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Thread: Repotting all my Sarracenia (hopefully doing it right this time)

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    Natalie's Avatar
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    Repotting all my Sarracenia (hopefully doing it right this time)

    Earlier this year when I was living in Mississippi I posted about my pitcher plants not thriving like they should have been, and eventually I figured out the cause... It was because the soil I used had waaaaaaay to much LFS in it (I think I used LFS, peat, and sand in a 1:1:1 ratio), and over the next few months after I repotted them, the LFS decayed into a bunch of slime and the soil became severely anoxic. When I lifted the plants and root ball from the pot and took a whiff, there was a strong rotten egg smell. Also, when I watered the plants, the water would sit on the surface for a long time before slowly draining. The roots of my plants weren't getting oxygen or fresh water, so consequently, most of the roots died and several of my plants got rhizome rot.

    I think most of the plants are going to recover, there's just one small piece of the rhizome of one of my S. minor okefenokeensis that I got to too late and I think is probably not going to survive (the piece of rhizome is about the size of four stacked nickels with like one root and no growth points), but who knows... My young S. rubra got severe root/rhizome rot in the middle of the summer - pitchers wilting and everything - so I did an emergency repot and cut off all the dead material until I was left with two small growth tips and potted those up in a 1:1 peat/perlite mix. That plant came back with a vengeance and went into dormancy with about 20 healthy pitchers and a good root system forming.

    So even though it's not good to repot plants two years in a row, I feel it's necessary for them to survive. Hoping to replicate the success of my S. rubra, I'm pulling them all up and replanting in a 1:1 peat/perlite mix. I hate, hate, hate perlite because it's ugly and always pops up to the surface of the soil, but the mix is light and airy and should promote good root growth. I'm trying to put moss over the soil to keep the perlite in place, but finding moss that can survive the desiccating summer sun in California is a monumental task. I've given up on sphagnum and I'm now turning to planting native mosses I find growing around the yard.

    Here are the plants I've repotted so far... Several more to go. Note the poorly-shaped pitchers on most of them. The majority never made good pitchers all summer and when I removed them from the pots and washed off the old soil, I found that most of them had very few live roots at all. The old roots that were robust and healthy when I initially repotted them last winter were now dead and black. Lesson learned.




    My 'Leah Wilkerson'... She was actually one of the most forgiving plants to my crappy repotting, having many live roots along the rhizome, but all of which only penetrated the first 3-4 cm of the soil, the part that wasn't terribly anoxic. She had a slow start to the year but finally produced some OK pitchers in late summer. I'm hoping I can get her to thrive this coming spring.




    Here's some of the moss I've been using on the surface. Anyone know what kind it is? I have a bunch of it growing in the sunny areas of my yard so I hope it will thrive in my pots.




    And lastly, a big success for me, my Heliamphora heteroxa x minor growing a new leaf. I grow this plant outside in full sun basically like my Sarracenia, as the climate in coastal Humboldt County is much like that of the tops of the tepuis in South America (cool and cloudy basically all the time). Right now I'm down south in the Bay Area where I'm not quite as close to the ocean, so I have to watch for the mild frosts we occasionally get during winter (Novato is right on the border of zones 9b and 10a). The pitcher that's cut is browning because it caught a big hover fly, not because the plant is dying. The dead sphagnum moss around it was alive when I planted it.




    Hopefully I'm doing everything right this time around and my plants will thrive!

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    Sphagnum Guru Wire Man's Avatar
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    The color on your Heli is awesome!

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    scottychaos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Natalie View Post
    Earlier this year when I was living in Mississippi I posted about my pitcher plants not thriving like they should have been, and eventually I figured out the cause... It was because the soil I used had waaaaaaay to much LFS in it (I think I used LFS, peat, and sand in a 1:1:1 ratio), and over the next few months after I repotted them, the LFS decayed into a bunch of slime and the soil became severely anoxic. When I lifted the plants and root ball from the pot and took a whiff, there was a strong rotten egg smell. Also, when I watered the plants, the water would sit on the surface for a long time before slowly draining.
    Actually, its more likely you used too much sand and pure peat..the LFS was probably the *best* ingredient of the three!
    the fact that you say the water didnt drain well leads me to believe you had too much sand and peat..your mix was too solid and dense.
    pure LFS drains *very* easily..

    Pure LFS, by itself, is actually an excellent growing medium.

    I dont care for sand in a CP mix..tried it one year and didnt like it at all.
    it made the mix FAR too dense and heavy..I see no need, or benefit, from using sand at all.
    IMO its actually a major negative to a CP mix.

    After nearly 20 years of growing VFT's and Sarrs, I have settled on my personal ideal mix:
    pure peat taking up 90% of the pot, then a layer of LFS as a top dressing, to keep rain from splashing the peat
    and making a mess..I will probably never use anything else. (I also hate perlite in CP potting mixes..tried that too, hated it..I see no benefit,
    and its just ugly and always "floats" to the top)

    What brand of peat did you use?
    are you sure it didnt have fertilizer added to it? some peat mosses do, like "Miracle Grow" brand..
    that could have caused your problems..
    Not sure exactly what caused your rotting mix, but IMO the LFS was the *least* likely culprit..

