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Thread: soil question

  1. #11
    mmlr38's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Not a Number View Post

    If it was me, I wouldn't use coir with Dionaea unless boosting the acidity with something like pine needles or pine bark mulch - and only if the media gets changed annually. They like higher acidity than most other genus of carnivorous plants. I find they do better in pure peat moss or at least 75% peat moss.
    Two of the three excerpts you chose from that article, NaN, are about the higher concentration levels of nutrients in coir as compared to peat. With repeated soaking and rinsing, those (total dissolved solids) can be lowered to a level that's actually below what peat measures right out of the bag (I've tested this).

    However, the pH can't be adjusted by simply rinsing with water which could still be a concern. Like Brian (fuddmain), I don't know much about the effects of soil pH on plants, but I do know the results I see from Steve's plants growing in coir and they do exceptionally well in it. He sent me a sample bag of coir soil mix in which I planted a few Big Mouth flytraps and they're doing just as well as the flytraps in my peat-based soil mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBella View Post
    The astronomical salinity was also an issue when a few friends began using coir, both for Dionaea and Nepenthes. They spent a great deal of time -- as you have already described -- rinsing and re-rinsing the material; time that I do not have to spare. That said, I have never been impressed with the results; and yours -- honestly -- are the first positive ones that I have heard; but I know full well that you know what you're doing.

    Also, the move to coir over peat-based composts was over environmental issues -- primarily, the preservation of diminishing bog-lands; and coir was simply a byproduct of existing coconut production. That growers would have to go to such Rube Goldberg lengths and the repeated use of RO water (wasteful in and of itself in its very production -- four or more gallons of "waste" water to produce one) to make coir feasible, defeats that purpose, in my mind. I guess there's no free lunch where that's involved.

    Since I re-pot my flytraps annually, any breakdown of sphagnum peat hasn't posed an issue -- and all of my old compost has done wonders for the tomatoes and eggplants . . .
    I'm on exactly the same page as you BigBella. The move to coir was mostly environmentally based but, as you say, there is no free lunch. A lot of time and water is wasted in the process of making coir usable.

    And, like you, I try to repot my Dionaea every year. I have so many now that I didn't have time to get to them all this spring (I'll get to them later hopefully once things slow down a bit). The ones I didn't repot are definitely not growing as well as the ones that are in fresh peat. It would be nice to find a mix that didn't require yearly repottings and coir may be the answer. But unless someone wants to do all the soaking and rinsing for me (any volunteers?), I'll probably stick to peat

    Also, I'm struggling a bit to figure out what to do with all of the year-old peat!

  2. #12
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    Arrow Coir works well for Venus Flytraps

    Coir as an alternative to or substitute for sphagnum peat moss in growing mixes for Venus Flytraps

    First, there are two materials commonly called coir--
    1. Short or chopped fibers from coconut husks
    2. The pith byproduct (sometimes called "coir dust") of the mechanical extraction of fibers from coconut husks. This pith surrounds the fibers in the coconut husk and is removed from the fibers during processing.

    Secondly, the coconut husk pith is called various names including--
    • Coir
    • Coir dust
    • Cocopeat
    • Coir soil

    Thirdly, not all carnivorous plants prefer coir (my experience with Sarracenia and coir was disappointing), but Venus Flytraps thrive in it.

    The "coir" I'm referring to in this response is the pith (which usually includes a small percentage of short or thin fibers) from the coconut husk that until recent years was considered a waste product rather than a commercial byproduct of the coconut fiber industry, which itself is historically important for the production of marine rope because coconut husk fiber is more resistant than many other natural fibers to rotting in ocean water or when wet for a long time.

    This coir or coconut husk pith is a fine substitute for shagnum peat moss in growing mixes for Venus Flytraps. Although Sarracenia seem to prefer sphagnum-based mixes, Venus Flytraps thrive in mixes of coir with silica sand, perlite or both, and without any sphagnum peat moss. Additional ingredients can also be tried such as chopped evergreen needles or chopped evergreen bark ("orchid bark").

