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Category: Aquatic plants

Live sphagnum moss

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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Drosera spatulata propagation – cuttings

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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Propagating Cyperus alternifolius

Propagating Cyperus alternifolius

I had been growing Cyperus alternifolius some time ago. It’s a rewarding plant that can easily withstand drought, neglect and constant wet and boggy conditions. It’s not hardy enough to survive most of our winters outside, so I need to take it inside during the cold months. Last winter, I tried placing my Cyperus plants into deeper water to protect it from freezing. I doubt they froze, but none of them survived.

It only took 6 days for the cutting to start growing new shoots.
It only took 6 days for the cutting to start growing new shoots.
The other day, a couple of weeks ago, I found large Cyperus alternifolius plants and asked the owner if I can take one that was broken. Received friendly chit-chat and at least ten large Cyperus heads! I was told that these plants return every year even when temperatures in the winter fall slighly below freezing. Hopefully they will be easier to maintain during the winter around here as well. I placed all of them into large jar filled with water and waited. After only 6 days, first shoots already started emerging. I remember when I tried propagating my old Cyperus plants, that started to rot first and then if I was lucky enough, small shoots also poked out.

Sadly I also lost my Cyperus papyrus last winter. It refused to overwinter inside and froze to death outside. If I get my hands on it, I’ll keep it in a bit less humid soil during the winter, I’ve kept mine in water and it sadly turned to mush before the spring arrived.

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Feeding Sundew Seedlings

Feeding Sundew Seedlings

Aphids can be easily fed to young Drosera seedlings.
Aphids can be easily fed to young Drosera seedlings.

3 months old Drosera capensis seedling eating aphids.
3 months old Cape sundew seedling eating aphids.
Some people feed their young Drosera seedlings dry fish food, since it’s time of the year with abundance of insects outside, I intend to use living food.

I introduced springtails into the soil mix that I used for sundew seedlings by sheer accident. They were happily living in sphagnum moss I gathered and mixed into the soil. I soon discovered that small creatures often ended up being caught in tiny little carnivorous traps. Springtails primarily eat fungus and algae on moist soil and don’t attack even the smallest and most fragile seedlings, so they are safe to use as janitors and easy prey for growing carnivore seedlings.
I isolated several springtails and started growing whole colony in separated glass container. I used Agar as moisture and food source and gave them a tiny chunk of potato, which eventually started to decay. Springails enjoyed their new home and started multiplying.

Springtails and aphids are ideal food for small carnivorous seedlings.
Springtails and aphids are ideal food for small carnivorous seedlings.
In a couple of weeks there were thousands and I was able to blow them from their container into the pot full of Drosera capensis Alba seedlings. When traps get larger, it’s easier to feed small insects, so I started looking for appropriate food for my carnivores. I started with live aphids, but soon realized that they can multiply and some extremely small aphids managed to somehow escape the traps. I caught all the escapees and helped them get caught. Since then, I always put them into the freezer for a couple of days, together with aphid infected leaf. That way I can be sure they are all dead and harmless. When larger leaves appear, they can easily digest a mosquito.

During the summer and fall, there can be a lot of fruit flies around decaying fruit. I found a way to easily feed my sundews during the night by putting a small LED light so it lights up the sundew I’d like to feed. When you force flies or fruit flies into the air, they instinctively follow the light. In only a couple of minutes, you can end up with well fed sundew, completely covered with small flies.

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