How to Make a Carnivorous Minibog Planter
by Wild Bill Matthews
Since many carnivorous plants grow in the same conditions, you can make your own Carnivorous Plant Mini-Bog in a container such as a window box or other small container. The planter will be VERY heavy so make sure you have a good support for it.
First, you will need to prepare the container. Plug any holes in the very bottom of the container. I use silicone seal. It will need to dry for 24 hours. After your minibog is planted you will want the soil to be wet, but you also don't want the plants to wash away over the side if it happens to rain for a few days. So, you will need to provide some drainage to let the excess water seep out. To do this, make holes in the window box about an inch down from where the soil line will be (I use a soldering iron). Alternately, you could leave the holes in the bottom if you have a tray that will hold an inch or two of water that the planter can fit into.
In designing your planter, think about what plants will go in it and also where the planter will be viewed from. In designing my minibogs, I like the soil to slope, with the smaller plants like Round Leaved Sundews in the front and the taller plants like the Pitcher Plants to be in the back. In a planter that will be viewed from all sides, it looks nice to have the soil mounded up higher in the center.
In filling the planter, I first, put some rocks or Styrofoam packing peanuts in the bottom. Then, I fill the container with the moistened soil mix: one part peatmoss mixed with one part play Sand/Creek sand (do NOT use sand from the beach!). It may be easier to leave the plants in their pots while you position them and pack the soil mix around the pots. Then you can lift the potted plant out, slide out the plant and soil from its pot, and place the plant with its soilball exactly into the hole. OK, here’s a new trick I am doing: I like to make deep pockets of Long Fiber Sphagnum moss (LFS) within my carnivorous plantings. These are for the Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia). It has been my personal experience that these plants grow much faster and larger in LFS than in the sand/peat mixture. If you want to make a LFS pocket, a small water or soda bottle works well as a placeholder for the moss as you fill the container with the sand/peat mixture. You then pull the bottle out and fill the space left by the bottle with moistened sphagnum.
After all the carnivores have been planted, I like to carefully water them into place using a squirt bottle or old fashioned ketchup bottle - the kind with the pointy tip. The plants will settle a bit as you water, and you may need to add a bit more soil around them. Water until it starts seeping out the drainage holes. Finally, all over the top I sprinkle finely chopped live sphagnum moss (dry will work too - it just takes much longer to grow). I snip bits and pieces of the moss from the pots of my other carnivorous plants. In some instances, like preparing for a show, I carefully moisten the sprinkled bits daily which seems to help the live sphagnum get established faster. When making mini-bogs, some people like to place a plastic tube or low area in one corner of the window box so it's easier to water.
To help reduce transplant shock another trick I do once the planter is finished, is to place upside down clear plastic cups over some of the plants. I have found that it really helps - especially with the sundews and young flytraps. If your planter will be located in a warm spot, make sure there is some ventilation by putting a few holes in the cups or propping them up a bit otherwise they become ‘Death Domes’ under which the plants will overheat! I leave the cups in place for about two weeks or until I see new growth developing.
So, it’s spring. It’s warming up and you just can’t wait to get your beautiful planter outside into the fresh air where it will get natural sunshine and catch plenty of bugs. Let me tell you a story… One fine spring day back around 1998, as I sipped my morning coffee, I opened the blinds to happily gaze at my first newly created carnivorous planter – a real beauty that I was prepping for the State Fair that coming fall. It would be MAGNIFICENT! Up go the blinds and nothing, let me repeat, nothing, was there. Just some scattered soil - and then I saw my plants drying up on the sidewalk three floors below. AARRGGHHH!!!! A few were in the bushes and I managed to save them.
The moral is …please PROTECT YOUR PLANTER - pesky marauders lurk just waiting to destroy it especially in the Spring! Every Spring, no matter where I have lived, squirrels and birds have made havoc of my minibogs. Blue Jays and other birds just love to rip out the long fibered sphagnum and anything that comes along with it for their nests. Squirrels can destroy your plants in minutes. For me, it seems to happen mainly for the first month or so of Spring. What I have resorted to during this time period is to protect my minibogs with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or window screen. Yes, it’s ugly but it’s only for a month or so.
Over time, the live sphagnum moss will grow forming a lush green carpet on the mini-bog. The Sundews will seed and spread to form a glistening death-patch and the Venus Flytraps will flower. The Pitcher Plants will grow robust and tall - you may have to stake them to keep them from flopping over from the weight of the insect carcasses inside them. When fall rolls around, I remove the plants that don’t undergo a dormancy period. I leave the remaining plants in place in the minibog.
To prepare for dormancy, I let the minibog dry out a bit as the weather gets colder. A day or two before I place my plants into dormancy, I cut off all pitchers and spray the plants and soil with a fungicide, drenching them. I use a powdered fungicide that mixes with water. Then the minibog and the other carnivorous plants go into an empty garden bed, get covered with a layer of pine needles, a sheet of burlap, pine boughs, and a foot or more of mulch. The following spring I remove a few inches of the mulch at a time, as the weather warms up. Under all the layers the plants are bright and green just waiting to shoot up and begin another glutinous season.