Carnivorous Plant Care Guide
Growing carnivorous plants can be simple if they are provided with the right environment. These hungry predators are known to capture and/or kill prey using different mechanisms like displaying vibrant leaves and producing sweet nectar. Some carnivorous plants even produce digestive enzymes to aid in nutrient absorption. If you’re not sure where to start, follow this carnivorous plant care guide to ensure your ravenous plants thrive.
What Are Carnivorous Plants?
Why Do Carnivorous Plants Eat Insects?
Like you and I, carnivorous plants require nutrients to maintain good health. Their diet mainly consists of insects, spiders, and crustaceans, but you may come across a lizard or small mammal caught in its snap trapping mechanism. Once the prey is trapped, most carnivorous plants digest their carcass to absorb these vital nutrients.
Although most of the live flypaper traps can survive without consuming prey, they will flourish with beneficial nutrients. The plant will not only grow faster but also have a higher chance of successful reproduction. Each species has a catered digestive system, evolved to function in its endemic environment.
Types of Carnivorous Plants
There are hundreds of carnivorous plant species, and not all of them are considered carnivorous. Some plants within the family, like the Aroid species, capture insects to assure pollination. Carnivorous plants never intentionally use their flowers as traps, but it may happen from time to time. Some plants are no longer considered carnivorous because they use sticky foliage as a defense mechanism, rather than for their dietary benefit. Although carnivorous plants enjoy their insects, these specimens are not considered insectivorous plants because they are not checking what their prey is before digestion.
The most common carnivorous house plants in today’s market are the Venus Fly Trap Dionaea muscipula, Tropical Pitcher Plant Nepenthes, Bladderworts Bladderworts utricularia, and Sundew Drosera. Venus Fly Traps are known for their quick catch response and ability to snap shut. Some Pitcher Plants, like the cobra plant or Darlingtonia California found in Northern California, develop a lobster pot trap to trick prey. This growth structure allows for easy entrance into the chamber but creates a difficult exit using obstructions like bristles or pointing hairs. Some pitcher plants develop digestive enzymes to create a pitfall trap. The prey falls into a pool of digestive enzymes and is slowly digested. Sun pitchers do not produce digestive enzymes, but collect rainwater and use bacteria to absorb nutrients. The Sundew is one of the easiest carnivorous plants to grow, and you may notice trapped insects on its sticky foliage and leaf surface.
The hundreds of species of carnivorous plants fall under 8 genera: Bromliaceae, Byblidaceae, Cephalotaceae, Droseraceae (includes Cape Sundews and Venus flytrap), Drosophyllaceae, Lentibulariaceae, Nepenthaceae (Tropical Pitcher Plants), and the North American Pitcher Plant Sarracenia (Sarraceniaceae purpurea).
How To Care for Carnivorous Plants
The ideal carnivorous plant environment is a bog garden. They require full sun, a lot of water, specially blended soil, and filtered mineral-free water. You can use tap water and filter by reverse osmosis or purchase distilled water at your grocery store. Carnivorous plants need as much light as possible and will thrive in full sun. When growing indoor carnivorous plants, you will want to place your menacing plant in a South or East facing window for best light exposure.
It’s important to take into consideration how carnivorous plants grow in the wild. They are typically found in bogs in North America and rainforests in South America, so providing a consistently wet environment is essential for a healthy plant. The best way to achieve ideal moisture conditions is to place your pots with a hole in the bottom in a tray with an inch of distilled or rainwater. The plant absorbs all of its moisture through bottom-feeding, so top watering is not necessary.
Don’t be alarmed if your venus flytrap or pitcher plant loses all of its foliage during winter. These carnivorous plants need a cold winter to come back with vigor the following season. If you have a carnivorous house plant, place your plant near a cold window or near a window in your shed/garage.
What Kind of Carnivorous Plant Pot Should You Use?
Carnivorous plants do best in any pot that has good drainage but retains the necessary moisture. The best options are plastic pots, but a fully-glazed ceramic pot will also work. It is ideal to repot in early spring, right at the beginning of your growing season.
Some carnivorous plants bought in garden centers will come with a plastic dome with a hold in the bottom. Although this helps increase humidity, it will increase the susceptibility of mold. Tropical pitcher plants do require high levels of humidity and can be kept in their dome short term. If you live in a dry climate, you may want to consider investing in a humidifier and moisture meter to ensure your plants are in an optimum environment.
What is the Best Carnivorous Plant Soil?
Carnivorous plants grow in nutrient-poor soil, as they are adapted to receiving most of their nutrients from other sources. Here at Perfect Plants, we combine high-quality ingredients to our potting soil to ensure that your carnivorous plant has the proper environment. Our Carnivorous Plant Soil Mix recipe includes organic perlite, sand, and organic sphagnum peat moss for the best results when growing carnivorous plant types.
How Often Do You Feed Carnivorous Plants
Most carnivorous plants do not need to be fed or fertilized. If they are grown in the proper environment, the plant will be able to capture prey on its own and provide its own nutrition. Generally, they only need to digest prey, like small insects, once a month to thrive. Never use large pieces of food to feed your plants, as this will confuse the plant eventually leading to its demise. If grown indoors, you can visit your local pet shop and purchase freeze-dried insects to feed your ravenous plant. Make sure to research the catered needs of your carnivorous plant’s species to provide proper nutrition and environmental conditions.
Starting a carnivorous plant collection or bringing home a venus flytrap to watch it digest insects can be daunting at first. By recreating their native region, you will give your scheming plant the best chance of survival. These plants have evolved to live in less than ideal conditions so just provide filtered water, bright light, drainage holes, and proper soil conditions to have a happy carnivore. Follow our carnivorous plant care guide for general instructions.