    Points to remember if trying to do a direct substitution of coir for sphagnum peat moss are--
    • Coir must be carefully soaked and drained quite a few times (and the drained water preferably tested with a TDS meter) to redissolve the readily soluble material present in the coir, even coir represented by the manufacturer or broker as being low in salts or minerals; such may be the case if the coir were to be used in a normal outdoor gardening context where it forms only a minor ingredient of a conditioned soil, but not when the coir is used is a primary ingredient in a growing mix for plants that are naturally sensitive to dissolved mineral salts.
    • To make a mix that is as moisture retentive, a greater amount by volume of coir must be used than would normally be occupied by sphagnum peat moss. For example, to make a medium as moisture retentive as a 1:1 mix of sphagnum peat moss and sand, a 2:1 mix of coir and sand would be required. I really like this fact because coir retains a lot more air and strongly resists compaction, unlike sphagnum peat moss that can become compact, soggy and potentially destructively anaerobic.

    I've used coir first as an experimental additive to a sphagnum mix, then in various sphagnum-free mixes, for over 2 years now, and the results have been surprising and pleasing. I now use a completely sphagnum free coir mix for most of my Venus Flytraps, and usually switch from sphagnum mix to coir mix when it comes time to repot them. I have seen no negative effects when the coir is carefully desalinated before use, and I have seen some positive effects with respect to root growth and leaf growth in side by side comparisons.

    That is just my contribution to the subject, for people to take or leave as they wish.

    Last edited by xscd; 06-26-2011 at 08:42 AM.
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  3. #13
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    Sphagnum peat moss and coir growing mediums, comparison

    The photo below shows the results after 14 months of a comparison of a traditional sphagnum peat moss based medium with a coir (coconut husk pith) medium. -Steve

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  4. #14
    Hello, I must be going... Not a Number's Avatar
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    And on the other hand (though different genus):

    Feeding Sarracenia soil fertilization - John Brittnacher

    The soil you use for your plants also makes a difference. Peat is very acidic and normal plants grown in pure peat or a peat/sand mix have trouble absorbing nutrients or otherwise do not do well. Coir is a neutral medium and should make nutrients more available to the plants. It is used successfully with Nepenthes so I tried it with Sarracenia.
    Soil experiment comparing peat and coir, with and without Osmocote™ 17-7-12 pellets. As you can see Sarracenia responded much better to peat soil than coir.

    The Sarracenia plants did not like coir as well as peat.
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  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by xscd View Post
    The photo below shows the results after 14 months of a comparison of a traditional sphagnum peat moss based medium with a coir (coconut husk pith) medium. -Steve
    By the same token, I have often divided my flytrap plants, identical in manner to those above; and, even given identical conditions -- side by side, Tb, right down to the ratio of their peat-sand composts -- some pots tend to respond more vigorously than others. While the difference between the two pots in your illustration is noticeable, it could also be natural variability between plants.

    Were they all clones -- either TC or rhizomal divisions? I have even noticed that same variability in the same batches of tissue cultured plants . . .
    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

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  6. #16
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    Responses of Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula) to Factors Involved in Its Endemism
    Patricia R. Roberts and H. J. Oosting
    Ecological Monographs, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Apr., 1958), pp. 193-218

