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One of the first things you learn about butterworts is to never use rich, fertilized soil. But you have probably seen or heard people who say they use fertilizers on pinguicula with success, so how is that possible? The answer is you can feed these plants with fertilizer, but it must be done properly.
You can fertilize pinguicula with 1/4 teaspoon of Maxsea per gallon of water. Use a spray bottle and apply once a month on the leaves only, never the soil. You can also use Schultz Cactus Fertilizer as per the package instructions.
Read Before You Fertilize Butterworts
To answer the question do I need to fertilize pinguicula, the answer is you do not necessarily have to, but done properly, fertilization leads to faster growth and development.
If you are going to use fertilizer on butterworts, apply only on its leaves. Never fertilize the potting soil because it will be fatal to any carnivorous plant.
Fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients for plants. Butterworts grow in acidic, nutrient free grounds so they get nitrogen from insects.
If your plant gets a lot of nutrients from bugs and growing fast, it probably does not need fertilizers. But if growth is slow and only limited prey available, fertilizers can help.set
Fertilizers are powerful growth boosters when done right. In the following we show you how to use the best fertilizers for butterworts. But remember that the environment is still the key here. Your plant must have enough light, water, airflow and the right soil. They and other factors are essential.
Once your pinguicula is growing in a suitable location you can use a fertilizer to speed up the process. There are many products available, but for carnivorous plants, the most widely used are Schultz Cactus Fertilizer and Maxsea.
Fertilizer Butterworts with Schultz Cactus Step by Step
The following is a simplified guide on how to use Schultz Fertilizer for butterworts. With regular plants the solution is applied in the soil, but with pinguicula we have to put it on the leaves.
- The ratio is 2-3 drops of Schultz fertilizer per quart of water. The instructions may say 7 drops per quart, but you should start with 3 so it does not overwhelm the plant. Remember, you will only fertilize the leaves, not the soil. You can always increase it to 7 drops later.
- Mix well and pour in a spray bottle.
- Mist your pinguicula leaves lightly. Try not to get any of it on the potting media. You can use this fertilizer on pinguicula sethos and other variants as well. You can also try this for sundews and other carnivorous plants.
Observe for one month. If the plant responds well, repeat every four weeks.
Fertilizer Butterworts Maxsea Step by Step
If you are caring for pinguicula gigantea or other carnivorous plants, you have probably heard of Maxsea. A lot of growers use this as fertilizer and food for these plants.
- The ratio is 1/4 teaspoon of Maxsea per gallon of water.
- Mix thoroughly and pour in a spray bottle.
- Lightly mist the leaves. Do not spray the soil.
Wait a few weeks and see how the plant reacts. If nothing goes wrong, repeat every four weeks. After some time you will see the difference as the plant grows faster. You will also notice that they are easier to propagate.
You might also see some growers say Maxsea should not be used, that this fertilizer works great on all carnivorous plants except pinguicula. Yet there are those who swear it is ideal. So what should you do?
The best approach is to use a small amount of Maxsea, similar to the steps above. Apply it on a few leaves and see what happens. Assuming you used the recommended ratio and did not apply it on the soil, your butterworts will be fine.
One reason why Maxsea has proven popular is the way it helps propagation. With regular use, your pinguicula leaf cuttings can match the size of the original plant in just a few months.
Tips for Fertilizing Butterworts
The general rule when it comes to carnivorous plant fertilization is start slowly. If your plant responds well, then you can increase the amount until you see the growth you want.
- You can try powder nitrogen orchid fertilizers on pinguicula. You dissolve the powder in water according to the package instructions and pour in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves and wait for the results.
- Orchid fertilizers tend to be high on nitrogen so proceed with caution. Nitrogen is great for plants, but if yours already gets plenty from insects, use a limited amount. For slow growing butterworts you can apply more. For example, you can use high nitrogen fertilizer on pinguicula moranensis every two weeks instead of every month. But you should only apply at half or one third of its strength.
- Adjust the potency accordingly. Reduce its strength if the leaves are being burned. If you notice improvements especially with leaf cuttings, keep it up.
- Sometimes even if you are careful, some of the fertilizer will spill over into the soil. This should be avoided as much as possible. But if it only happens a few times, it will not hurt the plant.
Most Mexican butterworts benefit from leaf fertilizers. Schultz in particular works well probably because pinguicula are also succulents. If you want to try other brands, always use a small amount and increase in increments.
How to Fertilize Butterworts Leaf Cuttings
The general rule is to use 1 teaspoon per gallon, but you can adjust that. If you are just starting, half a teaspoon of fertilizer is fine.
Fertilizers are particularly effective on leaf cuttings or pulling. Since these are cuttings and not the original plant, you can experiment with various strength levels. Try different amounts of fertilizers and change the frequency, taking note of how the leaves react.
Use these cuttings for tests and observe how they respond to different fertilizer levels. Assuming the cuttings get enough light and are planted in the right soil, growth should be fast. With Maxsea or Schultz you can expect them to grow much faster than normal.
The easiest way to tell is to compare pinguicula leaf cuttings that have been fertilized with those that are not. You will see that the fertilized ones usually grow faster, sometimes twice as fast or more. However there are a lot of other factors that affect growth such as light, soil, humidity etc. to consider.
What to Look For in a Butterworts Fertilizer
The most important is making sure the fertilizer is suitable for carnivorous plants. This will be marked clearly on the label, the product description or website. If you are not sure, contact the vendor.
The most important nutrients to look for are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
Nitrogen helps butterworts grow, produce mucus for traps, color and leaf development
Phosphorus is vital for blooming, seeds and root health
Potassium makes pinguicula more resistant to disease and infection
Other vital nutrients are zinc, nickel, manganese, iron, copper and others, Carnivorous plants need only very little of these.
Fertilizers have numbers on the package like 16-16-16, 2-7-7, 18-24-6 and so on. These figures indicate in percentage how much of the three top nutrients it contains.
Nitrogen is always the first number, phosphorus is always second and potassium third. So if the fertilizer reads 16-16-16, it means 16% nitrogen, 16% phosphorus and 16% potassium.
The percentages are usually lower on carnivorous plant compatible fertilizers than their counterparts. This is necessary because plants like pinguicula already get some nutrients from bugs.
Fertilizing butterworts is not as daunting as it sounds. You just need to apply a small amount and your plant should be all right. And if you really want to play it safe you can always pull a leaf and try it there. If the leaf benefits from the fertilizer, you can be sure the rest of the plant will too.
My fascination with carnivorous plants began many, many years ago with Venus Fly Traps. Now I am more than happy to impart what I know with other enthusiasts and those who are curious about meat eating plants.