Carnivorous plants, such as 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.
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.
Choose a sunny spot
Hardy carnivorous plants like high temperatures and plenty of bright light in spring and summer, so grow them on a sunny windowsill, in a conservatory or on a sunny patio.
A selection of red and green carnivorous plants growing in an old white sink
Keep cool in winter
Most carnivorous plants are temperate as opposed to tropical plants, so need a cool spot in winter in order to rest – otherwise, the plants 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 soil just moist.
Opening the window of an insulated greenhouse
Keep them moist
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.
Covering the plug hole of an old sink with black plastic to create boggy conditions
Don’t use tap water
Tap water is poisonous to 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.
Filling a watering can with rainwater from a water butt
Use low-nutrient compost
Carnivorous plants grow best in a low-nutrient medium, such as peat or a specialist compost. If you would rather not use peat for environmental reasons, you could try Moorland Gold, which is derived without damage to peat bogs.
Adding compost around carnivorous plants
Don’t feed with insects
Don’t feel you have to ‘feed’ your plant with insects – if it’s outside it will catch its own and even indoors there should be insects that it can feed on. If you have no insects in your home, put it outside for a few days every so often in summer so that it can catch its own.
Insects trapped in a Venus fly trap
There’s no need to use fertiliser on your carnivorous plants – they get all the nutrients they need from the insects that they catch.
Frilly, red-veined tips of pitcher plant pitchers
Don’t tease your plants
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.
A closed trap on a Venus fly trap
Cut off the dead flowers with scissors – and in the case of Venus flytraps, cut off the dead traps if they go black – this often happens in autumn and winter.
Deadheading a pitcher plant
Watch out for pests
Carnivorous plants are, surprisingly, not able to deal with greenfly, so use traps or biological controls. 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 are growing lots of plants, you could try releasing the predatory mite, Phytoseiulus persimilis on to your plants.
Greenfly on the back of a leaf