    Scot

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    Natalie's Avatar
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    Wire Man - Thanks! Traditionally I never considered myself a fan of Heliamphora, mainly because I just don't want to have to baby a plant just to get it to survive, but seeing how BigBella grows his outdoors in San Francisco, I had to give it a try myself with the hardiest variety there is. I love the way Heliamphora looks when grown outdoors (similar to how they look in the wild), with the bright reds that are nearly impossible to get under grow lights.

    Scott - Thanks for that info... I was actually wondering something similar myself after digging up one of my purps today. It was a death cube rescue and the first plant I ever repotted, and for some reason I put it in pure LFS. When I lifted it up today, the substrate wasn't compacted or slimy and didn't smell of rotten eggs, and the roots were robust and healthy. I think you're right about the sand, that it may be the reason why the LFS decayed and turned to anoxic slime. I initially used sand because I hated perlite, thinking it would perform a similar function but wouldn't float to the top. However, the sandy substrate just seemed to compact very easily and made the LFS decay. Unfortunately I didn't realize the problem until some of my plants started rotting. Interestingly though, the alatas and psittacinas I saw growing in the wild in Mississippi were growing in very sandy soil that also felt quite dense when you grabbed a handful of it. Water drained through it freely, however.

    The peat I use is E. B. Stone, which I believe is a local brand. The peat is very high quality (no sticks, bark, or leaves like what I got in the "peat" I bought at Walmart in MS), and contains no fertilizers. I previously used LFS as a top dressing on all my pots as well, but I find that it decays into brown slime and impedes water flow. Even on the purp I mentioned before (growing in pure LFS and healthy), the moss on the very top was a slimy mess that slowed the water from draining. Do you find that a similar thing happens with your plants? Do you have to replace the LFS top dressing periodically?

    Right now my primary goal is establishing a healthy root system on these plants, and I hope the perlite helps with that.

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    I am a CPaholic... DJ57's Avatar
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    I would not give up on your rhizomes no matter how small the good pieces are, especially if there is some root no matter how small. I have had sarr rhizome pieces the size of my thumb nail live to sprout again after divisions, even with no roots at all, just takes time. For the S. minor okefenokeensis, they tend to like things a little drier in my experience and tend to rot more easily than other sarrs if kept too wet, and they will pout with changes more so than other varieties. LFS breaks down much faster than peat when mixed in with the peat, so probably what was fouling the peat was rotting LFS. It is fine as a top dressing, but not mixed in with peat for sarrs unless you repot often. I have grown sarrs fine in both pure peat and peat mixed with course sand and perlite. I hate perlite also, but do use it in potted sarrs for aeration and better drainage in that confined space. In the bog, I use probably 90% peat and some course sand. Course sand works well and does not compact the soil, but fine sand like play sand will compact the soil too much.

    Sarrs are tough and I suspect all yours will come back with time. They may take a season to fully recover, but they will recover with what you are doing and I wish you luck with that. You will not harm the sarrs by repotting two years in a row. Some varieties may be set back a bit like the minor, but it will not kill them.

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    kulamauiman's Avatar
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    depends on the size of the sand particles. get the wrong size it gets nice hard and impermeable. Lots of space to get anerobic. Problem I see with the play sand I use in many of my medias. have been adding lava rock to my mixes to help and it does help. Even large chunk perlite helps have added it to the bottom and peat mix on the top. Plants that I have done that do respond with healthy vigorous roots. I need to test the all peat media as well. People swear by them for VFTs....

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    I am a CPaholic... DJ57's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kulamauiman View Post
    depends on the size of the sand particles. get the wrong size it gets nice hard and impermeable. Lots of space to get anerobic. Problem I see with the play sand I use in many of my medias. have been adding lava rock to my mixes to help and it does help. Even large chunk perlite helps have added it to the bottom and peat mix on the top. Plants that I have done that do respond with healthy vigorous roots. I need to test the all peat media as well. People swear by them for VFTs....
    Yes, play sand too small of grain and does compact. Pumice as a substitute for both sand and perlite works great. I find perlite at the bottom of the pot very beneficial when using pure peat as it allows better drainage, and it does not tend to float up to the top that way. I find when I mix pumice or coarse sand or perlite in with the peat in pots that I do not have to repot as often, so another consideration when using pure peat.

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    Natalie's Avatar
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    The sand I used to repot my plants the first time was pretty course. Water drained through it very quickly when I first repotted the plants, but after a couple months it all started going downhill as the organic constituents rotted. Here's a shot of some of the soil as it looked when I unpotted the plants (it wasn't black a year ago).


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