    Fire is common in all Dionaea areas, and as a
    result the ground vegetation is sparse, and the soil
    often has a "pepper and salt" appearance due to
    the incorporation of charred and decaying organic
    material into the white sand. Sometimes there is a
    shallow layer of peaty material above the inorganic
    soil. There are no species which are always in association
    with Dionaea but instead a mixture of
    savannah and bog types with wide moisture tolerances
    (e.,. Ilex, Zenobia, Lyonia, Polygala, Liatris, Aristi-
    da). Not all of these occur in every location and
    in different places the proportions vary. However,
    there are three other insectivorous genera (Pinguicula,
    Sarracenia, and Drosera) which nearly always
    occur with flytraps in varying abundance. The land
    where Dionaea grows is generally completely flat or
    with less than a 3% slope; where this slope is present,
    as is usual around a pocosin, populations have quite
    well defined boundaries: a dense shrub zone at the
    lower side marks one limit while the other is apparently
    determined by the summer depth of the water
    table. Over wide flat areas especially in several of
    the southeastern counties, Dionaea is distributed
    throughout large tracts of land which have not been
    disturbed. It rarely grows in depressions where water
    is likely to collect, but on the edges of such positions,
    a fact also noted by Dean (1892). Such hollows
    which have filled with Sphagnum, sometimes support
    Dionaea but these are not typical habitats. In the
    usual site the surface of the ground is generally damp,
    except that at the upper limit of a population zone it
    may become completely desiccated to a depth of
    several inches during the driest part of the year. The
    sand in these positions may be almost snow white at
    the surface due to the lack of organic matter and
    pluvial action.
    The Klej-Leon and closely related soil series
    occurring primarily in regions of smooth relief, are
    the chief soils occurring in that region of the coastal
    plain where Dionaea is found. The chief soil forming
    the Dionaea substrate belongs to the St. Johns series,
    a ground water podzol (Lee 1955), as was observed
    in practically all borings taken at Dionaea sites. The
    soil profile descriptions for these sites were all very
    similar; most have a thin layer of peaty material at
    the surface, with a dark gray or black surface horizon,
    gradually lightening in colour with depth, overlying a
    coffee-brown cemented laver-the hardpan. Beneath
    this, the color varies somewhat from brownish-gray
    to almost yellow. Occasionally excessive wetness of
    the strata below 10 in. made it impossible to bring
    samples to the surface and prevented positive identification
    of the soil type. Otherwise all soil borings
    were regularly taken to a depth of at least 30 in.
    The profile of a 5 ft deep soil pit dug at Location
    2 showed the characteristic development of the St.
    Johns series (hardpan soil), with a dark-coloured
    surface horizon gradually becoming lighter with depth
    and overlying, in this case, a yellow-brown sand.
    Plant roots were almost entirely confined to the top
    3 in. with the few scattered in the next 10 in. mainly
    belonging to the various shrub species.

    The physical properties were determined using
    samples from this pit and indicate the typical development
    of a ground water podzol in this region. In
    the hydrometer separation of sands, the total sands
    averaged between 93% and 98% at all depths and
    the total colloid content was no greater than 1.5%
    to 2.5%. Over 26% of the sand was retained in the
    60 mesh sieve while another 50-60% was retained by
    the 140 mesh sieve. The moisture and xylene equivalents
    for the top 3.5 in. were 6.07% and 3.60%

