The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: Pinguicula cultivation

A:As you would expect, the cultivation requirements of arctic Pinguicula species differ from those in sunny Mexico. Fortunately, by using the same groupings of the previous pages, I can provide you general cultivation prescriptions with some ease.

P. macroceras
Pinguicula macroceras

P. Weser
Pinguicula 'Weser'

P. laueana
Pinguicula laueana

P. jaumavensis
Pinguicula jaumavensis

P. caerulea
Pinguicula caerulea

Pings in cultivation.
A collection

Ahh, but there is a sticking point. Perhaps more than in any other genus of carnivorous plants, the cultivation prescriptions of Pinguicula are diverse and varied, and sometimes the recommendations of different experts are in direct conflict. I think the solution to this conundrum is to remember there are many ways to satisfy the needs of plants. It is your job to find out what combination works well for you!

Most of the species of Mexico and central America have an active period of growth during the moist spring and summer seasons, and a relatively dry winter period during which many enter dormancy. Usually, during the dormancy period horticulturists are advised to let the soil dry out. However some master horticulturists do not withhold water during the winter and they do just fine. There is a large amount of lore involved in the best planting media for the Mexican species. Many growers favour pure vermiculite, others like a vermiculite:perlite mix, around 1:1. I have been growing my plants for years in a 2:1 sand:peat mix and, while this works well for many, others do very poorly in it. I am currently experimenting with a very complicated mix involving coral sand, trichoderma, iron oxide, etc. I will report back when I have tried this more.

These plants are best propagated by leaf pullings. Use the modified succulent leaves produced by the plants in their winter rosettes (if available). Orchid or epiphyte fertilizers should be used as a foliar spray. Avoid acid-based fertilizers. Use moderate sunlight, in fact these plants can often be grown on a windowsill if the air is not too dry.

The other species of the Caribbean and South America are not as common in cultivation. The only species I have grown from this group are P. pumila (US strains) and P. filifolia. Both respond well to a sand/peat mix, but survived in my collection for only two years. I was unable to propagate either from leaf cuttings. I even unsuccessfully tried flower-stalk cuttings with P. filifolia. I tried selfing P. filifolia but did not obtain seed; selfed seed can be produced from P. pumila, but after a few generations of this the plants seem to lose vigor. I water these by tray, but I expect that some species, such as the epiphytes, may have some very strict watering requirements.

The temperate-subtropical species of the USA do well in greenhouses under bright sun, and in a standard sand:peat mix. Water via the tray method. If you keep the humidity lower than 100%, and provide some air circulation, you can even grow these in a terrarium with a lot of light. I think the failure for so many plants in terraria is they do not get air circulation and seem prone to death from fungus. If they get good air circulation, though, a plant will live for a few to several years, easily long enough to flower several times and produce seed. Cross pollinating clones is always best to maintain the vigor of the plants you grow. Some of these respond to leaf pullings or cuttings. Pinguicula primuliflora has the interesting characteristic of frequently producing plantlets from its leaf tips. A weekly foliar spray with label-strength Miracid fertilizer is often useful.

Arctic-temperate species, from North America or elsewhere, as a group respond to similar general cultivation requirements. All the ones I have grown like generic acidic carnivorous plant cultivation, i.e. full sun, acid soils, watering by tray, and an occasional foliar spray with a dilute acid-based fertilizer. During the winter these plants regress to a hibernaculum of densely packed leaves. I live in a Mediterranean climate with a mild winter, so during this time I refrigerate my plants until they resume growth. Mature, flowering-sized plants also produce small daughter hibernacula as they enter dormancy. These are called gemmae and are an excellent way to propagate the plants. These gemmae are only a millimeter or so in length. While resistant to desiccation and frost, they are not indestructible, so be gentle with them.

Strangely, over the years I have discovered that I have a special fondness towards carnivorous plants that form winter resting buds. This is weird, I know, but I think those winter resting buds are so cute! Look at little little Pinguicula macroceras at the right, taking a widdle bitty nappy-poo! Sleepy sleepy, widdle planty! Look at the darling widdle gemmae at the base! Ooky mooky woosie woo! Ooky mooky woosie woo!

The only other species I have not mentioned, even obliquely, are Pinguicula lusitanica and the species in the Pinguicula crystallina complex. Pinguicula lusitanica is a little annual; treat it like a brightly lit Drosera and it should proliferate for you. It will self-seed, so beware. If you grow it in a crowded terrarium, it is prone to fungus. I have not grown plants in the Pinguicula crystallina complex, and some say they are easy while others say they are difficult. I do not know.

Page citations: D'Amato, P. 1998a, 1998c; Rice, B. 2002, 2006a; Schlauer, J. 2002; Schnell, D.E. 1976, 2002a; Slack, A. 1979.

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Revised: August 2008
©Barry Rice, 2005