Q/A #110 - Sarracenia Not Growing Well in a Terrarium

June 19, 2023

Q/A #110 - Sarracenia Not Growing Well in a Terrarium

I purchased a Sarracenia purpurea (from a different nursery) at the beginning of winter and it grew some new pitchers, then it started growing these long ones with no opening. I have struggled to find what these are but deduced that as summer approached my plant went into dormancy. Plus it's gone green, not purple. 

I have it in a glass terrarium with vent holes (shown), indoors. Gets lots of sun in winter (indoors), but now the sun is high it doesn't get direct sunlight. After finding your website, yesterday I started putting it close to the ranch slider and leaving the lid off for part of the day. I only gets mid to late afternoon sun as we have a neighbors tree shading the area. 

I purchased an all-purpose soil mix from the other carnivorous plant nursery. It has peat moss, sand, and perlite. I only give it distilled water. feed it with freeze dried worms. I check the water level and make sure it doesn't dry out. I do monitor the humidity level. It does get a bit warm in there so lift the lid and allow some airflow and wipe the condensation off the glass.

Not sure what to do but wondering if I should just let it work out it's own seasons and go with that or whether I need to place it outside and get it growing to the correct seasons despite low humidity here. Your advice would be greatly appreciated! .

I also live in Denver Colorado so it's hot in summer but dry. cold winters. I was led to believe it wouldn't survive if placed outside as shown at your nursery, hence the indoor terrarium.....right? wrong?
(Submitted in June 2020.)


First let me give you some background on the plant you have. This is a US native, hardy perennial. It comes from climate zones 7 and 8, so can handle freezes down into the low 20's and even teens with proper protection. Being a true bog plant, Sarracenia purpurea is also a full sun plant. In our nursery this species is grown outdoors year-round, and gets around 10 hours of sun on a sunny day in the summer just like all the other Sarracenia. Oregon isn't particularly humid in the summer, especially once we hit the dry season. The constant high humidity requirements of carnivorous plants you sometimes read about online and in older literature is a myth. While it might apply to a very small number of carnivorous plants, the vast majority of carnivorous plants grow well in average humidity. Sarracenia purpurea and other varieties of Sarracenia grow well in low humidity.

We have a customer in Phoenix, AZ. He grows his Sarracenia and Venus flytraps outside in full sun. He regularly has his plants out in 110°F (43°C) degree heat.

As for your plant, it is unfortunately in really bad shape. Your plant is showing all the signs of having been growing in poor lighting - thin, elongated, green leaves that sometimes don't form pitchers. The pitchers should be stout and dark red. 

Many of us have been there since all the older literature on carnivorous plants focused on this humidity nonsense, so people were recommended to grow their plants in terrariums. I killed so many plants that way when I was a kid. Today in the nursery we call terrariums "Death Cubes". I'm sure the other nursery where you got your plant from meant well, but their advice led you astray.

Here's my recommendations, and some of this will seem very counterintuitive at first, but we've been growing carnivorous plants for over 30 years, so I've been around the block a few times with these issues. First, you will need a 6" pot with a drain hole in the bottom. The pot should be either plastic or glazed ceramic, but I would lean towards a typical plastic pot. The soil you got from the other nursery is good, so save that and fill your pot with that. Transplant your plant to that. Cut off the upper two thirds of each leaf. The leaves are so soft and badly formed from being in no light and high humidity that they are of no benefit to the plant right now. 

Next get a large plant saucer of tray that holds water that the pot can sit in. Place your plant outside on your patio in a sunny spot. It needs about the same amount of sun you would need for a tomato plant. Be sure there's always water in the tray to keep the soil wet. It will take about a month for the plant to start making a recovery.

In the first week you will see some leaf burn on the remaining leaf sections you left intact. This is normal. Cutting them off reduces transpiration. Keep a little water in the holes in the leaves when you water. When the new foliage begins to grow it will look normal again. Be sure the soil never goes dry, and use distilled water like you've been doing, or catch some rainwater. 

In Fall, allow your plant to experience some frost. Don't worry about freezing temperatures. Your plant needs to experience the frost for it to go dormant. This might be as early as late September, but typically Denver will experience nightly frost by October.

After a week of frosty nights, move your plant to a sunny window for the winter. Do NOT use the glass bell jar. Just set the plant in your windowsill with a saucer.  Let it go through a couple frosts before you bring it in. When you set it in your windowsill, move the pot as close to the window pane as possible. This will keep the plant on the cools side. Make sure there aren't any heat vents nearby. Keep the plant there throughout winter. Make sure the soil is always moist. Clip off dead leaves as they occur.

In spring, after the risk of frost has passed, move your plant back outside in full sun. 

On a side note, this is one of the few Sarracenia that will do ok on a windowsill indoors if you have a window that gets direct sun for a significant part of the day. I mention this because of where you live, and not knowing what temperature swings you get in your area. When my mother lived in Central Oregon, which is high desert very similar to parts of Colorado, they would get freezes in the middle of the summer sometimes, so that was too hard for the plants to deal with while in active summer growth. So, this is a possible option if you have a very sunny window. Just stop using any sort of terrarium setup. It's hard to give plants the sunlight they need without baking them. Your plant also doesn't need constant high humidity. It will grow fine in low humidity if you give it the chance to acclimate.

Here are a few resources for you to check out:
• Grow North American Carnivorous Plants
• Terrariums
• Sarracenia Care Guide
• The Ultimate Carnivorous Plant Guide for Beginners
• Sarracenia in a Windowsill

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