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Anyone who has grown houseplants will be familiar with repotting. But is it also necessary for butterworts? If you have one of these carnivorous plants, how often do you have to repot, and how will you know it is the right time to do it? Well you are in the right place to find the solution.
Butterworts only need repotting every 3-5 years because they have fibrous roots. The best time to repot is early spring, and you should only use soil compatible with carnivorous plants.
When is the Right Time to Repot Butterworts?
The truth is many carnivorous plants including butterworts, rarely need a repot. Compared to non-carnivorous species, pinguicula roots are sparse and unlikely to require a transplant. Because they grow in poor soil, its physical characteristics is a bit different from other plants.
However, even a well cared for pinguicula will eventually need a new home. It could be as simple as the plant outgrowing its container or something more serious like an infection. Unless you take action, leaving the plant in the same container could affect its growth.
The key to a successful repot is to know when to do it. The optimum time to repot is right after dormancy in the early spring. No new carnivorous leaves have appeared, so you can move the plant without causing any damage.
Here are the most common signs your butterworts need to move. If you notice any of these, take the right steps immediately.
The Plant is Outgrowing its Pot
Some butterworts grow fast and if you planted in a small pot, it will not be long before the pinguicula outgrows the container. With large variants you can tell just by looking that the pot is too small for the plant. And if you check the roots it is probably a tangled mess as they are looking for room to grow.
However this sign is only apparent if you are cultivating a large pinguicula or using a very small container. If you have an average sized plant, you may not notice any difference. You can avoid this problem by using a good sized pot like Swim Duck.
Keeping your butterworts in a tiny pot can cause problems. While everything may look fine on the outside, things might be different under the soil. Fortunately there are other indications your butterworts need repotting.
The Soil Dries Faster Than Before
If you find yourself watering more frequently to keep the soil moist, it means the roots are absorbing more water than before. This indicates the roots are growing and It will not be long before it outgrows the container.
If the plant uses more water right now, you should seriously consider repotting. Do not wait for the roots to emerge from the drainage hole before doing this.
Do keep in mind that pinguicula does need a lot of water during hot days. Their requirements drop during winter to the point some species can have dry soil for a few days.
Before you consider growing roots as the cause, think of the season first. If your butterworts need more water in summer than spring, that is normal. But if the soil dries even with your typical watering for the summer, then a repot is probably in order.
Roots are Entangled
Growing butterworts is not that hard when the right steps are followed. One of the secrets to successful cultivation is providing roots space to grow.
Carefully remove the soil and examine the roots. Butterworts have sparse roots so this is usually not a problem. If the roots are indeed tangled up, then the pot is way too small.
Because this requires removing the soil, it can take a bit of work. However you should do this to ensure your pinguicula is still suitable for the container it is in. Anytime you see tightly woven or tangled roots, that is a good time to repot.
Infection or Disease
If your butterworts are sick, repotting can help. If you used the wrong soil, planting in another pot as quickly as possible is the best solution.
First you have to recognize the symptoms of a sick pinguicula. These include faded colors, no mucus on the leaves, not eating, mushy roots, deformed leaves and a foul smell.
There are many possible culprits such as bacterial infection, fungal diseases, bug infestation, wrong soil, etc. You need to find out the cause and then try to save whatever you can from the plant.
Before you repot, cut off all the dead, rotting roots and leaves. Plant the healthy remains in a new pot with new soil. Observe and care for it as you normally would. If all goes well your plant will recover.
How to Repot Butterworts
Now wee know when pinguicula needs to be repotted. The next step is how. Fortunately that is easy to as it is similar to other plant repotting. However you need to make sure you are using the right materials.
Hydrate butterworts 24 hours prior to repotting. Prepare the soil mix in a new container. The container should be slightly larger than the current one. Water until the soil is moist and plant your butterworts in the new pot.
As stated earlier, the right time to repot pinguicula is early spring. Depending on the pinguicula it might still be dormant or just coming out of it. Either way, this will give you the best results as the plant will benefit from a fresh start.
Step 1. Choose the Right Pot Size
The standard 3-4 inch pot is enough for most butterworts. Unless you are growing a large variant, most butterworts have small, short roots. This is why repotting is rare with these plants.
There are always exceptions to the rule so if you have a large pinguicula, get a sizeable pot. A big pot will provide more room for the roots and minimize the need for frequent repotting.
If you are going to use the tray method, pot height could be a factor. A short pot with absorbent soil could result in an excessively damp soil. That could cause root rot and ruin the plant you just repotted. If you water from the top, a 3-4 inch pot will be enough.
Step 2. Prepare the Soil Mix
Use only new soil, never those in its current container. You can however, use the same type of potting mix if you have a healthy pinguicula.
The typical soil mix for butterworts is peat moss and perlite at 50/50. A simpler solution is to use Perfect Plants Carnivorous Plant Soil since it is already mixed.
You may also try long fiber sphagnum moss with silica sand or just pure sphagnum moss. There are other potting media options available, but make sure it is suited for carnivorous plants.
If you are making a custom soil, mix thoroughly. Add water and pour into the new container.
Do not use fertilized soil or any potting mix for regular houseplants. Regular soil is fatal to butterworts. If your plant is growing well with the current soil mix, use that when you repot.
Step 3. Repot Your Pinguicula
Place your hand over the pinguicula but do not pull it out. Use your other hand to turn the pot over. Shake it gently to loosen the soil. You may also tilt the pot left and right to loosen more dirt.
Use a small shovel or other tool to separate the soil from your butterworts. Be careful not to cut any healthy leaves or roots.
Once you have removed most of the soil, examine the roots. Prune any unhealthy roots and dead leaves. Plant the butterworts in the new container. Press it into the dirt and pat the soil around the plant. Add more dirt if necessary.
Once you have repotted butterworts you can care for it as before. Some variants like pinguicula sethos have specific requirements. For more information here is a guide on how to care for pinguicula sethos.
Butterworts raised in the right environment will rarely need repotting. It will probably take years if at all before you need to do it. But knowing how it is done, and the signs it is needed, is always useful information.
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.