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Butterworts or pinguicula can be grouped into three categories: tropical, warm temperate and temperate. How often you should water butterworts depends which group your plant belongs to. In this article you will learn the step by step process and how to avoid over watering.
You can sit tropical butterworts in water during growth season, but reduce watering during winter. The tray method can be used on warm temperate and temperate butterworts as they grow, and you can also water from the top.
How to Water Tropical Butterworts
Tropical or Mexican butterworts need frequent watering as they grow. By using the tray method, the plant is constantly nourished by water and helps increase humidity.
This technique works for pinguicula sethos and other Mexican butterworts. Done properly you should not have any issues with over watering.
To water tropical butterworts during growth season:
- Pour an inch of water in a clear tray. Use only purified, reverse osmosis or rainwater. Water can be warm or cold. We personally like RPI Distilled Water because it is proven safe and clean.
- Put your pinguicula in the tray. Make sure the pot has clear drainage holes so water can get to the roots.
- When the water in the tray dissipates, replenish it.
- You can also water from the top. Do not pour directly into the soil. Use a spray bottle and mist lightly around the leaves.
Tropical pinguicula needs partial to full light so place the tray in a sunny location. Early morning sunlight is ideal but keep an eye on the humidity and temperature at midday.
Because the plant is standing in water, it should be able to withstand higher temperature. During summer the water may evaporate quickly so replenish it before the soil dries out.
You can do overhead watering during summer. Do not overdo this as the plant already gets some from the tray. Light misting will be fine. Do not let water collect on the rosette in winter as it could cause leaf rotting.
Tropical butterworts turn into non- carnivorous succulents during winter. They do not die like other plants but thy need less water. Do the following only when your butterworts have shed their carnivorous leaves and turned into small succulents.
To water tropical butterworts during dormancy:
- Remove the water from the tray. You can take the pot out of the tray as well and put it on a saucer.
- Let the soil go completely dry.
- Dampen the soil every now and then. When you do, just give it a light mist. Do not moisten too much.
There are no set rules on how often to moisten the soil. It can be every few days or every week. Just make sure you let the soil go totally dry at least for a few days.
The larger the succulent leaves, the more likely it needs lightly damp soil. If the pinguicula resembles a bulb or has mall rosettes, keep the soil dry.
How to Water Temperate and Warm Temperate Butterworts
Warm temperate and temperate butterworts grow in areas with cold, freezing winter. They flourish in spring, summer and fall and go dormant in winter. For these reasons their water requirements are different from tropical butterworts.
To water temperate and warm temperate butterworts during growth:
- Get a container large enough to contain your butterworts, like the Living Whole Foods Tray. If you have several plants, there should be at least a few inches of space between each.
- Add 1-1.5 inches of water in the tray.
- Place the pots in the tray.
- Replenish the water before it dissipates completely.
- You can water the plants from the top. Use a spray bottle and mist the leaves.
Once the plant emerges from dormancy, care for it as before during growth season. Growing butterworts can be fun and simple when done right. In this case, you should use cold water as the plant responds better to it.
Similar to tropical butterworts, the goal is to keep the soil moist. Do not let it dry out especially during hot days. You may add more water in the tray, but be careful not to overdo it. Do not let the soil get drenched in water.
To water temperate and warm temperate butterworts during dormancy:
Because there are a lot of variants, you have to check the specific instructions that came with your plant. If your pinguicula goes dormant, water only occasionally or as per the package instructions.
Temperate and warm temperate butterworts need little to no water during winter. Warm temperate butterworts keep the same leaves the entire year, but cold temperate variants form a hibernacula.
Can I Overwater Butterworts?
It is possible to overwater butterworts. Pouring a lot of water into the soil will turn the roots into mush. Decay will set in and spread throughout the plant.
The key to prevent over watering is to know how much your plant requires. You have to adjust the volume depending on the plant variant and the season.
Mexican butterworts for instance, require lots of water all the time except winter. During the warm months you can use the tray method and overhead watering simultaneously.
If you live in a hot area, it will be difficult to overwater butterworts. The plant will probably soak up the water as fast as you spray it. In these conditions, bottom and top watering will not be an issue. As fall comes to an end and winter approaches, you need to reduce it.
Root rot is the most common sign of over watering. You will not see this unless you dig up the plan but there are other signs. The most obvious is the soil is too wet, with water seeping through the surface. In that case you have to dig up the plant and check the roots.
How to Check Soil Moisture Levels
You should also use the soil as a guide since the goal is to maintain its moisture without soaking too much. The XLUX Soil Moisture Meter makes it easy to check the soil moisture level.
You can also use the touch and feel method. With enough experience you will be able to tell if the soil is moist, dry or too wet.
- Press your finger into the soil for a few seconds.
- Lift your finger up. If it comes up clean, the soil is too dry. If water is mixed with dirt, the soil is too wet. If the dirt is moist but not too soaked, the moisture level is just about right.
Whether you are growing pinguicula gigantea or another variant, water requirements never fertilize the soil. You can however, fertilize other parts of the plant.
Tips for Growing Pinguicula
While water is crucial for any pinguicula, it is just one aspect. A proper environment is essential for the plant to reach its maximum potential.
Use only spring, purified, distilled, reverse osmosis or rain water. Rainwater is the best option as it is natural, and you want to replicate its natural environment as much as possible. But it is impractical during the dry season so spring water or purified water will do. Both of those along with reverse osmosis are safe for butterworts to use.
Never use running water from the tap. They contain chemicals which can be lethal for pinguicula.
Tropical butterworts are suitable for indoor cultivation as they thrive both in indoor grow lights and sunlight. Because they need protection from intense heat, they are well suited inside. Of course you can also leave the plant outdoors provided it is not too hot or well below freezing.
Water helps butterworts catch prey. Their trap consists of mucus spread all over the leaves, which glisten and attract bugs. The mucus is comprised of water and various sticky substances. If the leaves dry out there would be no traps to catch bugs.
Watering pinguicula requires some balance but it is not that difficult. It starts by knowing what type of plant you have, whether it is tropical, temperate or warm temperate. From there, it becomes straightforward.
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.