I thought it would be interesting to share how I built my "greenhouse shelf terrarium". I already had this metal 4 foot x 2 foot heavy duty set of shelves (unfortunately my particular model is discontinued) for my various fish tanks. Over time my fish population decreased while my plants exploded in number and size! I needed more growing space and utilizing the lower shelf was the ideal way to do so.
I knew I wanted to enclose the lower shelf with reflective insulation to bounce back the light and contain the heat. I also wanted everything to be adjustable. Here are the details on each part of the build:
Luckily my shelves are 4 feet long, which is the length of most shop lights. I got some 4000K LED shop lights SUPER CHEAP from Costco (buy one get one free sale!) and my plants grew well under them, but I recently upgraded to Carnivero's Florawave SV40 lights (test unit discount!). Now I have one 4000K LED shop light and one Florawave SV40 light over each growing space and I am extremely happy with the results! (See the difference in my review video below). PPFD averages 170 but I can use the multiple levels to adjust individual lighting needs. The light fixtures are resting on simple hangers I made from extra wooden dowels and leftover pieces of chain from other projects. The chain is looped on the upper shelf's wire rack and I can raise and lower the lights by adjusting the length of the chain and easily reposition the lights by sliding them around on the dowels.
The shiny material enclosing the shelf is Reflectix insulation, which is basically Mylar-covered bubble wrap. It is lightweight, flexible, and durable. I used duct tape to secure ceramic magnets to the edges and just slap it on the metal frame of the shelf. I love how I can super easily reposition them when looking at my plants! I can take them on and off in seconds or even partially open the flaps to peer in at my plants without losing too much heat or humidity, as seen below.
I used egg crate light diffuser and zip ties to build my shelves. The light diffuser was pretty easy to cut using mini wire-cutters - just be careful to point it away from your eyes because small bits of plastic pop off at surprising speed! I plan to lower the shelf by cutting off the ends of the legs as my plants get larger. The maxima x jacquelineae is almost ready to move out to my 40 gallon terrarium, but the other plants have another 6 months to a year at this height, at which point I will upgrade to a grow tent.
I just have regular seedling propagation trays underneath the shelves to catch draining water. They are filled with black volcanic rock (easily found in the landscaping section of any garden store), which increases the surface area for the water to evaporate from and thus boosts humidity. I also have several trays (repurposed food takeout containers) of live sphagnum moss growing underneath the shelves, where it is absolutely thriving!
I have a small computer fan in the back that circulates the air inside the growing area. So far it doesn't appear to have any issues with high humidity and I greatly appreciate that it is almost silent. I have the fan set to low at all times and it is angled to promote a circular path of air movement. Some particularly nectar-rich pitchers still get some black mold despite the air movement, but it is harmless and easy to wipe off with a wet paper towel for close-ups :) Since I increased the air circulation, I definitely noticed a decrease in mold and a big increase in growth rate!
Average Growing Conditions - Warm Intermediate
Light: 6700 - 13000 Lux (~170 PPFD)
Humidity: ~90% night and 67% day
Temperature: ~68F night and 85F day (still have some seasonal variation)
And that's it! It took about 4 hours for me to build from start to finish and I am really happy with the results! I am also looking forward to upgrading to a grow tent eventually...
I have been uploading more Nepenthes-related content on my YouTube Inglorious Bettas. I generally upload one or two videos a week. Subscribe and comment if you want to see more Nepenthes videos! I also post daily updates to my Instagram, @Nepenthes_Diary! Happy growing!
Rapidly acclimating new Nepenthes to your growing conditions is one of the most crucial steps to obtaining long-term success of your expensive acquisitions! I learned the hard way that taking just a few extra precautions during the initial unboxing and acclimating process can greatly reduce shipping stress and allow my new Nepenthes to start growing vigorously right away.
Proper acclimation will prevent unnecessary pitcher loss and mitigate shock from shipping damage. This rooted cutting will lose one pitcher due to shipping damage, but the other one looks great! If you can't completely seal the bag due to the size of the plant, inverting the bag like a dome works almost as well.
I used to just throw my Nepenthes into my growing conditions and accepted slowed growth (lasting 2-3 months!) and loss of pitchers as normal. After discussing the frustrating slowness of acclimation with fellow Nepenthes grower Joshua Ritts, he taught me that bagging the plants and providing 100% humidity for 1-2 weeks can go a long way towards preventing shipping shock. I have tried this on many new acquisitions and kept a log of careful observations, and it actually works!
Rapid Bag Acclimation Procedure
After unboxing and inspecting the plant for shipping damage and pests, pot the plant up and water the media well. Fill the pitchers with water and completely seal the plants in ZipLock bags for 1-2 weeks. After I start to observe growth in the new plant, I slowly start to adjust the plant to my regular growing conditions by opening the bag up more and more every day - maybe only open halfway the first day, then opened completely but still in the bag for several days, and finally removing the bag after about a week. Bam! The new Nepenthes may still lose a pitcher or two from shipping damage, but most will hold on to their existing pitchers and start developing new ones right away 2-3 weeks of gentle acclimation. Most new plants treated this way start leaf jumping right away! I'm so happy to have found this technique and will be using it on every new tropical pitcher plant that I acquire!
I hope this new technique helps you! I have also been uploading more Nepenthes-related content on my YouTube Inglorious Bettas. I generally upload one or two videos a week. Subscribe and comment if you want to see more Nepenthes videos! I also post daily updates to my Instagram, @Nepenthes_Diary! Happy growing!