Joined: Fri May 29, 2009 8:41 pm
This article explains how to grow flytrap plantlets from the cut or torn pieces of another flytrap (leaf pullings/flower stalk cuttings), a.k.a. vegetative propagation, without needing to use specialized tissue culture (TC) equipment.
- Either of the two methods below will result in an exact clone of your plant, so if you have any flytrap cultivars that you really love, this article will help you clone it. Planting seeds created by your favorite clone will not make clones of your favorite flytrap. An explanation of why can be found here.
- These methods do not require any special equipment (such as that which is needed for tissue culture, a.k.a. TC). For water propagation, however, I recommend an artificial light.
- I've tried to be comprehensive. This isn't rocket science, but it may be overwhelming if you've never done it before. If anything is unclear, or if you have questions, please reply to the thread.
Leaf Pullings and Flower Stalk Cuttings
First things first - don't actually make any pullings or cuttings until you're ready to plant them (or mail them). If you don't have your pot/soil/etc. ready, skip this section for now and check out Method 1 or Method 2.
You can store pullings/cuttings in the fridge for a couple weeks or so, or mail them to a friend, if you store them in a ziploc bag wrapped in a damp (but not dripping wet) paper towel. Storing them in the fridge for weeks (after they've been cut/pulled), however, can greatly reduce their viability.
How to take pullings/cuttings:
- Leaf pullings (no scissors!): this video explains how to remove a leaf better than any text can. The text version of how to do a leaf pulling is this: Unpot the flytrap, and remove the leaf/trap completely by gently pulling downward - you don't want to remove any roots, but you should get the entire leaf, especially including the white portion at the very bottom of the leaf blade that's attached to the roots. Ideally, pull a leaf whose white portion if on the outside of the rhizome, and one that doesn't have a dead trap already. The second picture in this thread will show you what proper leaf pullings should look like; scroll down a bit.
The video mentions rooting hormone in the video; rooting hormone can optionally be used, but it's not necessary (I never use it).
- Flower stalk cuttings: Use clean scissors. I generally cut the stalk when it's around 1 to 3 inches tall or so. My stalk cuttings tend to be right around 2 inches, give or take half an inch. If you wait too long (e.g. 5 inches +), your "strike" chance will be lower (strike is another word for when a pulling/cutting successfully creates plantlets). Cut as low as you can without breaking/cutting any leaves. Be sure you *cut* with scissors; do not twist/rip/etc. the stalk off. I don't believe the angle of the cut matters.
- Springtime (when the plants are just coming out of dormancy) and mid-season are the best times to take pullings, because the plant is actively growing and has more energy during this time.
- Last year's leaves can strike if pulled/planted in Spring, but the success rate can be lower than with newer Spring leaves. A new leaf whose trap just recently formed and opened theoretically contains more plant energy, and further, the older leaf's natural death might be imminent as it is, in which case the pulling might die before any plantlets can be formed. To be fair, though, I've used "last year's leaves" several times in Spring for pullings and got strikes.
- Pullings taken during dormancy can still strike, but the success rate is reduced to some degree since the plant it came from is technically asleep and not actively growing; ensuring warmer temps (~80-85 or so degrees F is good) could make all the difference. An artificial light and an indoor environment are recommended in this case.
- Pullings/cuttings from healthy and well-lit plants are more prone to strike than those from light-starved or weak plants, and will generally grow better initially as they have more energy to start with.
- Plantlets grown from pullings/cuttings will become decent-sized adolescent plants (won't be quite as big as the parent plant yet) after about a year or two; exactly how long it will take depends largely on the quality of the growing environment and the cultivar (some flytraps grow much faster, especially as plantlets, than others). In comparison, flytraps grown from seed can take up to 3 years or more to start to approach their max size, and in their early years seed-grown flytraps are far smaller than most plantlets would be.
- You're going to get bigger plantlets sooner from pullings taken from more mature/larger plants than you'll get from young plants.
For example, take a look at the photo below. All of these plantlets were grown from either leaf pullings or flower stalks and were taken at the same time from various cultivars of different sizes and ages. The most prominent example is the B52 - the top left one was taken from an almost full-grown B52, while the one in the top-middle was taken from a younger, smaller B52. The difference is obvious. B52 and Maroon Monster are the most vigorous growers in that bunch in general.
Method 1. Water Propagation:
This is a separate article that explains how to vegetatively propagate flytrap bits (pullings/cuttings) using no soil at all, and can be found here.
Method 2. Soil Propagation:
This is the standard method for vegetatively propagating flytraps.
