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Pinguicula rock plantings are becoming more popular and it is easy to understand why. For many, butterworts sitting atop rugged rocks is more visually appealing compared to a pot or plastic cup. And what is even better is that rock planting is just as easy as growing in any container.
Plant your pinguicula in an indent on the rock and cover it with soil. Place the rock on a tray and fill with water until it is just a few inches from the leaves. Pumice is the best rock to grow pinguicula because of its water retention capacity.
How to Grow Pinguicula on Rocks
If you have never planted butterworts on rocks before, this is your guide. It is not as difficult as you might think. The key here is to make sure you have the right rock. From there it is easy.
- Choose a rock. Pumice is ideal because it retains water, enhances aeration and does not decay. Pumice also absorbs extra moisture which can prevent pinguicula roots from rotting. Other options are basaltic scoria and tufa.
- Plan the design. The rock should have indents or pockets where you can place plants. When planning, ask yourself, are you going to plant one ping or several? Do you want the plants on a flat rock or jutting out of the edges? Visualize how you want your pinguicula to look, then get as many rocks as required.
- Plant your pinguicula. Put soil in the rock indents and place your ping inside. The usual potting mix is peat and perlite but you may try sphagnum moss as well. Our suggestion is Perfect Plants Soil Mix as it is well suited for rock planting.
- Place the rock planting in a tray.
- Sprinkle distilled or purified water into the tray until the level is below the leaves.
- Position the tray on a sunlit windowsill. If that is not possible, use indoor light like the Durolux HD T5 Grow Lights.
- Replenish the water in the tray.
Care for it the same way you would a tropical pinguicula growing in a pot. That means 6-12 hours of light, mild temperature, mid to high humidity and keeping the soil moist.
During winter, most tropical butterworts need less water. Most variants will be fine with lightly misted soil. You can even let the soil go dry for days if there is enough humidity.
What Type of Rock Should You Use?
Volcanic rocks are the best for tropical butterworts. Pumice, tufa and scoria are the most widely used but any type of lava stone will be fine.
Ideally the rock should have several pockets. It is more aesthetically pleasing and allows you to plant several pings together. You could for instance, group several butterworts along the edge of the rock, simulating the appearance of plants growing on the edges of a rocky cliff.
Pumice is the most popular choice not just for pings but other plants, and its properties are well suited for rock planting and even as part of the soil. But others prefer scoria because it is heavier and has a more rugged look. The choice is a matter of personal preference.
Tips on How to Use Rocks for Planting
- Lava rocks with small holes can make planting easier. You can place the ping on top of the holes, which should fit the roots snugly. Add the appropriate potting mix and the plant should be ready.
- Drill holes in the rocks if there are none. Make the opening deep and wide enough for the roots and soil. Because pinguicula roots are small, this should be easy.
- Mature pinguicula have a higher chance of success because their roots are already established. You can still plant young pings in rocks, but it will require more patience.
- You can use rocks on various types of butterworts including p. moranensis, p. weser and others. For pinguicula esseriana this might be more challenging due to it being so small and delicate. But it is possible.
- Make sure the rock has a solid base. If you are going to use the tray method, the rock must be capable of soaking excess water.
There are two things to consider when rock planting: airflow and drainage. Volcanic rocks and lava stones like pumice prevents soil from collapsing, and you can also use it as part of the potting mix. Volcanic rock properties are well suited for butterworts especially if the plant is already mature.
Not only can you use pumice for rock planting, but you can use it for pinguicula soil. Mix equal parts pumice, silica sand and peat moss thoroughly. Plant your pinguicula and water until the soil is moist.
Pinguicula Rock Planting Care and Maintenance
Once your pinguicula has been planted on rocks, it should continue to grow. The rock itself is not just for aesthetics. It prevents excess moisture from getting into the roots while providing enough for the plant to grow.
However, the long term success of your ping depends on its environment. Rock planting is only the first step, next is care and maintenance. The following tips are for tropical butterworts as they are the most suitable for rocks.
Light, Temperature and Humidity
Tropical butterworts require partial or full sunlight. The ideal scenario is full sunlight in mild temperature with mid to high humidity.
Take the tray with your pinguicula and leave it on a windowsill. Sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, but too much sun is bad for pings.
There are many types of butterworts, but most of them prefer 60-85 degrees (15.5-29.4 C) and 50-80% humidity level. These three elements affect each other so you have to monitor the plant, especially if it is young.
In general, if the temperature is within 65-85 F, you do not have to worry about humidity and heat. Once the temperature starts to climb, relocate the tray away from the window.
If you would rather use indoor lights, T5 bulbs will work. Place the bulbs a foot from the rock planting and leave them on for several hours a day. Tun the light off at night so your pinguicula can maintain its rhythm.
Water and Soil
The water in the tray will keep the humidity level high, so a few degrees above 85 F should not damage the plant. The hotter it is, the higher the humidity has to be. Replace the water as often as necessary during hot days.
If you want to propagate butterworts with leaf cuttings, water is crucial. The simplest method is to leave the cutting on a container of water. Once the leaf starts to grow, you can plant it onto a rock. You can cultivate it like the original pinguicula where you got the leaf from.
If this is your first time rock planting, focus on the soil moisture level. This will indicate how much water the rock absorbs and how much goes into the plant. As long as the soil remains moist, you are doing it right.
If you want to grow multiple pings, get a large rock or group several rocks together. Arrange as you please and plant following the steps given earlier. If you are using the tray method, there is no need for overhead watering. The only exception is if it gets really hot, humidity is low and the soil dries quickly.
Dormancy. Cut down on water in winter. Even if tropical pings do not go dormant, they will slow down. Some may keep their leaves but most grow succulents. These leaves require very little water.
Food and Nutrition
Feeding is the same as pings growing in a pot. Feed each pinguicula every two weeks. Do not feed the entire plant, just a leaf or two will do. Fish food and freeze dried bloodworms are recommended. You can also fertilize pinguicula leaves with Maxsea, but not the soil.
If you see bugs trapped on the leaves, stop giving your plant food. Even if your ping is indoors, it will still catch a few insects here and there. If you rarely see any bugs caught, feeding is fine. But if your indoor ping catches a lot of insects, hand feeding is not necessary.