Am I the only victim of this devious plant?
November 28, 2013 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Nothing is happening with my plant-in-a-can Venus Flytrap a month after planting the seeds. Do I wait?

I bought the can about a month ago in an open-air flower market. It contained ~200 ml of soil and a couple of seeds in tiny packet, with instructions to moisten the soil and push the seeds in. One thing I might have done wrong is that I dug a little hole and put them in, about 1 cm from the surface. I have put the can on an inside windowsill, and have been watering every few days with about 10-20 ml at a time just to keep the soil moist.

The only thing I can see growing in the can is a bit of white fuzz around the edges. Have I killed this plant already, or is one month too little time for it to sprout?

Disclaimier: About as ignorant about gardening as they come, please to be using simple words.
posted by Dr Dracator to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
This guide says you shouldn't use tap water unless you've left it sat out for 24-48 hours so that might be the issue.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:57 AM on November 28, 2013

I emailed jamaro, who is our resident expert on these things.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I bought my daughter a venus flytrap in a can kit a couple years ago and we never got a single sprout. We finally tossed it after four or five months. Just another data point.
posted by looli at 9:25 AM on November 28, 2013

Best answer: Stewriffic summoned me with the bug light :)

VFTs are not an easy plant to cultivate from seed compared to say, a carrot. Most commercial VFT growers grow tissue cultured clones instead and avid hobbyists like myself tend to propagate from bulb splitting unless we are trying to develop a new variety.

The white fuzz is fungus, I'm afraid that likely spelled doom for your seeds. Also, burying the seeds isn't good, they need to be right on top of the soil as they need light to germinate. And the water needs to be completely free of minerals, as in reverse-osmosis, distilled or captured rain water: as with all carnivorous plants, VFTs are native to a place with nutrient-poor soil that is rinsed near daily with rain, this is why they have evolved to capture their own fertilizer.

Since you've already planted them, you could try digging the seeds back up (this is a long shot due to the presence of fungus but hey, why not), drying them out on a paper towel and replanting onto a bed of shredded long fiber sphagnum moss that has been soaked in distilled water. Cover the container with a bit of plastic wrap with a few tiny holes poked in the top and place under a very bright light (a lamp, sunlight isn't going to cut it at this time of year at the latitude in your profile) positioned no less than a foot above the surface. The container will fog up, which is perfect because these things need swamp-like humidity to thrive. With the right mix of heat, humidity and water, you should see sprouts in 2 weeks.

Alternatively, if you want to keep them in the windowsill: dig the seeds back up and set them aside, replace the soil or flood the soil a few times with distilled water to flush out whatever might been in your tap water*, put the seeds back on top, and be prepared to wait until late spring because VFTs go dormant in winter when left outside.

*BTW, tap isn't necessarily bad for VFTs, it's all about the mineral content in your local water and since most folks don't have a TDS meter in their desk drawer, using distilled or R/O water is an easy way to control that factor.
posted by jamaro at 10:20 AM on November 28, 2013 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: I knew the white stuff was not a Good Thing.

I've dug the seeds back out, one looks OK but the other looks kind of blackened, it's probably gone already. I'm setting them aside unitl I can get some distilled water to wash out the soil - since it came with the seeds, I'm assuming it's at least marginally the correct type, so I won't be replacing it.

I'm not going to try the plastic wrap thing - I don't really have the space for this kind of setup, and I'd be paranoid about burning the house down with a bright light shining on a piece of plastic.

I think I'll just put them back in under slightly better conditions and wait for summer (and probably get another set in the meantime, since the outlook on this one isn't looking too good and it cost something like €5).

One more question - do I add any water in the meantine? I'm thinking no, or very little, right?
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:58 PM on November 28, 2013

Best answer: It would be better to replace the soil because the fungus is all through what you have. Alternatively, you could sterilize the soil in your oven: spread out in a bit of foil, heat to 80C for 30 minutes, let cool and rehydrate w/ distilled before planting anything in it.

If you're going to wait until spring anyway, just dry off the seeds, seal them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge until replanting time. Less chance of yet another fungus attack that way.

The soil should be warm and damp but not sopping wet for VFTs seeds. When you stick your seeds back into the windowsill, cover the pot with plastic to keep the humidity high, it's really a critical need for their gemination. Same conditions are needed for the sprouts (and btw, the first set of traps are unbearably tiny and cute and can't catch anything larger than a midge). Water with a spray mister to keep the seeds/sprouts from washing away. Allowing the soil to dry out will kill them. The plants become a bit bigger and more robust every year but never really react well to drying out: best way to grow them with drowning them is to put the pot in a very deep, always filled saucer during their active growth period in spring/summer.

I know all this sounds incredibly fussy but it's the growing from seeds part that's difficult. As mature plants, once one gives them the right water supply and ample sunlight, they are very unfussy plants: mine stay outside all year round in a mediterranean climate eating whatever stumbles across their trigger hairs, going dormant in fall and reappearing in spring shortly after the tulips.
posted by jamaro at 1:37 PM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

ISTR it took months and months for our VFT seeds to germinate, even after pretty much following exactly the instructions jamaro gives. They did eventually grow though!
posted by pharm at 8:10 AM on November 29, 2013

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