Saturday, April 23, 2016

Plant Profile: Utricularia longifolia

This is part of a series of posts describing my experiences with different species, their culture requirements, and photos of their growth in my collection. The full series can be read here, or by species at the Series page
If I were forced right now to rank all of my plants by how much I love them, Utricularia longifolia probably wouldn't be on top, but it would be a near-run thing. Consider this picture from a couple days ago.

Utricularia longifolia flowers.
U. longifolia flower, 4-21-2016, after nearly 8 weeks open.
See that flower in the middle? The one that's starting to wilt? It opened on the 27th of February. That means it's been open for 8 weeks. Take that orchids! And this is from a plant that probably couldn't be easier.

I got my U. longifolia during my first trip to California Carnivores, the time when I tried to buy a bunch of Damon's collection pots by accident. I think he fetched it smooth over my embarrassment. Sweet guy!

Utricularia longifolia.
U. longifolia, 7-22-2014. Just getting started!
U. longifolia is extremely low-maintenance in my conditions. Early on I had to move it to its own little tray because it kept sending out stolons toward other pots. That actually proved to be a pretty good move, since it let me give the plant a nice flood/dry cycle.

Utricularia longifolia.
U. longifolia, 1-26-2015. Long leaf! This is almost ready to bloom.
Lots of people have asked me for advice with U. longifolia, but I can't say anything definitive since I haven't tried growing it in different ways. Here's the basics: it's 18 inches and a bit offset from my lights, so not very intense light, though it is good light; in my garage, where temperatures tend toward the 50s and 60s, occasionally getting cooler in the winter, and ranging into the upper 70s during the hottest days of summer; planted in long fiber Sphagnum moss, I water its tray every 10 days or so. The water level almost always drops way down before I water it, though the moss never really dries out. I water to the very top, nearly flooding the pot. The secret to U. longifolia culture is probably buried somewhere in that description, but I don't know what is the important bit.

After 7 months or so of that treatment, I was rewarded with my first flower stalk.

Utricularia longifolia flower spike.
U. longifolia flower spike, 2-19-2015. I was so excited.
Much like many popular species of orchid, the scape takes several weeks to develop. This first year I only had 2 scapes, and they got hit with aphids, so it was a bit of a let down, though the first few flowers were nice. This year I got 6 flower stalks.

Utricularia longifolia in full flower.
U. longifolia in full bloom, 3-20-2016.
At the peak of the bloom there were 14 open flowers. It was amazing! The two largest stalks look like they'll have 6 or 7 buds in the full course of the bloom, while the smaller ones have 2-3. It seems like the peak of the bloom lasts 2 or 3 weeks, while the full bloom cycle will probably be around 3 months. Not bad at all!

One funny thing about confining my plant to its own little tray/pot is what happens below the pot. It's a bit nuts.

Utricularia longifolia stolons and traps.
U. longifolia, 4-21-2016. About 18 months of stolon development.
You can see the trap development right on the bottom there, and the density of stolons is nuts. This plant would probably like a LOT more space. A part of me is considering getting it into a big pot and seeing what happens. I'll let it finish blooming first, but I might need to mess around with it come summer.

Seriously, U. longifolia is a great plant. I've heard of being growing them in windowsills just fine, in greenhouses, under lights, and outside. If you find any, give it a shot! Maybe I'll try and divide mine up into a few pots to trade/sell. We'll see!

Utricularia longifolia flowers.
U. longifolia flower detail, 3-27-2016.

The Breakdown
  • media: Long-fiber Sphagnum seems to work well.
  • light: Modest light is fine. Probably gets longer leaves in dimmer light.
  • water: Seems to like periodic flood/dry cycles. I achieve this through the careful method of being terrible at watering on time.
  • temperature: Avoid frosts. Probably prefers cooler temperatures, but I bet it would be fine growing warmer as well.
  • feeding: Probably foliar feeding with something like MaxSea would work, but I've never done it.
  • propagation: Divisions are the way. Be careful keeping it near other pots, because the stolons will aggressively colonize its neighbors.
  • flowers: Starts blooming for me in the late winter/early spring.


  1. Thanks for the article! Love that plant! Good growing!

  2. Our plant is also flowering here at Meadowview. Such a beautiful species indeed! :)

  3. Hey Devon! Did you ever end up moving this to a bigger pot?