This Article is all about growing Sarracenia Carnivorous Pitcher Plants the easy way in Zones 6,7 and 8. If you know anything about temperate pitcher plants, then you know they require constant moisture. Constant moisture is no problem, surely they can be watered every day right? Right, but you probably also know the kicker, they require pure water with low dissolved solids. This pretty much rules out most people’s tap water because guess what? Tap water is NOT low in dissolved solids. Whether you know what total dissolved solids is or not is not important. What is important is that Serracenia require water with less than 100 particles per million (ppm). Most tap water is between 150 and 300 depending where you live. Sure, there are some lucky few whose water is less than the prescribed 100 ppm. If that’s you, congrats!
So how do you grow these wonderful plants if you’re in the unlucky majority with “bad” water? The answer, right next to your Air Conditioner! Surely you’ve seen the water overflow spout on your air conditioner. Guess what? This water is EXTREMELY pure. So pure in fact that its close to 0 ppm in dissolved solids! That’s right, that AC water is 100x+ purer than your tap water. That’s because that run off water is water vapor in the air that’s collected and condensed into liquid water by your AC. Water vapor has no dissolved solids by nature, this condensation water run off provided by your AC is the perfect water source for your Sarracenia! As you know, the hotter it gets out the more your AC runs which in turn the more water it makes resulting in more water for your Sarracenia!
Not that you know why your AC is such a great water source for your Sarracenia Pitcher plant it’s time to make us an AC bog. An AC bog is nothing more than a bog near your AC. The only requirement for an AC bog is that your AC be located in full sun. If so, congratulations, you have a fully automated bog to grow your Pitcher Plants in.
Bog Building Materials
Building the bog is easy, first you need a few materials
1.Pond liner. This can be found in the pond section of your local Home Depot or Lowes.
2. Next, we need some peat moss. Be aware that we need UNFERTILIZED peat moss, sorry Miracle Grow peat moss will NOT work! I say again, DO NOT USE Miracle Grow or any other fertilized peat moss. Carnivorous plants need to be grown in nutrient free media so we need plain old peat moss.
3. Peat Moss makes the perfect moisture retention media, too perfect perhaps which is why we need to mix it with something that will let it drain of excessive water. We want a moist bog, not a pond! There are a few choices for this, the best is Perlite, again UNFERTILIZED perlite. Sand is the next best option and is easy to find, paver sand or play sand found at Home Depot or Lowes will work well. You could also use pea gravel or the like but I don’t like to use it because it tends to settle to the bottom after a period of time. Lava rocks could also work but they may be a little too big. You can try other things so long as it is something that is nutrient free and won’t break down to provide said nutrients, this means no wood mulch or anything like that.
4. Finally, we need some sand, if you’re using something other than sand to mix with your peat, you will need sand anyhow.
Building the Bog
Now for the fun part, building the bog. We need to locate it such that we can channel the run off condensed water to it. Only requirement here is that your selected area get a minimum 6-8 hrs of sun. With our area selected it’s time to set the bog up!
1. Dig your selected area. You don’t want a huge area such that the AC can’t provide enough water. My bog is relatively small, about 3′x2′ and in the summer it overflows so you could probably go twice that safely. Dig to about 6″-8″ deep. Sarracenia have rather small roots since they are only used to absorb moisture and anchor the plant so we don’t need a very deep bog.
2. Once you’ve excavated, it’s time to line our hole with pond liner. This will keep our bog moist and prevent it from being contaminated with soil which of course contains nutrients which we don’t want. You will want a 3″-4″ lip along the perimeter of the hole. You can then hide it with decorative stones , rocks, concrete pavers, etc.
4. Once you have your liner down, it’s time to make some slits at the bottom. Make several going full length and width of your bog. You don’t want to shred it completely though. We need the slits to drain excess water.
5. Now we lay about an inch of sand at the bottom of our bog to cover the slits. This will act as a filter of sorts and prevent soil from contaminating our bog.
6. Next, it’s time to make our peat mos and whatever else you are using (sand, perlite, etc) mixture. A 50/50 peat to sand or perlite works well. If you are using gravel or something much coarser you will want much more peat than gravel. Use your judgement but remember that we need plenty of peat to keep the bog moist.
7. With your mixture all set, we now want to get it thoroughly moist. Dry peat much harder to get fully moist than you might think. You may want to let it steep for some time. Another trick that works is kneading the mixture as you add water. Basically, we want the peat to be fully moist.
8. Add your peat wet mixture into the pond lined hole.
9. Plant your Pitcher plants.
10. Finally, channel your AC water into the bog. No need to get fancy here. Remember to use something that won’t restrict the water flow because we don’t want to back up our AC. I used a piece of channel iron found at home depot. I covered it with pond liner as to not get rust into the bog. An oversized hose or pvc pipe will also work well. Be sure to angle it so that water can flow freely. Again, we don’t want our AC to back up or our bog to not get enough water.
And there you have it! A self sustaining self watering bog that will keep our Pitcher plants watered even on the hottest of days.
Since for the most part our bog will be self watered, there will be little maintenance required on your part. All you need to do is check up on it from time to time to be sure water is running free and that your AC drain is not clogged. You also want to check that your channel that carries the water to the bog has not been knocked out of place by critters or what have you. Finally, you will need to provide water manually during rain free periods where it’s not hot enough to use your AC. This means in the Spring and Fall, pitcher plants will tolerate tap water fine for a period of time. For winter, be sure to mulch your bog with pine needles once it starts getting in to the 20′s or lower at night. Unless you have a super dry winter, there will be no need for winter watering as the cold wet conditions will maintain the bog moist throughout the winter. Finally, you will need to replace your peat mixture about every 3 years. You will its time to replace when the peat does not stay moist very long during those periods of manual watering.
So there you have it, your very own perfect little bog for growing Pitcher plants and other temperate carnivorous plants like venus fly traps. I have been growing 3 different species of pitchers this way for well over 4 years and they thrive in the AC bog. In fact all were quite small with only a couple of pitchers when planted and now they make tons of pitchers and flower every spring. Please leave any questions in the comments section..