Consider Potting Them By Themselves
A quick note before we talk about soil and planting: If you stick a leaf pulling or flower stalk in regular flytrap soil mix with the parent plant that produced the flower stalk, it's sometimes not enough to keep the portions under the soil surface alive long enough so it can produce plantlets. For example, if you're one to keep your flytrap's soil on the drier side, the cutting is probably going to dry out and fail. You also can't realistically use a humidity dome if you pot the pulling/cutting with an already-established flytrap.
Whether you're new or not, I recommend focusing on the cutting without having to worry about another plant. Give the pullings/cuttings their own pot if you can.
You can either use a 1:1 sphagnum peat/perlite or 1:1 sphagnum peat/silica sand, or you can use a single ingredient media of long-fibered sphagnum (LFS) or milled sphagnum. I always recommend 100% long-fibered (dead) sphagnum, which looks like this dry/wet (pics on the right). It's less likely to develop mold/fungus, and pullings/cuttings in it are less prone to rot before the strike can take hold and form a new plant. You can use whatever you're most comfortable with - I've had good success rates with various media types, including peat-based mixes, but I've had the best success with LFS.
Use only water that's suitable for a flytrap (e.g. distilled water), and keep the pot sitting in a ~1" tray of water. The water level can be 0 at times, in between fills, as long as the top of the soil isn't drying out quickly as a result . If the soil at the top dries out, it's game over because this is where the active portion of the pulling/cutting sits, and it needs to remain moist at all times.
I generally refill the water tray as soon as it empties out because the top of the soil can dry out fast at that point with some mixes/soils/environments. If it's bagged or has a humidity dome, it's even less of an issue to let the tray dry out because more of the evaporated water has been trapped inside. We'll talk more about bags/domes in the Humidity section.
You'll want to refill at the tray only, and use a water spray bottle as needed to gently moisten the top of the soil. If you top-water, or spray at point blank range, you're likely going to disturb the pulling/cutting and the soil around it, which can set the process back or wreck it completely.
Planting The Flower Stalks / Leaf Pullings
- Flower stalk: Stick it about a quarter-inch to a half-inch down into the soil in a separate pot (as though it's a flag), cut-side-down. You can also cut a flower stalk into 1-inch pieces and lay them on their side on the soil surface, about half-covered, so that light is still hitting the majority of the flower stalk, and the cut ends are protected by moist media.
- Leaf Pulling: The pulling should lie on its side with the white portion of the end of the leaf under up to a cm of soil, give or take - I usually try to stick with as close to 0.5cm as possible under the soil surface. Bury the white portion, not the whole leaf. The "soil line" should fall somewhere between where the white portion ends and the green portion begins. You can leave the white portion of the leaf partially exposed to sunlight or bury it. It's more important to try to bury it in drier conditions. For example if using long-fibered sphagnum and a humidity dome with artificial lights, you can just drop it unceremoniously onto the sphagnum and you'll probably still get plantlets.
Leaf pullings (photo by Matt): Some leaf pullings and flower stalk cuttings, freshly planted in long-fibered sphagnum:
Humidity, Light, and Temperature
Keeping the humidity up really helps with success for two reasons: 1) It helps keep the soil moist. 2) By surrounding the pulling/cutting with humid air, it increases the life of the pulling/cutting because it reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from it. The one main caveat is that higher humidity can lead to mold/fungus/rot, so also remember that LFS is less likely to have this problem than peat-based soils.
If you're using artificial light, you can keep a clear plastic bag, like a ziploc, over the pot upside down to preserve humidity - cut about an inch off each "top" corner to let some air circulate and so it isn't too overly humid (if you don't, fungus/mold can more easily get a foothold in there).
If you're using direct sunlight, or a bulb that generates a lot of heat in the grow area such as a metal halide or high pressure sodium light, using a bag or dome can quickly turn it into an oven and cook the cutting. Either ditch the dome/bag entirely or open the top a lot more to allow heat to escape.
Otherwise, give it light as you would any flytrap. Not enough light can also increase chances of mold/fungus/rot. For reference, flytraps need a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, but 6+ is recommended. For artificial lights, use a 14/10 hour on/off cycle, 16/8, or anywhere in between.
If the inside of the bag or humidity dome is covered with large droplets of condensation during the warmest hours of the daytime, it's not open enough and/or the ambient temperature is not warm enough - cut more off the corners to let a little more humidity escape. A dusting of condensation on the sides during the daytime is what you want. Much more than that, and it's more humid than it needs to be in there. Too humid early in the process is okay, but remember that the longer it's extremely humid, the more your chance of getting mold/fungus/rot. Condensation amount at night will rise as ambient temperatures drop - don't worry if condensation is heavier overnight.
