Live sphagnum moss

Growing live sphagnum moss is not hard as long as you can offer it enough moisture, light and adequate air humidity.

A few words about sphagnum…

Naturally, sphagnum grows in wetlands all around the world. The problem is, it’s being overexploited and it’s rapidly losing ability to regrow. I have successfully started growing my own sphagnum moss some time ago. I keep it outside and try to maintain healthy amount intact, so it can fully regrow rapidly. By having my own source, I don’t need to buy it commercially or even worse poach it in the wild. Lately, I started planting moss inside with my carnivores and I noticed it is possible to keep it growing in pots as well. I’ve seen others do it, yet, I was skeptical, I can offer them proper conditions.

How to plant sphagnum moss

When growing sphagnum you need to keep a few things in mind. Like other bog plants, it needs a lot of water, proper light, it hates heat, suffers when air is dry and doesn’t tolerate high salts content dissolved in water.

Most of the plant, when you pluck it out is actually old dead tissue which is usually yellow to brown colored. The top part (sphagnum head) color can range from green to red and is actively growing part of the plant. The dead tissue still has a function, though – it wicks the water from the water level upwards, supplying it to the heads which are above water and could (would) otherwise dry out. By disturbing the moss in the wild, you can damage it and cause it to dry and die.

Place the sphagnum on top of the peat based (non-fertilized) substrate and push the lower parts into the substrate, making sure the moss heads are turned upwards and the dead tissue below is able to wick the moisture. I usually add some sphagnum that is in bad shape on top of peat, it keeps it in place when watering and keeps moisture high.

When everything is prepared, I poke a hole in the substrate and use forceps to insert the sphagnum as deep as possible without breaking the stem.
When I’m happy with the result, I add carnivores or start growing the moss alone to add the plants later.

How to care for sphagnum moss

It’s best to keep water level slightly below the sphagnum layer. Dead part of sphagnum should remain in water or saturated peat. If water level gets low, moss can start getting dark brown growing tips. At that point, it’s best to water it thoroughly, discarding the water that drains out. I often partly submerge the whole pot for a short time to flush out the salt and humic acids buildup. The browning of the moss happens due to humic acid buildup in the growing points. Same often happens with carnivore plants but usually happens later when concentrations get even higher. It can lead to necrosis which means the affected moss or plants eventually die. It’s not that damaging if concentrations are low or the buildup doesn’t last long enough to cause damage.

Moss like regular misting or spraying with distilled, reverse-osmosis or rainwater. It keeps air humidity up and reduces humic acid buildup.

For proper growth, sphagnum needs ample amount of light. It should be kept away from direct sun in well lit location. I keep them under LED grow lights.

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Growing Hibiscus rosa-sinensis from seed

This post is as far away from cold-hardy as it gets. This time, I tried growing tropical hibiscus seeds. After growing and hybridizing temperate Hibiscus moscheutos and later Hibiscus coccineus, I added completely non-hardy tropical Hibiscus rosa-sinensis to the list.

How hard can it be?

When I first tried growing the seeds, they were old and haven’t been kept in ideal conditions. None of the seeds germinated. I have successfully germinated at least 2 years old seeds of temperate Hibiscus moscheutos before, so I expected at least some success with the tropical variety as well. Seeds were not that old after all, 6 months at most.

The second time, I used fresh seeds and soon noticed they started sprouting. They emerged as typical Hibiscus with the same cotyledon as its siblings before. The only evident difference was the smooth glossy texture of the leaves.

Leaves are dark brown on top with reddish-brown underside.

Brown leaves!

Soon after germination, first sets of true leaves emerged and they immediately started gaining red color under LED grow lights. Temperate hibiscus seedlings could get it, but it never got that extreme. Leaves that are originally dark green turned chocolate brown when the red leaf pigmentation formed. New leaves start light green and color-up as they mature. They really look unique with that dark colored leaves. Under LED grow light, they appear almost completely black.

Seedling diversity

From the very beginning, leaves of the seedlings looked different. Since these are most likely juvenile leaves, they could eventually become identical. They both have leaves with 3 lobes. One of the seedlings have extremely thin lobes. I’m new to the tropical hibiscus seedlings so I got quite surprised by both its appearance and the fact how different their leaf shape is.

I will grow these two seedlings as potted plants and I’m looking forward to see how they develop. Their growth is getting very vigorous now. I’m afraid they could soon run out of space I can offer them, but for now, they are doing great. I might write an update when they mature and possibly even start flowering.

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Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

The easiest and fastest option to multiply your Drosera spatulata (or many other Drosera plants) is making leaf cuttings. They can easily grow tiny plants which take a lot less time than growing seedlings. Let’s see how you can easily make cuttings of your Drosera spatulata.

Drosera-spatulata
Drosera spatulata ‘Fraser island’

What do you need?

