Mexican Pinguicula Care
By Charlie MacDonald
Mexican Butterworts (Pinguicula) are an easy-to-grow group of carnivorous plants that for the most part make good houseplants. Like their temperate relatives, they have large flat leaves that produce sticky mucilage that captures and digests small insects. However, they are not bog plants, but rather grow in a variety of situations where they are kept wet by the frequent rains of the rainy season. During
the dry season they produce small non-carnivorous leaves. They remain this way until the next rainy season, at which point they start producing their larger carnivorous leaves again.
Growing Medium: As is so often the case, everyone has their own favorite growing medium for Mexican Pings. Some use the standard 50/50 peat and perlite. Others like a grittier mix of equal parts peat, perlite, vermiculite, sand and small gravel. Some users prefer to use Turface, a small gravel that is used on outside tracks, or other similar mixes. Just make sure there is no potting soil or fertilizer in any component of your mix.
Watering: Water must be mineral-free: distilled water, R/O water, or rainwater are often used. During the ‘rainy season’ when the plants are in active growth mode, keep them in trays of water. As they start producing smaller succulent non-carnivorous leaves, let the trays dry out. For the most part you want to
keep the plants damp but not wet, although some species and individual plants may want to dry out more. You can encourage them to go into this state by gradually decreasing water, or wait for them to decide to start sending out ‘dry season’ leaves and start reducing your watering. The plants will let you know when it’s time to start watering more regularly, by starting to send up larger carnivorous ‘wet season’ leaves. Too much water before then can rot the small resting plants.
Light: Mexican Pings do very well under fluorescent lights, or in a window where they get bright light with no direct sun, or possibly a couple of hours of morning sun. Many will turn beautiful shades of pink or purple, or get dark edging to the leaves, when they have a good quantity of light. Good light encourages flowering, which often happens in the dry season, or just as the plants are emerging from the dry season.
Propagation: Mexican pings can be grown from seed, but are easily propagated by division or leaf pullings. They often naturally send up multiple rosettes when coming out of the dry season, and can be divided then. Any leaves that are healthy (including the dry season non-carnivorous leaves) can be placed on the surface of a pot of media and will produce plantlets from the base. Do not bury the leaves, just make sure the base is touching the media.
Special Note: Some Mexican Pings do not produce large robust root systems and are essentially settled onto the surface of their potting medium. Care should be taken when removing old flower stems or leaves, or when handling the pot. It doesn’t take much to knock the plants out of their pots entirely.