Adventures in Growing Butterworts!

Butterworts are my latest carnivorous plant obsession! Their scientific name is Pinguicula, and many growers affectionately refer to them as Pings. Some of the easiest to grow are Mexican pinguicula, which are what I’m currently growing.

In my humble opinion, Mexican pings are also the most attractive. They’re small, rosetted, and symmetrical with rounded leaves, and some become lovely shades of pink in the right light conditions. I’ll fully admit I’m a sucker for pretty things! Their look is very similar to the popular echeveria succulents.

I got my first butterwort less than a month ago, a P. esseriana. This one (and all my other pings) are planted in roughly 2/3 perlite and sand, and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss. Here’s a few shots of esseriana’s growth over the last couple of weeks. First photo was shot Sept. 29th, last photo was shot Oct. 17th. Pretty fast growth!

P. esseriana growth

Last Friday morning, I potted not one or two, but SIX new members of my butterwort family! I told you I’m obsessed! Say hello to P. ‘Sethos, P. agnata x moranensis, P. gracilis, P. Yucca Do 1717, P. debbertiana, and P. laueana. Whew!

Mexican Butterworts

I manhandled P. lauenana (bottom of the pot) a bit, and a couple of leaves came off. 🙁 Hopefully it recovers. I would attempt to propagate the leaf pullings, but I’ve read it only really works with their succulent (dormant) leaves, and all these still have carnivorous leaves.

The Sethos is definitely bigger than I thought it would be at nearly 3 inches across. P. laueana will probably grow to a similar size once its leaves are back. On the other hand, the gracilis and debbertiana are so tiny and precious! I took macro shots of them next to a US dime for comparison.

Pinguicula debbertiana
P. debbertiana, so tiny and precious!
Pinguicula gracilis
These two p. gracilis could fit inside the dime!

If these adapt as well as my P. esseriana, I’ll be able to see new growth in a couple of days! Their dormancy is approaching though, which is called the succulent phase, and is pretty unique. They’ll grow succulent leaves instead of carnivorous leaves. As watering decreases down to nothing in the winter, they’ll be storing water in these succulent leaves rather than eating. Like with regular succulents, over watering can kill dormant pings. No bueno!

These butterworts are triggered into dormancy by reduction of  water, light, and food. Temperature doesn’t affect them as much, so you can keep giving the same conditions year round (ie: indoors on a windowsill). Fascinating stuff! Growing butterworts is an adventure unlike any other plant I’ve grown. 🙂

I was just thinking today I need to make a list of all the repotting/dividing/propagating projects I want to do in the early spring, and making more pings from leaf pullings is definitely going on that list! Perhaps this list will be a post in the future. 😉

Have you recently bought any plants that are out of your comfort zone? Are your prepared for their dormancy or lack thereof? Leave me a comment! Let’s chat about our collections. 🙂


  1. David Laughlin says:

    My Mexican pings (I only have P. moranensis ‘A’, but I have 19 or 20 of them from the time I went propagation-crazy with them) grew very well in the beginning on peat/perlite/sand and/or sphagnum/perlite media, but after a while the rosettes started reducing in size and having leaves die off randomly and rapidly, leaving mainly the growing point barely hanging on. I barely kept them alive by doing frequent transplantings in fresh media, partly due to fungus gnats eventually infesting the soil and contributing to plant decline. All of that changed once I transplanted all of them last year into a media comprised of roughly equal parts vermiculite, coarse sand, and perlite (the exact mixture I used was 2 parts coarse vermiculite, 2 parts coarse sand, 2 parts roughly medium-grade perlite, and 1 part roughly fine or medium grade vermiculite). If your plants ever start to decline inexplicably in peat-based media, the above vermiculite/sand/perlite mixture works (in my experience) wonders for these plants. Oh, and the sand I used was National Geographic Aquarium Substrate from Petsmart, mainly the “Crystal Lake Sand” type. I’m sure your plants will probably be fine, though, because you obviously kick friggin’ ass when it comes to carnivore cultivation. 🙂

    • Maria says:

      David, thank you for the comment and sharing your experience! I recently repotted my pings into a mix that contains less peat (1 part vermiculite, 1 part sand, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part peat). I’ve seen lots of growers like yourself give up peat completely for pings. I’ll keep observing and potentially move that way myself. I wouldn’t say I kick ass but I am always open to new information and learning new methods. 😀 Thanks again!

  2. Kelsey Day says:

    Hey Girl!
    I’ve been growing carnivorous plants specifically Pings for around two years now after living in Sebastopol the past couple years before moving to Whidbey Island, WA, which ignited a life long love affair haha, as you well understand. I propagated my Gigantea, Cyclosecta, Laueana, Sethos and Weser this past winter and just ordered 5 more species from California Carnivores online 😄. However I’ve been unable to get my hands on an Esserianna and was wondering if your propagation babies were ready to be sent off into the world to find new homes? I’d love to purchase or trade if I have a ping that’s not yet apart of your extensive collection! Thanks so much!

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