Like mentioned earlier, Drosera spatulata easily grows small plantlets from leaf cuttings. They don’t need any help using rooting hormones or growth regulators, the only thing they need is water. Speaking of water, it needs to have low TDS value (total dissolved solids). That means the water doesn’t have much salts in it, which are usually present in ground or tap water. The best option is if you can collect rain water. I usually wait for a while and discard the first couple of hours of rain, so the atmosphere and the roof cleans up a bit. I measured TDS and it can make quite a difference. If collected rain is not an option, you can use RO (reverse osmosis) water or distilled water.

How do you make the cuttings?

Making leaf cuttings is easy, you need small scissors and forceps. I make a cut as close to the base of the plant as possible and discard old and damaged leaves. Using forceps I pick out the leaves I just cut and place them into petri dish, filled half-way with distilled water. You can also use a glass or any kind of container that holds water. In an experiment with Drosera capensis a few years ago, I used zip-lock bags, which also worked.

How long does it take?

It can take quite some time before you see the first signs of life. Young, healthy and large leaves will take faster and grow more small plants, while smaller, older or damaged leaves usually take longer and produces only a couple of plants, some even fail. It usually takes around a month to get them started, but it often takes longer, up to two months. Beside health of the cuttings, there are other key factors that can also affect the speed of propagation – light and temperature. Keep them in light place but not directly exposed to sun. They grow well under artificial lights, I have set the lights to 16 hour day length. I try to keep temperature between 20°C and 30°C.

Well fed Drosera spatulata. It single handedly eradicated fungus gnats infestation.

PROS / CONS compared to growing seedlings?

First there are pros:
Cuttings take off a lot faster than seedlings which can stay in their super tiny phase for quite some time.
When they first emerge, they can already start “hunting” small insects. Seedlings are usually too small to catch even the smallest springtails.
All the seedlings are identical to their parent plant – they are clones. That comes especially handy with Drosera hybrids that are not fertile.

Smaller leaves don’t give as many plantlets

Cons of taking cuttings are:
They are clones. There is no biodiversity in that, all the plants you get are identical, they have the same vigor, same shape, color,… As it is a good thing, it can be a bad thing as well. I like diversity!
By generative (sexual) reproduction, you can get hybrids and selectively breed your plants, trying to get their best characteristics and create a superior seedling. That alone makes it worth playing with the seeds, it’s just not to make a lot of plants in a shortest time possible.

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Unknown bamboo seeds: part 2

Growing bamboo seedlings again

I already started a post about growing bamboo seeds again this winter. Among many seeds I ordered online from a Chinese vendor on Aliexpress, I decided to try their bamboo seeds as well. Later I found that most of the received seeds were fake. Instead of stuff I ordered, I received all kind of weeds – perhaps I’ll write about growing those one day as well.

Spectabilis seedling on the left, Moso on the right

Bamboo seeds were true Phyllostachys seeds, the puzzle remains, though, their true ID. I ordered Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ and Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ seeds. First one is readily available all the time, so it’s most likely correct, but the second one doesn’t flower at the moment which means it’s most likely fake. I assume that both seed packs had Moso seeds in them.

LED grow lights

Like all my latest seedlings, I’ve used full spectrum LED grow lights which proved to work very well, especially with Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings. In the beginning, seedlings were slow to start and I expected that to happen with Moso seedlings. None of Moso seedlings I’ve tried growing could compete with other bamboo seedlings, they seem to be delicate and resent everything.

Darker green leaves of Moso seedlings. Newest leaves show nutrient deficiency

Later I noticed that grow lights don’t work as efficient as my previous LED chips. Other plants were also less vigorous, Drosera carnivores didn’t color-up as much as they could. Bamboo seedlings have a bit longer internodes than I remember which could be result of lower light intensity.

Yellow-ish colored seedlings

Some of the seedlings came out with some pigmentation issues. Affected seedlings were not completely albinic, yet, they were yellow or very pale green. Their leaves were delicate and didn’t stay alive long, they just shriveled and dried out. Lack of proper pigmentation resulted in extremely slow growth and much slower shooting cycle. To delay leaf loss of yellow leaved seedlings, I placed the seedlings further away from the light source and shaded them behind other plants.

The strange thing is, the seeds from both packs had different numbers of yellow seedlings. Moso pack hardly had any, while most of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ wannabe seeds were sickly and yellow. Perhaps the seeds are not the same after all!

Small and pale seedlings. Larger darker green seedlings look crappy due to low light levels

Too early to ID

Seedlings are much larger now and they do well, especially considering they were neglected so far. Shoots of seedlings from both seed packs look like the Moso seedlings I’ve grown in the past. So far, they were not properly fed to show the nicely colored purple oral setae, I’ll see if they do color-up when I plant them separately. With a lot of imagination, tiny culms do seed to be a bit fuzzy, but it’s way too early to tell.

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