the exacting requirements of pitcher plants

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Growing sarracenia in a sink, as seen at Flora Grubb Gardens, is a not-too-subtle reminder of the one thing you must never forget to grow them successfully.
Water, of course. These are bog plants after all. But there’s something else…

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Never, never give them water out of your faucet. Or water you’ve let sit in a pail outdoors, thinking you’ve leached out any impurities, which I’ve tried in the past.
They hate the minerals in our tap water and must be given distilled water. Maybe your tap water varies. Here in Long Beach, Calif., we’ve got some hard water flowing through our pipes.
I’m only bringing this up because I’m seeing these sun-loving native bog plants at sales and shows again, and I always ask about the water thing, hoping the rules maybe have changed or relaxed. Um, no. Here’s a garden fantasy: Wouldn’t it be nice to have distilled water delivered every week for your pitcher plants?
Other than the water sensitivity, these self-feeding, carnivorous plants are said to be fairly easy to grow. Acidic, peaty soil, no fertilizer.


The pitchers are as sexy as the flowers.

Unfortunately, those of us in zone 9-10 might also have an issue with their winter dormancy needs of a cold period for 2-4 months.
I’d love to hear any success stories in zone 10.

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5 Responses to the exacting requirements of pitcher plants

  1. I’ve often fantasized about having a tub full of pitcher plants in the backyard. But our water is not only harrrrrrrd, it’s also full of stuff like boron that would no doubt kill them. I’ll be at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory this Saturday, and I’ll be sure to ask what water they use for their pitcher plants.

  2. hoov says:

    I will enjoy them in the PNW and in PNW blog posts, where they belong and prosper. Didn’t know that about the need for distilled water. I have an orchid I feed only distilled water, but a gallon lasts 6 months. I imagine Sarracenias are a little thirstier.

  3. Peter/Outlaw says:

    These are seductive but even here they need to be cut back in the spring and require a sunny location or they pout. I’ve had better luck growing the tropical ones in the greenhouse. They all get watered with the hose but our water is not as hard as yours.

  4. Pam/Digging says:

    Good to know. Not that I’d ever choose a plant that needed that much water. I’d kill it for sure by forgetting about it. They are awfully tempting though.

  5. Nell says:

    Given the limestone substrate here, and winter cold beyond the pitcher plants’ threshold, I’ve finally shaken off the fantasy of growing them. But what stunners they are where they’re happy. Fifteen years ago on a whirlwind trip to North Carolina gardens and nurseries, they were at almost every place we visited (breeding work happening at both Chapel Hill and NC State). My favorites are the leuco-something, the white-marked ones.

    Since acid rain is a reality, I wonder if gardeners with the right kind of acidic soil can grow them in downspout-fed rain gardens…

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