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When we think of butterworts the first thing that comes to mind is that it is a carnivorous plant. That is true, but butterworts – or pinguicula – can also produce lovely flowers. If your plant is unable to bloom for some reason, the following tips can help.
Butterworts need 8-10 hours of sunlight to produce flowers. The plant has to be watered until the soil is moist and it must be fed every two weeks. Properly grown, it will bloom in mid to late spring with pink, white, purple or yellow flowers.
When Do Butterworts Flower?
Butterworts usually flower around March to June, though some variants do so in late July. Their flowers last for 2-3 weeks and come in various colors.
If your pinguicula does not bloom in time, that is all right. Some species are late bloomers while others are early. There are plenty of variants and hybrids so the number of flowers produced varies.
One thing you will notice is that the flowers are situated higher than its traps. This reduces the chance of the plant eating a pollinator instead of prey. Some carnivorous plants also delay making traps until after pollinators are done.
Bottom line is if you have a pinguicula and it does not bloom after dormancy, give it time. Now if it is mid or late spring and there are still no flowers, there is a problem. Hopefully with these tips you can fix it.
How to Make Butterworts Flower
The reason why butterworts refuse to flower is an unsuitable environment. This does not mean the plant will die, only that it will have a hard time blooming. A pinguicula might have robust traps, colorful leaves and healthy appetite, but will not flower.
Some are fine with this because they prefer the carnivorous aspect of the plant. And there are cases of butterworts that rarely or never bloom but stay healthy. So if you are not into flowers then you should just let the plant be.
But if you want to see your pinguicula bloom, here is how you can set up the best possible environment. Once you have tried them, give your plant a few weeks to adjust.
Provide Enough Light
Some butterworts require more light than others. There are species which prefer full, direct light, while others grow best under partial shade. You have to check the specific lighting requirement of the plant to get the best results.
Majority of butterworts flourish in partial to full sunlight. At least 8 hours of light is ideal, 10-12 is better. You can also use grow lights to raise pinguicula indoors. One option is to use Wolezek Plant Light for Indoor Plants as a lot of butterworts respond nicely to it.
You can combine natural and artificial light too. Sunlight might still be limited in early spring, but you can augment this with fluorescent or LED lighting. Providing as much of it as possible without burning the plant is key to successful blooming.
Light – natural or artificial – plays a huge role in butterworts flowering. In general the more light for a plant, the better. Too much sun can burn leaves, but that should not be a problem during spring.
Butterworts often turn pink or red when exposed to grow lights. Others like pinguicula moranensis range from green, yellow to maroon. When butterworts change color it does not mean they are burning up. On the contrary, reddish pinguicula leaves are often a good sign.
Use the Right Water, Soil and Pot
Use only soil designated for carnivorous plants. The most popular are 50/50 long sphagnum moss and silica sand or 50/50 perlite and peat moss. Do not fertilize the soil and do not plant butterworts in rich potting media.
Using the wrong soil not only makes blooming impossible, but it is fatal to your plant. For beginners the best option is to buy pinguicula with ready soil. If you want to grow from seedlings or cuttings, use nutrition free media.
The 50/50 mix works fine for most butterworts, but if it does not flower, try the following.
- Tropical/Mexican butterworts – equal parts peat, vermiculite, perlite and sand. Pumice or dolomite may be included as well.
- Warm temperature butterworts – equal parts sand and peat
- Temperate butterworts – one part perlite, one part silica sand, two parts peat
If your plant came with its own soil mix, use that first. If it does not bloom, try the other potting combinations above.
Pot. Glazed ceramics and plastic containers will do. As long as the pot is large enough, it will not affect the flowering process. If the pot is too small, the roots will gt entangled and hinder plant growth. Most pinguicula will grow in 3-4 containers.
Water. The following is a general guideline on how to water butterworts. Because there are several variants, the requirements may vary.
- Temperate and warm pinguicula – the tray method is ideal here. You can also water from the top during hot days to keep the soil damp.
- Tropical / Mexican pinguicula – you can also use the tray method, but keep the water level low. Overhead watering is allowed during hot days and very low humidity. Do this only during late spring, summer and fall. If the plant turns succulent in winter, keep the soil dry except for occasional sprinkling.
Nutrition is Needed
If you want to grow healthy, blooming butterworts, nutrition is a must. The good news is they are among the easiest carnivorous plants to feed.
A pinguicula only needs a few bugs every two weeks to stay healthy. Outdoors your plant will get plenty to eat, but indoors you have to provide for it. Just drop a few bugs on its leaves every couple of weeks. You can also nourish it with bloodworms or fish food.
Butterworts need resources to bloom. Sunlight provides plenty of it but nutrients give an extra boost. And as noted earlier, your location may only get a few hours of sunlight a day. The optimum is 8-12 hours, and anything less could slow plant growth.
Th nutrients provided by insects can compensate for this. The more energy a pinguicula has, the more flowers it can produce. This is why nutrition is essential.
If your butterworts are indoors, you can feed it fish food or Amzy Appetizing Mealworms. Drop a few onto its leaves and the plant will eat them. The nutrients in these worms may help your butterworts finally bloom.
Humidity and Temperature
Because butterworts are found all over the world, their temperature and humidity needs vary. Check the requirements for any pinguicula you want to buy. The closer it is to the climate in your location, the better.
- Tropical / Mexican butterworts grow well in room temperature. They can thrive in a terrarium or greenhouse. You can cultivate it indoors as light from a sunny windowsill is enough.
- Warm temperate butterworts in North America can be left outdoors during winter. This assumes there are only short freezes and frosts. This will not affect blooming.
- Temperate butterworts go dormant in winter and need cold weather. Leave it outdoors during winter. When spring comes its flowers will bloom.
If you grow the plant in a suitable environment, humidity will not be a major issue. As long as the temperature is ideal the plant will continue to thrive.
Should I Let Butterworts Flower at All?
Flowering is a complex process for plants and that includes butterworts. Would it be better for the plant to not produce flowers and save that energy to create traps?
Venus flytraps for instance, are so weakened after flowering they are barely able to produce any more traps. That is why growers cut off the stalks to prevent blooming. Should you do the same with butterworts?
There is no evidence that flowering weakens butterworts. After blooming, the plant is still capable of making mucus for its leaves.
If your pinguicula suddenly weakens after blooming, examine it closely. This might not have anything to do with the flowers at all. It could be due to lack of light, improper water used, not enough food etc.
There may also be exceptions to the rule of course. Maybe that particular variant or hybrid you have does get weaker after blooming. In that case you should limit or prevent it from blooming.
Butterworts will always be known first and foremost as a carnivore plant, but come spring time its flowers are truly remarkable. Some people grow pinguicula as much for the flowers as for its bug eating ways. So give these tips a try and watch your plant bloom.
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.