Admit it, you’ve always had a morbid fascination for plants that are carnivorous! Coincidentally so have I! All musical man-eating plants aside, carnivorous plants are a fascinating and diverse group that can be fun, exciting, and sometimes challenging to grow. I can remember, as a young elementary school student our class doing a project on Venus Fly Traps, and indeed it seems like that is a still a popular project to do. Mine never lived of course, I don’t think of any ours did but it was still an exciting adventure.
These days there are actually quite a few resources, groups, and reputable dealers that specialize in carnivorous plants. In fact my current collection is entirely from the yearly plant sale that my local Carnivorous Society puts on as a fundraiser. My favorites by far have to be the Butterworts. While these are relatively uninteresting looking plants, they are nature’s flypaper. I have many of these placed all around my indoor garden and plant areas and they are always picking up little fruit flies and gnats. What’s more perfect than using one plant to protect another from flies?! I’ve found that the Butterworts seem to also be easy to take care of and more hardy than some of the others.
Little fruit flies stuck to the leaf of a Butterwort.
Some of the more common carnivorous plants that you have probably heard of are the Venus Fly Trap and the Pitcher Plant. Now as with most things, each of these names have actually have multiple species associated with them. For instance I have both a Nepenthes type pitcher plant, which in itself has hundreds of different types of Nepenthes, as well as a West Australian type pitcher plant otherwise known as an Albany Pitcher Plant. What I see hanging around most common U.S. stores are types of Nepenthes. Venus Fly Traps also seem to be popular in the big box stores and general plant nurseries. Beware when buying a flytrap from one of these, especially a box store. It is unknown what conditions these guys have been raised in and a lot of times when you get them home and into the proper conditions they die because they were not raised in such a way that would allow them to actually thrive.
Incidentally, Venus Fly Traps are actually native to North and South Carolina, USA. Unfortunately, because they are so fashionable these days, people have been digging them up from the wild and they are quickly becoming a little too rare. That’s why I ask that if you decide to get a fly trap, please buy from a reputable dealer that grows and propagates their own and does not support harvesting from the wild. At the end of this blog I link to a site that lists reputable dealers across the world. The people that update that list do their best to verify that the dealers listed there do not harvest from the wild.
If you decide you would like to dip your toes into the world of carnivorous plants then I would suggest starting with a Butterwort. As I said earlier, I have found them to be easiest to care for and the most hardy, as well as handy! Check out the list at the bottom of this post for reputable plant sellers and get a hold of a few.
Care and Feeding
This is going to be a short section because frankly care and feeding of carnivorous plants is very dependent on what type you get, where you have it living, and so on. Below are some general rules I follow but I would STRONGLY encourage you to look up the proper care for your specific plant.
- Generally speaking most carnivorous plants need a very well draining soil, for example 1 part peat moss to 1 part sand, and like to be more wet than your average house plant.
- Light requirements are highly dependent on what type of plants you get, however I keep most of mine in bright, indirect light or T5 grow lights mixed in with my other plants.
- WATER! Water is something that is consistent among all carnivorous plants. They cannot tolerate tap water; it has too many minerals and other things they cannot process. You must water with distilled water, rainwater, or reverse osmosis water. I buy the gallons of distilled water from the grocery store and just use that. One gallon usually lasts me a few months.
- Food/Fertilizer: First don’t fertilize, there are some experts who do, but generally speaking it is not necessary and will only harm your plants. Unlike normal plants these guys have evolved to get their nutrients from insects, not process the nutrients from minerals and such. As for feeding them insects… I have two that I hand feed (which I’ll show you below) but I otherwise do not need to do so. If your plants are outside you do not need to worry about feeding. Since mine are indoors only I keep an eye on if they’re attracting enough fruit flies to live. The butterworts are always fine by themselves, as well as the flytrap, but the pitcher plants I do feed some ground up bloodworms to.
As I said above, if your plants are going to be outdoors you do not need to worry about feeding them. However, if your like me, and yours are completely indoors then it may be something you want to evaluate. My butterworts and flytraps have no problem living off the fruit flies and gnats that hover around my other plants so they’re fine. The pitcher plants I do occasionally feed some ground up bloodworms to. If you go to the fish section of most pet stores they will generally have a container of dried bloodworms recommended for your Betta fish. Check the ingredients and make sure it lists only bloodworms and no other additives. I pour out a few worms and grind them into a powder; this insures they are easily digested by the pitcher plants. I then use tweezers to carefully deliver a little bit of powder to each pitcher. You could do this AT MOST once a week, but really maybe only once a month and not during their dormant period. (Usually wintertime)
After selecting your favorite plants, sit back and enjoy! Carnivorous plants are always a fun adventure and can be quite useful as a natural indoor or outdoor bug control.
One of my favorite books on Carnivorous plants is Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato.
Find a local Carnivorous Plant society near you here!
Check out this list of reputable Carnivorous plant sellers.
For lots more information on these plants, including detailed care instructions check out the International Carnivorous Plant Society page. Good luck and have fun!