a bit. I know that 27°C/81°F is the critical temperature for Darlingtonia, but I have some questions about what exactly that means. Does that mean that the plant cannot tolerate that temperature at all, and if the roots get that warm you might as well throw the plant away because it won't be able to recover? Or is it possible for the plants to endure relatively brief spikes (say, 1-2 hours) of that temperature or slightly above as long as water is constantly flowing over the roots and it cools off at night? When I check the root temperature in the morning, it is usually 52-54°F.

    I've been wondering what it is exactly about the warm root temperatures that kills Darlingtonia. Is it just that the plant physically cannot function at that temperature, similar to how humans die if their body temperature reaches about 108°F? Or is it due to external factors, such as root rot or the lack of oxygen in warmer water? If it is the latter, it seems like having water constantly flowing over the roots would remedy that even if the temperatures are above optimal. My plant is of the Sierra Nevada variety, which is supposed to be more tolerant of blazing sunlight, low humidity, and higher temperatures than the coastal types. Would this make a difference in the hardiness of the plant?

    I guess I'll have to wait and see how this goes, but in the mean time I have ice cubes ready to pop in the reservoir if necessary.

  2. #2
    clippity-clip-clip Clue's Avatar
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    I've never had problems with my Darlingtonia in full sun in the San Jose area. I just water every morning with room temperature water; they don't stay sitting in water. All three of mine are growing in live sphagnum. I haven't had problems growing them in 85 degree heat, full sun, and black plastic pots. It may just be that I have 3 "lucky" clones that have persisted for years this way, but I still think that people are over-playing the cool-root hypothesis.

    As a test, I set one of my pots into a separate tray, then watered with warm (85 F) water. There were no noticeable side effects of doing this; the plant kept on growing as it had all summer.

    I think that the key to growing Darlingtonia is an open media kept moist (not waterlogged) with cooler nights. It's worked for me, anyways. I can test to see if my conditions are favorable for more clones (hint, hint ).
    "I, for one, can't wait to grow Nepenthes extincta!"
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    Natalie's Avatar
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    Whew, that's good to hear. Do you keep track of the root temperatures of your Darlingtonias? How large are the pots they're kept in? I'd like to think that the fact that the water is constantly flowing over the roots (like in their native habitats) would somewhat offset the heat sensitivity, but I'm just not sure.

    With my setup as it is pictured, I think the large pot around the plant's pot might have contributed to the higher temperatures. It seemed like after the water ran through the pot, it would go into the large white pot and just hang out for a while and heat up before going back into the other pot. This in turn heated up the reservoir pot under the stairs when the warm water flowed back into it. After the sun set, I put a few more pieces of slate under the plant's pot to raise it up and consequently lower the water level in it, and I'll see if that helps tomorrow.

    Once my plant gets a bit bigger we can trade some clones.

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    clippity-clip-clip Clue's Avatar
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    My clones are in 2, 4, and 6-inch plastic pots. I don't like to sit them in water, not because it gets hot, but because constantly wet sphagnum can start to stagnate and smell, which isn't very pleasant. I don't monitor the temperature of the soil. It might be quite interesting to run some tests of that sort...
    "I, for one, can't wait to grow Nepenthes extincta!"
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    Hello, I must be going... Not a Number's Avatar
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    Nice setup. You could probably do without it in your climate but by all reports this species definitely benefits from having water circulation around the roots. I would guess the roots prefer higher levels of oxygen. This would explain why they do better in less compact mixes and why top watering works better than standing water.

    You can buy foam sleeves for insulating pipes which would probably be better than duct tape.
    Grand Hotel... always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.

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    BigBella's Avatar
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    My friends in Texas keep the plants in several inches of water and use an inexpensive air-stone to aerate the tub. Simple; cheap; effective. Nice set-up you have there . . .
    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

    -- Galileo "Biff" Galilei

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    Hello, I must be going... Not a Number's Avatar
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    Oh, and I recall reading in one of the old issues of the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter the critical soil/root temperature for Darlingtonia is 81°F (27°C). As long as you keep the soil/root temperatures below this the plant should survive. Air temperatures can be much higher.
    Grand Hotel... always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.

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    Tropical Fish Enthusiast jimscott's Avatar
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    Quite elaborate! Honestly, I have nothing more sophisticated than a planter, on my porch, in direct sunlight:







    I just water from overhead when it doesn't rain. Our summers are in the 70's, 80's and low 90's.

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