Pike's Pick for July 1, 2006

Pitcher Plants
Sarracenia spp.

On sale this Saturday and Sunday (July 1st and 2nd) for 20% off at your local Pike Family Nurseries with locations around metro Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama and their newest location in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pitcher plants are an unusual group of carnivorous (flesh eating) bog plants once common throughout Georgia and much of the Southeast. Alas, habitat loss and collection from the wild have all but wiped out the natural populations of these plants. Fortunately, these plants are easy to grow from seed and to maintain in a garden bog or container.

Pitcher plants get their name from the long colorful tube that grows from the crown each spring. Actually a modified leaf, the tube has nectar glands at the top that are attractive to insects. The interior of the tube is slick and has tiny, downward pointing hairs that prevent insects from crawling out once they've ventured inside. A pool of digestive enzymes awaits the insects at the bottom of the tube. Once there, they are slowly digested.

The tubes of pitcher plants can be white with colorful veining (White top Pitcher Plants), reddish-purple (Purple Pitcher Plant) and a variety of other colors in hybrids and cultivars. Not to be outdone by the showy tubes, the flowers of pitcher plants are downright gorgeous and also come in a variety of colors including red, white, cream and yellow. Flowering is in the early summer.

The tubes should be removed in the early spring just before new growth begins. It's a fun activity with children to take the old tubes and cut them open to see what remnants are at the bottom. Common victims include crickets, beetles, bees and the occasional small frog or toad.

Pitcher plants are picky about their growing environment:

*Pitcher plants require full sun.
*They must be grown in a bog that contains a mixture of peat moss and sand.
*This growing medium must be poor in nutrients and acidic.
*The bog or container must be at least 18 inches deep with no drain hole.
*Do not expose pitcher plant bogs to fertilizers or other garden chemicals.
*Do not "feed" pitcher plants.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens as well as the Atlanta Botanical Garden both have wonderful pitcher plant bog gardens.

The State Botanical Garden also has a wealth of information on pitcher plants as well as instructions on how to build and maintain a pitcher plant bog.

Past Pike's Picks:

June 24, 2006: Yellow Anise
June 17, 2006: Bicolor Butterfly Bush
June 10, 2006: Dooley Hydrangea
June 3, 2006: Blushing Bride Hydrangea
May 27, 2006: Don's Dwarf Southern Wax Myrtle
May 20, 2006: Tangerine Beauty Crossvine
May 13, 2006: Variegated Solomon's Seal
May 6, 2006:   Cinnamon Fern
April 29, 2006: Slender Hinoki False Cypress
April 22, 2006: Midnight Flare Azalea
April 15, 2006: Eastern Snowball Viburnum

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