Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cultivating Carnivorous Plants: A Book Review!

Recently I received a copy of our friend Natch Greyes' new book, Cultivating Carnivorous Plants. I had a little time yesterday to catch up on the reading I've been wanting to do. So here's a little review for anyone considering picking up a book on cultivating carnivorous plants.

I will admit I have never actually read a book on carnivorous plants before, ever. Until quite recently, never read Peter D'Amato's book, The Savage Garden either. Shocker, I know. Most information can be found online for free, so I never bothered buying a single cultivation guide for any of the plants I've ever tried to grow. This book has changed my mind about that stance. Especially with the less "popular" genus, it's not easy to find a source online with all the info you might want in one place. I love a well organized chart and this book has one for all the genera that have enough species to desire one. I like to grow heat tolerant species, so being able to look at things like altitude range and country of origin for almost all Utricularia is so handy.

Speaking of Utricularia, in reading this book, I learned there are quite a few species that may do well with the heat here, besides the native FL species. If nothing else, I love looking at pictures of beautiful species of all the plants I can't grow here easily. There is no shortage of fantastic photos throughout this book of all types of carnivorous plants. It's really great to see a mix of people's personal collection photos and not just "professionally" grown collection photos as well.

Natch also mentions bog building and common pitfalls for potential new bog-builders to consider, (wish I had read about a few of those issues and not by figuring things out after the fact,) growing indoors under artificial lighting (actually, I wish the section on lighting was larger, but that's only because lighting choice questions seem to pop up with frequency on forums,) as well as so many other growing tips and techniques throughout the book. 

There is also a great section on pests and disease as well. Pictures of the offenders and pictures of what their damage looks like ON carnivorous plants is so great to see as diagnosing what pest is harming your plants is a skill usually learned the hard way after many years of growing and witnessing different damage. The one pest I'd love to see covered in a cultivation guide book (Natch, if you ever do a revised edition?) are sod web worms and other various cutworms and moth larvae. They are common, and I usually see them misdiagnosed online as the less common rhizome borer, but they can do massive damage quickly on outdoor grown plants. Even The Savage Garden, (which I only thumbed through so far) only makes a brief mention of Exyra moths, which are only one of many moth larvae genus that can kill outdoor grown plants like Sarracenia.

This book is a great resource for anyone interested in growing carnivorous plants. Cultivation information, soil mixes, terrarium building, it's got a bit of everything for indoor and outdoor growers. Only the relevant information you'd want too, no filler or fluff here. If you're considering picking up this book, (and you really should,) you can purchase it online in paperback book or Kindle formats from Amazon, or get a signed copy from the author himself by clicking Here!.

By the way, Natch, my apologies for the delay in reading your book, been too busy with the new house and a new job to read at all lately. In response to your inscription (readers, of course I bought a signed copy) I had no idea Catopsis berteroniana existed or is a Florida native. Follow-up to anyone can I get one? It's beautiful!


  1. Thanks for the review, Melody! I think that you'd probably have a good deal of luck with many of the terrestrial Australian species.

    If I do a revised edition, I will certainly add in something about sod web worms and various cutworms. I also hope to have some more information about lighting. I know many people are experimenting with LED lighting (I am myself), and that'll probably be the only lighting anyone uses in 5 years, but it's all so new that I'm not sure anyone has a really good fix on what works and what doesn't work with LEDs, yet. That said, everyone's learning more about it every day. For now, I'm going to stick with my trusty T5s (and when those start giving out, I'll start upgrading everything to LEDs).

    As far as your desire for a Catopsis goes, California Carnivores actually has some in stock online. (It's where I just got mine). I'd recommend ordering sooner than later, since it's not commonly available and will probably go fast.

    1. I know LED is all the rage right now, and I've seen quite a few have success with it so far, but to the average grower it's still T5's, "only" might be a bit of a stretch especially for beginners and more casual hobbyists, (They're cheap, the info is out there, and they're easily purchased locally.)

      If I ever change out my T5's to LED, it'll only be in my grow-tent, where no one's looking at the plants because the color output of the LED that works for plants looks terrible to me. As far as aesthetics, I'll keep my T5's on the tank because it's where people (and myself) can see it all the time. I'm not hurting my electric bill so bad that it's worth the switch to have to deal with that red/purple glow. I'd also like to see some true experiments 1st before I join the hype. As in someone takes a bunch of the same clone and grows some in LED, some in T5 and see if there is any difference, not just all the anecdotal evidence I've been seeing that it's "just as good."

      You could, however, write a whole book on choosing lighting alone, LED, HPS or florescent...which kelvin rating, what CRI needed, how many bulbs for the area in question etc., etc. so it's kind of a hard call what should be in a general cultivation guide. Maybe that should be your next book, "Indoor Lighting for Carnivorous Plants: The Ultimate Grower's Guide!"

      Thanks for the heads up about CC, what are the odds that it's for sale the second I learn about it and decide I want one. Also, thanks for the share to Reddit, had to look up why I was suddenly getting so many views from there!