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Pinguicula alpina (alpine butterwort) is native to northern and central Europe, particularly the Alps and Scandinavia. This pinguicula can be somewhat challenging to grow because if summer conditions are not ideal, its winter hibernacula will decay. With this guide however, you will understand what it takes to cultivate this carnivorous plant.
Pinguicula alpina prefers 50-68 F temperature in summer and at least 50% humidity. Partial indirect light is ideal and the soil has to be neutral pH. This cold temperate butterwort requires dormancy and seeds need 14-32 F temperature to germinate.
|Soil||Vermiculite, perlite and peat moss, equal amounts|
|Water||Moist soil, purified, spring, rainwater|
|Light||6-8 hours partial indirect light|
|Food||Small insects, fish flakes, fish pellets, mealworms|
|Temperature||50-68 F (10-20 C)|
|Propagation||Leaf pullings, seeds|
Pinguicula alpina grows in neutral pH soil. The media should be airy, loose, low to no nutrients and lightly alkaline.
Equal parts vermiculite, perlite and peat moss are ideal soil for alpine butterworts. You can also add some silica sand to the mix. Others prefer to use 1:1:1 peat, limestone gravel and perlite. You may also increase perlite to two parts.
The one thing you have to make sure of is a neutral pH level. Peat moss is acidic but by adding vermiculite you can minimize it. Some variants of p. alpina may thrive in soil with higher pH. In that case you may add 15% chalk or gypsum to the mix.
P. alpina soil should be moist during growth season. For a temperate butterwort it can handle soil dryness well. For the best results however you should try and keep the soil as moist as possible without overwatering.
Contact the vendor if you are not sure what soil mixture to use. Cold temperate butterworts have different care requirements compared to Mexican variants so be careful. The potting mixes above should work with your plant though, so use any of those if your purchase does not come with soil.
A pinguicula alpina will grow in any 3.5-5 Inch pot. Even a plastic container or box will do as long as it is large enough. These butterworts need dormancy to survive so you can keep them outside in winter. If it gets too hot in summer, grow temperate butterworts indoors or in a terrarium.
Alpine butterworts are sold as seeds and may not include a pot. That is not a big deal as pots are widely available. These Glamilia Pots will do nicely for example. No matter which pot you use, it must be big enough for the plant. Butterworts have small roots though so size is not likely to be a problem. If you want to grow p. alpina in a terrarium or a closed enclosure, make sure there is enough water, light, humidity and the temperature is in the right range.
Pinguicula alpina soil has to be constantly damp during its growth period. Watering from the top is preferred though you can use the tray method too.
The water should have low mineral content. Purified, distilled or spring water is recommended as well as reverse osmosis and rainwater. Unlike other butterworts, p. alpina tolerates a bit of dryness though it is not encouraged during summer.
Pinguicula alpina retains its roots during dormancy so light watering is allowed. But do it sparingly because its hibernacula is prone to rotting.
Other butterworts like pinguicula lutea do not handle a tray full of water well. Pinguicula alpina needs a bit more water so the tray method can work. But you should pour only a small amount –half an inch to an inch- and observe its reaction.
If the leaves do not turn brown, you can continue. If the plant reacts negatively, water from the top instead and mist the leaves when it gets very hot.
Temperate butterworts grow in cold climates but they still need plenty of light. You can keep the plant outdoors if the temperature range is acceptable. In this case, position the plant so it gets as much sun as possible without being directly under it. The best option is to set the plant on a window.
Indirect light is the best for pinguicula alpina. Partial or full is fine as long as the plant is not directly under the light source.
You can also use plant grow lights like Venoya Grow Lights. Position the fixture so it is at least 12 inches above your pinguicula. Just like with natural light, do not aim the source directly at the plant, but enough to illuminate it. UV lights may also be used on p. alpina. Lack of light is one of the leading causes of pinguicula death. Too much of it is not good either so you have to balance this.
In summer, keep pinguicula alpina in 50-68 F (10-20 C) temperature. The maximum allowable is 85 F (30 C). During winter, p. alpina forms a hibernacula and can survive in 14 F (-10 C) degrees. This plant needs dormancy so it must be kept outdoors during winter or somewhere cold inside your home.
Some variants of p. alpina can handle higher degrees of heat, but most of the time, 85 F is the limit. You may need a humidifier to cool things down if you live in a dry, hot region.
If you have 85-100 F degree summers, keep your pinguicula indoors. Grow it in a cool room or terrarium. Make sure the temperature does not climb over 85 F. You can take the plant outside during winter for dormancy. Aside from extreme temperature, there are many other reasons why your pinguicula is dying.
If your region has mild weather and only gets 85-90 F occasionally, pinguicula alpina ought to be fine. Water the soil regularly during summer to help with water retention.
The minimum humidity level for pinguicula alpina is 40%. The higher the level the better, up to 80% is ideal. If humidity is low, use a fogger or humidifier. Sitting the plant in water increases air moisture too.
Butterworts need high humidity to produce the mucus on their leaves. Low humidity forces the plant to allocate more resources for these traps, which can weaken it.
If humidity is low, you have many options to boost it. The easiest is to use the tray method, but be careful not to pour too much into the tray.
Another is to use a humidifier. Install the device according to the instructions and place your plant in the same room. If you are going to cultivate pinguicula in a terrarium, you will also need a light and heat source.
Nutrition and Feeding
If you have other carnivorous plants like pinguicula agnata, the feeding process will look very familiar. Temperate butterworts generally have the same food and nutrient requirements as their tropical counterparts.
Pinguicula alpina produce glucose from photosynthesis and it is their food source. Using their sticky leaves, these plants trap and eat insects for nutrients. You only have to feed pinguicula alpina if it is unable to catch prey. Otherwise, allow it to lure bugs and other small insects naturally.
Pinguicula alpina only has to eat every week, or even every 2-3 weeks. The more sunlight butterworts get – as long as it is not too much – the less nutrients are necessary.
Pinguicula alpina enters dormancy in winter. It forms a hibernacula and remains in this state until the plant slowly comes to life again in spring.
During dormancy, let its hibernacula dry out, and lightly water occasionally. The plant will not eat during this period or will it need a lot of water. In fact its nestling bud is vulnerable to rot so you have to be careful when watering it.
After dormancy ends, you can start watering the plant again. Start with light misting and slowly increase the amount until you are back to normal in summer. However by mid spring you should see quite a bit of carnivorous leaves springing up.. Once this happens, it means the plant is ready to eat again.
As the plant blooms, you can also start preparing to collect seeds. Pinguicula alpina seeds have to be in cold winter temperature, and it might take several weeks to germinate.
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.