    Chemical analyses of the coastal plain soils indicate
    a verv low level of fertility. This was shown by
    analyses of surface strata (top 4 in.) fromn the two
    Locations at Beaufort and fromt samplings near
    Edgeconmbe and White Lake. The analyses were made
    at North Carolina State College by Mr. Robert
    Schramm, using standard colorimetric methods. Although
    the samples were taken from widely separated
    areas, they were markedly similar in chemical composition.
    The most noticeable characteristics of these
    soils are the high acidity (pH 3.5-4.9), the complete
    lack of detectable calcium, manganese and nitrate,
    the very low amounts of ammonia (2 ppm), iron (1
    ppm), magnesium (1 ppm), and phosphate (less than
    2 ppm). The concentration of potassium at Locations
    1 and 2 was 2 ppm which is equivalent to an agricultural
    rating of "medium."
    An interesting confirmation of these transplant
    experiments was gained when a visit was payed in
    January 1957 to Mr. Aubrey Shaw of Lake Creek
    Community, Bladen County, who had transplanted
    Dionaea into several locations showing obvious physical
    differences from the natural habitat. The transplants
    were made in 1950 as follows:
    1. Dry area
    2. Heavily shaded area
    3. Moist area
    4. Shallow drainage trough (high pH)
    5. Submerged in a pond.
    4. The shallow drainage trough, which originated
    in a cultivated field, was always wet but seldom
    carried a large volume of water. Th soil was less
    acid (pH 5.5) than is normal (pH 3.8-4.5) in Dionaea
    habitats. The plants here were large and the leaves green,
    but the glands showed a slight red coloration. The leaves were
    more typical of the spring than the winter type, with long,
    winged petioles and medium-sized traps. The plants had
    flowered in 1956, and the seedlings were larger and relatively
    more abundant than in area 3. It was reported that the
    "catch rate" of these plants was relatively high, and many of
    the traps investigated showed the remains of partially digested
    beetles, woodlice and planarians.
    Soil Texture
    In the first experiment, 12 large, vigorous plants
    were transplanted into flats containing the following
    Flat 1. Natural coastal plain soil
    Flat 2. A local clay-loam garden soil
    Flat 3. A specially prepared greenhouse potting
    Flat 4. Washed white sand
    Flat 5. Pure peat moss

    Flat 1. Natural coastal plain soil: All plants
    bloomed within 49 days of their initiation,
    although 2 plants did not reach maturity
    owing to accidents with flowering shoots.
    After flowering, all plants developed
    normal summer-type leaves with the characteristic
    red coloration.
    Flat 2. Local clay-loam garden soil: Flowers of
    4 plants finally reached maturity within
    46 days of floral initiation. Thereafter,
    the plants showed little vigor, the leaves
    remained very leathery and of the late
    winter type. In general, the leaves did
    not develop traps.
    Flat 3. Greenhouse potting soil: One plant
    flowered within 44 days and died shortly
    thereafter. All other plants died within
    7-0 days of the time of transplanting.
    Flat 4. Washed white sand: All initiations reached
    maturity within 47 days. After flowering,
    Vigorous growth occurred with the production
    of summer leaves and red coloration.
    Flat 5. Pure peat moss: All initiations reached
    maturity within 48 days. After flowering,
    tie plants remained in typical spring growth
    condition, with broad petioles and small traps.

    When the experiment was finally concluded after
    5 months, all plants in Flats 1, 4 and 5 were alive
    and very vigorous although the plants in Flat 4
    were much larger than those of the other two. In
    Flat 2 only two plants were still alive, and were
    very unthrifty. These were taken from the soil and
    the roots washed. The probable cause of their low
    vitality was immediately apparent-there had apparently
    been no new root growth during the whole
    time of the experiment. Each plant had 4 roots
    and not one was more than 4 cm long. In contrast,
    plants removed from the other flats, each had 6-8 well
    developed roots which averaged 3-5 cm in length
    (in Flats 1 and 4), and 15-20 cm in length (in Flat 5).

    This experiment indicates that soil differences do
    influence the rate and type of development of
    Dionaea. At first, the sudden rise in temperature
    from the field to the 72F greenhouse was probably
    responsible for the speed of appearance of the initials
    without any affects from the soil itself. However,
    after a time, the health and vigor of the plants reflected
    the soil type, with a decline in those plants
    in pure mineral soil (possibly the speed of decline in
    Flat 3 was partially due to the fertilizer added in
    the preparation of that soil), which led to coloration
    changes, loss of initials, loss of fertility, and
    finally, death. The explanation appears to lie in the
    fact that root growth is suppressed in the heavier
    soils. The higher pH and nutrient content of the
    artificial soils are probably contributory.

