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.
Find out how to make a carnivorous plant display and discover some carnivorous plants to grow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no need to use fertiliser on your carnivorous plants – they get all the nutrients they need from the insects that they catch.
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.
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.
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.