For some strange reason I have never had much luck growing Mexican Pinguicula. I bought one a long time ago, and it looked beautiful. Soon after it rapidly declined and has just not looked “right” since. I’ve scoured the internet looking for tips & tricks to remedy my situation. I began to feel discouraged; especially since many of my friends (with gorgeous Pinguicula plants) would comment “they’re the easiest plant I grow!”
Well I finally believe I have figured it out. Before you read on I just want to mention that the following cultivation information is what seems to be working for me after much trial-and-error. The tips presented below are proving effective in suiting the plant’s needs in my particular growing conditions. I hope you all enjoy the photos of my small “Ping” collection.
Pinguicula agnata “El Lobo”
Pinguicula “Apasionada” – still quite young, will get much bigger
Environment: Plants are grown on my unheated basement grow rack in zone 5. The basement reaches a low of 55°F in the winter. The grow rack (because of the lights) can reach low 80°F in the summer. My current season is autumn, so the temperature on the grow rack ranges from 60°F – 75°F. Relative humidity currently ranges between 40% – 60%. These numbers change slightly each season but are not significantly better/worse.
Light: Plants are grown approximately 12 inches away from a 2-bulb T5-HO fluorescent light fixture. Spring through summer the plants get 14 hours of light (10 hours of darkness). Fall through winter the plants get 10 hours of light (14 hours of darkness). This change in lighting between seasons is gradually tapered so as to not shock/disturb the plants. These plants are also reported by many to grow well on a windowsill without the need for artificial light.
Water: Plants are grown on the “water-tray” method. Meaning plant pots are sitting in an un-drained container (standard plastic seedling trays) with distilled water(could also use rainwater or reverse osmosis water) filled about halfway up the plant pot. With the fall/winter change in light cycle, the plants lose their carnivorous leaves and produce succulent-type leaves. During this succulent phase I allow the water level to drop a bit, but never allow the pots to dry out.
Media: This is where “trial and error” came in for me! Your choice of media will depend on the height of your plant pot, as well as your watering method. A quick Google search will reveal countless recipes for the “perfect” Pinguicula mix. Some of these recipes require more rocks/minerals than the Flintstones. At a friend’s recommendation I began using a coarse clay granule product called Turface MVP Infield Conditioner, purchased from a local landscape supply store (This product is also marketed as an Aquatic Plant Media Soil…But is a bit more expensive; however much more convenient to find & store if you just have a few plants and no intention to propagate them. I believe it came in a 50 pound bag and it was cheap. IF you put your Pinguicula into pots above 2.5-3 inches tall and you grow them in conditions similar to mine, you will likely need to mix silica sand (pool filter sand is what I use…It is a bit too fine for my liking but I have yet to locate anything that is more coarse) into your Turface in equal parts to help bring water up to the surface to be absorbed by the plant’s shallow root system (or have a deeper water tray). Another option would be to use a ‘heavier’ media mix that would allow greater absorption & water retention; such as the one found HERE by the International Carnivorous Plant Society which recommends equal parts: Peat Moss, Silica Sand, and Perlite. Making sure each ingredient is free of added nutrients/fertilizers by the manufacturer.
Feeding: These plants are very good at catching their own prey in the house, as evidenced by all of the gnats stuck to their leaves. During the carnivorous leaf phase the plants form large, sticky, slimy leaves. Bugs land on them, and cannot get off; they are slowly digested and nutrients are absorbed into the leaves. They remind me of flypaper. For “artificial” feedings I do 1 of 2 things once or twice a month. I either lightly sprinkle the plants with ground up fish food (fish flakes, betta pellets, etc.), OR I give them 1 quick spritz from a water bottle filled with a weak dilution (1/4 – 1/2 the recommended strength) of Maxsea 16-16-16 fertilizer in distilled water, while trying not to get any fertilizer on the media’s surface. Regardless of whichever feeding method you use – when in doubt, less is more. You can always add a bit more fertilizer if your plants seem to tolerate it, but too much can be fatal.
Pinguicula moranensis var. alba
Pinguicula moranensis x ehlersiae
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