Carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants (Sarracenia) and Venus flytraps (Dioneaea muscipula), are unusual and fascinating plants to grow, and are especially popular with children. They are an excellent choice for a conservatory or sunny windowsill.
How to grow carnivorous plants
Most carnivorous plants grow in boggy soils with acidic, or ‘ericaceous’ compost. Most ericaceous compost contains peat, but there are several peat-free ericaceous mixes that have come onto the market in recent years. Keep this well watered and ensure it never dries out. Choose a bright, sunny spot to grow your carnivorous plants in summer and move to a coo, frost-free place in winter. Remove faded flowers and leaves as you need to.
More on growing carnivorous plants:
Hardy carnivorous plants are easy to grow, as long as you follow a few simple rules. Here are our 10 tips for growing carnivorous plants.
Grow carnivorous plants in sun
A selection of red and green carnivorous plants growing in an old white sink
Hardy carnivorous plants thrive in warm conditions with plenty of bright light in spring and summer, so grow them on a sunny windowsill, in a conservatory or on a sunny patio.
Keep carnivorous plants cool in winter
Opening the window of an insulated greenhouse
Most carnivorous plants are temperate as opposed to tropical plants, so need a cool spot in winter in order to rest – otherwise they will become exhausted and die. As they go dormant, some plants may die back (and the traps on a Venus fly trap may turn black and die). Place in a cool, unheated room or cool greenhouse – around 7°C is ideal – and keep the compost just moist.
Grow carnivorous plants in moist compost
Covering the plug hole of an old sink with black plastic to create boggy conditions
In the wild, hardy carnivorous plants grow in boggy ground, so their compost needs to be moist at all times during the warmer months. Sit the pot in a saucer of water and keep it topped up. Alternatively, block drainage holes so that water cannot drain away. Keep the compost just moist during the winter rest period.
Water carnivorous plants with rain water
Filling a watering can with rainwater from a water butt
Tap water can harm carnivorous plants. Use distilled or filtered water, water from a boiled kettle that has been left to cool or, ideally, rainwater – you could leave a bucket outside to collect it or use water from a butt.
Grow carnivorous plants in ericaceous compost
Adding compost around carnivorous plants
Carnivorous plants grow best in a low-nutrient medium, such as peat or a specialist compost, known as ericaceous compost. If you would rather not use peat for environmental reasons, you could try Moorland Gold, which is derived without damage to peat bogs, or a peat-free ericaceous potting mix.
Don’t feed carnivorous plants with insects
Insects trapped in a Venus fly trap
Don’t feel you have to ‘feed’ your carnivorous plant with insects – if it’s outside it will catch its own and even indoors there should be insects they can feed on.
Don’t fertilise carnivorous plants
Frilly, red-veined tips of pitcher plant pitchers
There’s no need to use fertiliser on your carnivorous plants – they get all the nutrients they need from the insects that they catch. In fact, fertiliser can kill the plants, which typically grow in nutrient-poor soils.
Don’t tease carnivorous plants
A closed trap on a Venus fly trap
If the traps on your Venus flytrap are no longer closing, it may be because curious fingers have poked at your plant too often. Each trap only closes around five times in its lifetime, so resist provoking your plant.
Deadhead carnivorous plants
Deadheading a pitcher plant
Cut off dead flowers with scissors – and in the case of Venus flytraps and pitcher plants, cut off the dead traps if they go black – this often happens in autumn and winter.
Control pests on carnivorous plants
Greenfly on the back of a leaf
Carnivorous plants are, surprisingly, not able to deal with greenfly, so use traps or biological controls to control them. Carnivorous plants can also be susceptible to red spider mite, which thrives in hot, dry conditions. Improve air circulation in the greenhouse and boost levels of humidity by standing bowls of water on the benches between plants. If you’re growing lots of plants, you could try releasing the predatory mite, Phytoseiulus persimilis on to your plants.