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As you might have guessed from its name, pinguicula gigantea is big. Able to grow 12 inches in diameter, it is the largest Mexican pinguicula known. Those sold for homes and gardens do not get this big but are still sizable. If you want your butterworts to reach this size however, proper care is essential. Want to know how? Keep reading.
Pinguicula gigantea thrives in partial to full light and well drained, damp soil. Keep the plant in 55-85 F temperature and feed insects or mealworms every 2-3 weeks.
Pinguicula Gigantea Care Sheet
|Soil||1:1 peat and perlite, damp soil|
|Water||Distilled or rainwater|
|Light||Partial to full light, indoor grow lights are fine|
|Food||Small insects, mealworms, fish food|
|Temperature||55-85 F (12.7 to 29 C)|
|Humidity||50% and higher|
The best potting mix for pinguicula gigantea is equal parts peat and perlite. You can also add silica sand and vermiculite to the mixture. Equal parts of each works fine for most butterworts and other carnivorous plants.
If you are new to carnivorous plants, buy a ready made soil mix like Organic Earth Soil Mix. Usually soil is included with the plant or is an option. The benefit of a prepackaged mix is convenience. You can use it right away and not worry about the ratios.
If you have experience you probably want to fine tune the soil. While 50/50 peat and perlite works fine, other mixing solutions may yield better results. Some have had success growing p. gigantea using one part sand, perlite and vermiculite with two parts peat.
You can try other potting mix materials, but make sure it is not fertilized. Never use fertilized media on p. gigantea and do not fertilize the soil after planting. Let your butterworts get their nutrients from insects.
A 3 to 5 inch pot will be enough for a pinguicula gigantea. Most of the pinguicula variants sold range from 1-2.5 inches across, but with care it will grow much bigger.
Drainage is crucial for plants and butterworts are no exception. Plastic containers are going to work fine as long as it is spacious enough. Keep in mind the prepackaged soil sold with most butterworts is enough for a 3-4 inch pot. A larger container will need more soil so keep that in mind.
A pot that is too small will stunt growth. The roots have no room to expand and will get entangled or block the drainage. But if the pot is too large the roots could have difficulty balancing. You will also need a lot of soil to fill it up, more than what is required.
Water is important for growth and makes it easier for butterworts to bloom. However you must use the proper amount and also the correct type. Using the wrong kind of water can spell doom for a pinguicula gigantea.
Use purified water, never running water from the tap. Use a bottle sprayer and spray until the soil is damp. Repeat once the soil starts to get dry. Pinguicula gigantea remains carnivorous during winter so the soil has to remain damp during that period.
You can also use the tray method during late spring and summer. Do not pour too much water in the tray because it might cause root rot. Some growers combine the tray method with watering from above without any problems. You can try this during summer when pinguicula leaves and soil dry quickly.
Do not pour water into the leaves. Instead, spray the water around them. This will prevent water from building up which could lead to leaf rot. During hot days, you may water the leaves a bit more.
Mexican butterworts like p. gigantea grow fastest with partial or full light. You can keep the plant under direct light except during the hottest part of the day.
At last 6-12 hours of sunlight is recommended. In the morning, keep the plant under direct sunlight. As midday approaches and it gets hotter, place it under partial cover.
If it is at 85 F or lower midday you can keep p. gigantea out there. If it is higher – especially at 100 F – give it some shade. Do not completely cover as the plant still needs light.
Tropical butterworts benefit from light, but avoid too much heat. High intensity light is good but excess heat burns its leaves and causes its mucus to dry. Without the mucus, butterworts will not be able to catch prey.
Grow lights. Pinguicula gigantea can grow indoors with LED or florescent lights. Today there are specially designed indoor plant lights available. Set it up according to the instructions and your butterworts should respond well.
You do not have to choose between natural and artificial light. You can use both depending on the situation. Under sunny conditions natural light will be enough. During overcast or rainy days, use indoor grow lights so your pinguicula can maintain its rhythm.
Like most Mexican butterworts, pinguicula gigantea prefers the 55-85 F range (12.7 to 29 C). Avoid extremely hot and below freezing temperature. If you live in a cold location, move the plant indoors before winter.
While 55-85 F is ideal, it does not always have to be in this range. A few degrees above or below will not harm the plant. But when it gets very cold or hot, you have to protect the plant.
It is true that some butterworts have adapted to higher temperature. Being exposed to 90 F for a few hours is fine. The problem arises if the plant is under intense heat for days in a row.
Mexican butterworts need a lot of light, not heat. The problem is the more the intense the light, the hotter it gets. This is why you have to partially shade p.gigantea when it gets really hot.
Mexican butterworts thrive in 50% or higher humidity, but they will be fine at 20% levels. The higher the humidity, the better the air circulation has to be for the plant.
You may have noticed that humidity suggestions for Mexican butterworts vary. Some will tell you that high humidity is the best, while others swear by low humidity. So which one should you try?
They are both correct because pinguicula gigantea grows in high and low humidity. Far more important is the air flow. The higher the humidity, the greater the air circulation. Otherwise the humidity could lead to leaf or root rot.
If you buy Mexican butterworts and it recommends high humidity, you have to provide sufficient airflow. If humidity is low, air circulation is still important but not as much.
Nutrition and Feeding
A pinguicula gigantea is usually fed every two weeks. Feeding is only applicable if the plant is indoors. Outdoor butterworts get their own food.
If your p. gigantea is outdoors – or indoors on an open windowsill – no hand feeding is needed. Its mucus attracts a lot of bugs so you should see a few flies or even gnats trapped on its leaves.
If you want to hand feed your pinguicula, there are many options. You can place bugs on its laves, dead or alive it does not matter. Catching bugs is hard though so you may want to try re-hydrated bloodworms or Soil Sunrise Carnivorous Plant Food instead. Fish pellets and other types of fish food also provide nutrients for p. gigantea.
Dormancy and Propagation
Pinguicula gigantea keeps its carnivorous leaves during winter. They get smaller but can still eat. Keep the plant indoors and feed it as you would during spring, summer and fall. Do not be surprised if the plant eats less than before as Mexican pinguicula typically slow down in winter, even if they do not go dormant.
Because the plant remains basically the same during winter, it expects the same kind of environment. If the plant is outdoors during spring, summer and fall, bring it indoors before the freeze. Use indoor grow lights and water as you normally do and feed it.
Repotting and propagation. P. gigantea rarely needs repotting, but if you have to do it the best time is early spring before new growth appears. For more here is guide on when and how to repot butterworts.
Even though the p. gigantea does not go dormant, the end of winter / early spring is still the best time to propagate. Because it has yet to regrow large carnivorous leaves, you can do leaf cuttings or division easily. Leaf cutting is the fastest way to grow new butterworts and also the easiest.
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.