    A second experiment involved the use of different
    proportions of sand and clay as the substratum for
    Dionaea. Transplants were made in September. 1956,
    and carried through to January, 1957. Mixtures of
    clay (Georgeville, a kaolinite type) (100%, 75%,
    50%, 25%, 0% by volume) and sand were made and
    duplicate flats of each mixture prepared. Thirty
    mature Dionaea were planted in each flat as well as
    ten 2 to 3-yr-old plants.
    Results of this experiment were unexpected, as
    the plants in the lower proportions of clay were as
    slow in growth as those in the higher, and generally
    died off more quickly. Georgeville clay has been
    shown to contain a high percentage of mineral nutrients,
    which may be the reason that all plants did
    poorly. The young plants all died within a month of
    planting, while plants in the flats with 25% and 50%
    clay had all died within 2 months. At the end of
    the experiment, only 10 plants were alive in the
    100% flat, and 15 in the 75% flats. The plants in
    the sand flats all grew normally.
    Nutrient solutions (modified fronm Burkholder &
    -Nickell 1949) and a dilute Hoaglands solution were
    the main mineral solutions used, and a yeast protein
    extract a-nd Drosophila melanagaster were the sources
    of organic nutrient. The mineral solutions were
    supplied through the soil and through the leaves, and
    the organic material through the leaves only. Plants
    were grown in washed sand. The seedlings were
    germinated in the laboratory and the older plants
    were obtained in the field.
    Details of the exploratory experiments would not
    be justified in view of the inconclusive results. The
    generalizations suggested by the work indicate that
    intensive study along these lines would yield rewarding
    information. All plants receiving mineral nutrients
    grew poorly, while all the controls (watered
    with distilled water) showed much more satisfactory
    The mature experimental plants steadily
    declined in weight, and (died after about 3 months.
    Growth of all plants whether experimental, control,
    or in normal soils of the coastal region, was very
    slow, and this fact prevented further experimental
    work in the time available. The plants which were
    "fed" organic material, on the other hand, showed
    more vigorous vegetative growth.
    None of the plants
    under the various nutritional regimes flowered in the
    season following the experiments, while approximately
    the same proportion (45%) of the control plants
    flowered as was noted in the field (40%). It is
    probable that poor growth of the experimental plants
    resulted from using too high a concentration or the
    wrong proportions of nutrients.
    St. Johns' series soils have a high water table and
    an organic hardpan which is usually not more than
    24 in. below the soil surface in Dionaea areas. The
    soil is acid with a pH range of 3.9-4.5. Although
    Dionaea will survive in less acid soils, growth above
    pH 6.5 is poor.
    Last edited by Not a Number; 07-09-2011 at 08:05 AM.
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  7. #17
    Monkey's Avatar
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    I was about to say that Steve, highly recommends coir for CPs, but mmlr beat me to it.
    IN HOC

  8. #18
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    Not a Number points out John Brittnacher's observation that Sarracenia don't grow as well in coir as in sphagnum media, which matches my own observation stated above, although I do wonder whether John desalinated the coir before using it; if not, then that was probably a strong contributing factor in the outcome of his experiment.

    Coir works well as an alternative to sphagnum peat moss for some plants including Venus Flytraps, which grow better in a coir mix than a sphagnum peat mix, although the coir must be carefully desalinated first. To theoretical naysayers, I would simply say that facts are determined by application and observation, and that practical experience often trumps theory.
    Last edited by xscd; 07-12-2011 at 07:48 AM.
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  9. #19
    Hello, I must be going... Not a Number's Avatar
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    Your results are encouraging enough that further study is warranted. Size alone is not a complete indicator of growth trends. The Roberts paper cited above measured size, coloration, flowering and seed production. In some soils plants would grow larger than the control groups but not color as well or flower or produce viable seed. Why not do a study with much more controlled conditions and submit a paper to the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter?
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  10. #20
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Not a Number View Post
    Why not do a study with much more controlled conditions and submit a paper to the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter?
    Because I am already too busy and have little interest in doing so myself. That would be a very nice project, but for someone else.

    I'm merely reporting the encouraging results of my own experience so far with coir, to add to the public knowledge and discussion of the subject.
    Last edited by xscd; 07-12-2011 at 09:11 AM.
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