Pam­per, but don’t pester the plants

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - — Adrian Hig­gins

How do you kill a car­niv­o­rous plant? By treat­ing it like just an­other gar­den peren­nial or house­plant.

The plants will die in con­ven­tional gar­den or pot­ting soil, which is too rich. Use a mix of one part sphag­num peat moss to one part sand. Liv­ing sphag­num moss — the gen­er­a­tive ma­te­rial of a peat bog — can work as a mulch, much as it would in a nat­u­ral bog.

You can’t use mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter, which has too many min­er­als. The choices are col­lected rain­wa­ter, dis­tilled (not bot­tled) wa­ter or well wa­ter.

Feed­ing with fer­til­iz­ers, in­clud­ing or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers, will also im­peril the plants. Plants do need an in­sect meal, but only oc­ca­sion­ally, and when out­doors in the gar­den they prob­a­bly can feed them­selves. Grow­ers of in­door plants can use freeze-dried in­sects from a pet shop or win­g­less fruit flies.

Don’t use raw meat or cheese — says nurs­ery owner Michael Szesze — which will rot, kill leaves and com­pro­mise the whole plant. Fly­traps need to feel a strug­gling in­sect to fuse their leaves for the meal, he says.

Clos­ing a trap takes an enor­mous amount of en­ergy, and if all that work is not re­warded with an in­sect, the plant is weak­ened. “The worst en­emy of the Venus’ fly­trap,” he says, “is a kid fin­ger-poker.”

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