Choosing the right media for your carnivorous plants may seem like a daunting task but it doesn't have to be! Hopefully this blog will help you feel more confident in choosing what media is right for you.
The three main questions I ask someone when they want to choose the right media for their carnivorous plants are:
With the answers to these three questions, we can find the media mix that will work best for you. You can personalize your media mix to meet your needs. So depending on what your conditions are and how often you like to water you can make a more airy mix or more dense mix depending on what components you add to your media.
Types of media appropriate for Carnivorous plants:
- long fiber sphagnum moss
- live long fiber sphagnum moss
- peat moss
- orchid bark
- coco chips
- coco coir/peat
- tree fern fiber
Type of plant + Growing method
Are you growing things in a tray of water, like Sarracenia, Pingucula, Drosera? Or are you growing tropical plants in pots like Nepenthes? The type of plant and how you are growing it is very important when choosing the correct media. For plants grown in a shallow tray of water, you want a mix that is not going to decompose when constantly wet. Sand, peat moss, perlite, pumice, and coco products are great options for media mixes for plants that will be grown using the tray method. These components wont break down while sitting in water. For plants that are top watered like Nepenthes you can use a combination of just about any of the medias listed earlier, because you do not have to worry about the media breaking down as fast.
Another important thing to consider when choosing the right media is price. Some of the components to make carnivorous plant media can be very expensive but there are cheaper alternatives if you need a budget friendly option. Coco products are by far the most readily available and affordable option for carnivorous plant media. It can also very easily be tailored to the denseness or airiness that you need by adding more chips, perlite, or coco coir/peat.
Rinsing Media- When & Why?
I recommend wetting all your media before you repot anything because it makes it much easier to work with and helps you to fill the pot with the correct amount of media. However, when it comes to actually washing or rinsing your media its not always necessary. Most products are perfectly fine to use out of the bag. Coco products on the other hand, do need to be washed before use. Due to how a lot of coco products are processed they have a very high mineral content. After a few soaks in RO (reverse osmosis) water it is a great media! (You can also use tap water in the initial rinse if you have limited RO water.) We have found after about 3 soaks in fresh RO water the TDS (total dissolved solids) are usually around 50 which is safe to use.
Believe it or not carnivorous plants still need nutrients! They are adapted for nutrient poor environments but not nutrient void environments. With mixes that lack nutrients like coco or akadama based mixes, we recommend fertilizing often. At least once a moth but once every two weeks is even better. Mixes made up primarily of lfsm (long fiber sphagnum moss) can grow algae really quickly. Lfsm acts like a sponge and holds on to nutrients so after you fertilize it is very important to top water your plants a few days after fertilizing to help flush out any extra nutrients that may contribute to algae growth. Maxsea and Osmocote are great options for fertilizer. You can use 1/4 strength maxsea to water your plants or you can add some to the pitchers. Osmocote pellets can be added to pitchers. We generally recommend just adding one to a pitcher to try and avoid overfertilizing the pitcher so it does not brown and die off.
We have switched our standard Nepenthes mix from a lfsm mix to a coco based mix. This has given us a lot more control with water retention in our mixes as well as weed and algae control. Lfsm mixes can often become hydrophobic if with age or if they get missed during a watering and then have to be placed in a tray to rehydrate. Coco mixes do not do this. They are incredibly easy to top water and you do not have to worry about them becoming hydrophobic if it is missed or as the media ages.
We also get a lot of questions about our Nepenthes villosa and why we choose to grow them in an akadama mix. Through my experience growing N. villosa I have found it likes to be treated more like an orchid. They do not like to have their media soaking wet all the time which is why we use akadama. It gives me much more control over watering and moister retention. They are very prone to root and crown rot so increasing the air flow around them is very beneficial. As well as making sure they are in a place where their leaves do not constantly stay wet. They also benefit from being fertilized often.