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Discuss water requirements, "soil" (growing media) and suitable planting containers

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By MarcinS
Location: 
Posts:  12
Joined:  Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:28 pm
#382433
Hello everyone,

My name is Marcin, I work in a laboratory of environmental chemistry in one of universities in Poland. I have a Ph.D degree in plant ecology. It is my first post in this forum :D

Typically carnivorous plants are grown in pure sphagnum peat or in mixture of peat and some other media, however extraction of peat damages natural, fragile wetland ecosystems. About 2 years ago I have decided to make an experiment and check if it is possible to grow carnivorous plants in pure silica sand. Carnivorous plants are adapted to nutrient poor habitats so I was optimistic. After some fails and improvements in pot design now I grow almost all of my plants in simple passive hydroponics with pure sand as a medium. I use sand for aquariums, according to the seller the sand was washed and is chemically inert. I have checked that indeed it does not increase water EC or amount of phosphates or nitrates in water. The sand has grains with diameter from 0,5 mm to 1,2 mm. In Poland it costs about 12$ for 30 kg bag, including delivery. Sand with such grain size has quite good water retention capacity and ability to transport water upwards with capillary action to more than 10 cm high. I made pots from plastic cups (70 mm diameter):
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On the top there is layer of sand, then a fabric that does not allow grains to go down, but roots can easily grow through it. There is also a tube filled with sand or a string that transport water upwards and keeps sand wet. On the side of overy pot there is a hole that releases excess of water. I use RO or demineralised water. I did not observe any root rot.

I grow some of my plants like this for more than a year and I do not see major disadvantages of such grow type. Because sand is pure plant require a lot of foliar feeding but they grow really well. There is also a unique opportunity to see how roots look like. All pants in these pictures were grown like that for at least a few months, some like roridulas were grown like this from seed germination or vegetative reproduction.

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Every pot can be opened and water may be repleaced if necessary.
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Greetings,
Marcin
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By Matt
Location: 
Posts:  22436
Joined:  Mon Apr 21, 2008 11:28 pm
#382442
Hi Marcin, welcome to the forum! That's a really neat hydroponic grow setup you have there for your CPs! I can't say I can remember seeing anything exactly like that. Very impressive! Glad to have you here and I am looking forward to more contributions from you :D
By MarcinS
Location: 
Posts:  12
Joined:  Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:28 pm
#382450
Thank you for warm welcome :)

I have a plan to update this thread from time to time and show long term effects of such type of grow. I am not 100% sure if it will work without additional modifications . Maybe it will fail completely after some time. If it does, then I will try to measure water and sand chemistry to find out what went wrong.

Some more pictures of my plants grown in sand:
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Roots that grow through a fabric, but did not have contact with water yet look like this :shock:
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Drosera scorpioides grown from gemmae in a tiny amount of sand. Notice how long roots it produced.
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Drosera pulchella grown in sand from gemmae
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My Pinguiculas collection, all grown in sand hydroponics
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By Apollyon
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Posts:  1451
Joined:  Tue May 05, 2020 2:49 am
#382456
Now that is an awesome setup. I like the Roridula in particular. Looks like you busted a couple myths along the way. Roridula was doing pretty good for me but I think I may have added too much peat, especially considering the health of the ones in the sand. It's particularly cool seeing the roots growing through and seeing their structure. Perhaps you should experiment with Utricularia/Genlisea. Being able to see the subterranean structures would make the plants much more enjoyable.
By MarcinS
Location: 
Posts:  12
Joined:  Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:28 pm
#382522
Perhaps you should experiment with Utricularia/Genlisea
I have Utricularia calycifida, there is a photo of it in the first post. It is quite nice to be able to observe traps that usually are hidden in soil. I tried to grow Genlisea hispidula in sand but it was the only species that did not like it. It did not die but did not grow either. Maybe the problem is that bigger plants, like sundews, can be easily foliar fed. In case of small ones like genlisea it is more difficult and in sterile medium the plant can not catch any prey. Recently I have planted genlisea in peat, but in my 'hydroponic' pot.