Specifics on temp ranges: I would personally never try to grow them in temps under 60 F at the absolute coldest, but anything under ~70ish starts to inhibit the chances of success. 75-90ish, give or take a few degrees, is a more ideal temp range - my pullings are usually around 80-85. On the other end of the spectrum, temps of 95+ is approaching too hot, and here the chances of success will also start to decrease.
- Keep the top of the soil moist, but not wet. Remember things are happening at the surface of the soil in this case, so keep a spray bottle handy in case you need it. If you drench the soil daily, you're going to get mold or fungus. Once you get mold or fungus, it's usually game over. You can treat it with any sulfur-based fungicide (not copper-based), but your chances of success with the pulling/cutting can drop dramatically.
This is why I prefer long-fibered sphagnum for cuttings/pullings - you can keep it wetter longer and it's less prone to develop mold and fungus than peat-based mixes.
- The stalk or leaf/trap will usually start to (or appear to completely) die within days or weeks, even if you're doing everything right - this is even more true if you're not using a humidity dome/bag. Leave it. Keep the soil moist. Some flower stalks seem to stay alive for weeks, while others start dying a few days after being planted. You can get an equal number of plantlets out of either of these situations.
If the dead parts begin growing a white fungus or something similar, carefully trim off the dead parts. If the dead parts are not developing any problems, my recommendation is to leave them be.
Below is a photo that illustrates that a dying pulling does not necessarily indicate failure, even if things look bad above soil (source of photo is unknown):
Note, however, that if any roots are included with your leaf pulling, it's technically a plant division.
Calluses are little wart-like growths of plant tissue that appear on the leaf/stalk around where the soil level is, anytime between ~3 and ~8 weeks or so after planting. If you get calluses, congratulations, that's a strike. It's important to note that in many cases, calluses develop below the soil and you may not see them. Don't dig them up looking for calluses - you'll unnecessarily interrupt the process.
This is the beginning of success: these calluses are what become new plantlets. They can be green, red, or brown, and often start out looking almost clear; it depends on the cultivar, environment/lighting, and where in the process you catch them.
If you notice that the majority of calluses are appearing well above the soil surface, which is often the case with flower stalks, you can optionally push it further into the soil so that the calluses are equal to the soil level. This will ensure that once plantlets, the majority won't have to send rootlets through the open air to find soil.
Callus or fungus/mold? If you're seeing something there and are worried that it's fungus vs. calluses, here's what to do. If the callus/fungus is only on the leaf at or near the soil surface, it's probably a callus because fungus tends to spread. If you're really not sure, take a toothpick and gently scrape one or two of them. Fungus will chip away or slough off rather easily. Calluses will not.
Here are a few pictures of calluses and plantlets:
Photo that shows first-emerging calluses at the end of a leaf pulling (the little brownish nubs on the far left) whose rhizome portion has turned red from light exposure (photo by Barry Rice): Another brand new single callus (the little round nub) forming on the rhizome portion of a leaf pulling (photo by Matt): Callus that's further along, producing its first "leaves" (photo by Matt): Here's a green callus example on a flower stalk that you can barely tell is a callus. This flower stalk used to be perfectly straight and thin - a week later there were two plantlets:
Note: This callus was formed via water propagation - a write-up specific to this particular method can be found here. Progress photos of calluses (photo by Stratofortress): First stage of plantlets emerging from flower stalk's green calluses in a peat/perlite soil mix:
If all goes well, in about two months or so you should start seeing flytrap plantlets. A few final notes to wrap things up:
- Do not remove the stalk/pulling, or cut it in any way, as the plantlets are using the stalk piece that's under the soil in lieu of having their own fully-established root system. Let it die off on its own. You can safely cut off entire black portions (such as dead traps or the very tops of flower stalks), but under no circumstances should you cut into any live tissue. You will kill your plantlets this way.
- If you used a humidity dome, you can start opening it bit by bit every few days over the course of two or three weeks after plantlets emerge. Then remove it completely.
- After you start seeing little traps opening up, you can begin watering them more like flytraps, as their root system is just beginning to form. Again, resist the urge to cut off any live tissue from the leaf pulling or flower stalk cutting - the plantlets are still using that live tissue; if you cut it, you'll almost certainly kill the plantlets.
- You can repot them any time at this point, but I recommend leaving them until the following Spring if possible, or for at least a month or two after seeing the first plantlet(s) to ensure they're established. If planted in 100% sphagnum (LFS, milled, etc.), I generally repot them into a peat/silica sand mix. While I prefer propagating pullings and cuttings in LFS, I prefer 1:1 peat/sand or peat/perlite long-term as it's closer to their natural soil. Your mileage may vary.
- Plantlets will become full-grown flytraps in 1-2 years, give or take. This is much faster than growing from seed, which can take 5 years to fully mature.