Roridula is very easy species for me, it just grows and flowers:
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Some other plants grown in sand:
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Drosera x andromeda grows like crazy, even though it has only tiny amount of sand in the pot. It is older version of pot, so roots can not grow downwards.
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I have a possibility to keep some carnivorous plants at work. These are simple species growing in pure sand on a windowsill. It is not hydroponics, just pot filled with sand, with some empty space under sand surface to increase water retention capacity:
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Apart from experiments with sand I did some experiments how to get rid of harmful soil nematodes, which were damaging my plants. I can share my knowledge in this topic but I do not know if anybody is interested.
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By Matt
Location: 
Posts:  22436
Joined:  Mon Apr 21, 2008 11:28 pm
#382547
MarcinS wrote:I have a plan to update this thread from time to time and show long term effects of such type of grow. I am not 100% sure if it will work without additional modifications . Maybe it will fail completely after some time. If it does, then I will try to measure water and sand chemistry to find out what went wrong.
That would be great. I might try to repeat your experiments after we are relocated from our current move.s
MarcinS wrote:I have Utricularia calycifida, there is a photo of it in the first post. It is quite nice to be able to observe traps that usually are hidden in soil
I bet!!! This post might actually get me to the point where I'd consider growing a Utricularia!!

MarcinS wrote:Apart from experiments with sand I did some experiments how to get rid of harmful soil nematodes, which were damaging my plants. I can share my knowledge in this topic but I do not know if anybody is interested.
I'm definitely interested in learning about that!
By MarcinS
Location: 
Posts:  12
Joined:  Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:28 pm
#382585
I use a cheap glue that has colour similar to the colour of sand. I think any glue that is water resistant is fine.
All you need to make "my" type of pot is in this picture. To make one pot you need three cups.
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Wait untli glue is dry and that is all.
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When glue dries out its colour becomes lighter and it is almost invisible when I add sand.

I might try to repeat your experiments
I am very happy that you liked my idea :) When your (or anybody else) will try to replicate this please remember to:
- use only clean, inert sand. It tried sand from a sandbox and it was complete failure. I think that it contained iron, that becomes toxic to plant when is in anoxic conditions

-do not use sand with larger grain size, it will not hold water

-test if the string used is sufficiently efficient to transport enough water up

- often foliar feed your plant, I use diluted fertiliser for house plants or dried bloodworms

-never add fertiliser to water, water will become green and plants do not like it.

-do not water the plant with distilled water only. Plants need some nutrients like Ca, Mg, K. They usually uptake them from soil . When I used distilled water only then I noticed that some plants showed symptoms of potassium deficiency. I think that RO water is ok because it contains some amount of these elements.
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By Big-Jack
Posts:  357
Joined:  Sun Jun 12, 2016 7:46 pm
#383137
Neat experiment and great idea. I might try something similar but will flip over a plastic storage tote with circles cut out that hold the cups at the rim so the bottom of the cup would be in the dark.

Would cut down on heat, algae growth, and plastic degradation from the sunlight and also prevent the cups from getting knocked over but still allow you to pull the cups out and take a gander at the root growth and water level. Could also put doors with hinges on the side of the tote that flip up for a quick look.
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By Nepenthes0260
Posts:  1332
Joined:  Mon Apr 30, 2018 1:59 am
#383232
Wow, amazing plants and growing techniques! I think I'll try this with some of my extras. Are you on Facebook? If so, I highly recommend you post this in the International Carnivorous Plant Society Forum group. I think they'd love to see your astounding results with this technique!
By hailweiss
Posts:  1
Joined:  Mon Jun 14, 2021 11:02 pm
#383244
Hydroponic wick system (yours) and other hydroponics methods are works for most plants, including CP. I've tried its years ago until I bored. I had very difficult time to moved them back to normal soils, as pure water roots had hard time to adjust in soils.

Unrelated, for non CP plants, hydroponics are failed to produce high quality vegetables/fruit . Apparently there are some soilborne nutrient/bacteria/fungi that plants needed to produce certain enzimes/hormones/cells.

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