Growing Carnivorous Plants

Grow bizarre but beautiful plants that will make a meal out of the insect population in your garden

There’s something prehistoric and fascinating about carnivorous plants. They have an amazing ability to fend for themselves, which proves just how well plants can adapt to surviving in harsh environments. 

Flesh eating is a prevalent practice in the plant world, with more than 500 different species of carnivorous plants in many varied habitats. 

These include the well-known Venus flytrap, or Dionaea muscipula, which was named after Venus, the goddess of love and beauty

They are all interesting in their own way, and each has a particular means of capturing insects. 

Many varieties can be grown in the garden, but take care, as lots of people start with one plant and find them so captivating they end up collectors! 

How they evolved

During the evolution process, as landforms changed, certain types of plants grew in peat bogs. The soil was very acidic and low in the nutrients vital for the survival of these plants. 

But it was the ideal environment for insects, so the plants gradually began to evolve. They developed ways to lure and trap this unsuspecting prey, as well as the chemistry that was necessary to convert it into food. 

While it may be tempting to feed insects to your meat-eating plants, an overabundance of food can actually be harmful to the plant. 

An engorgement of insects toa carnivorous plant is like a fertiliser boost for any other plant, so allow them to feed naturally. 

TIP Growing these plants is a great way to interest kids in gardening.   

Venus Flytrap 

This grows naturally in North and South Carolina in the USA and there is only one species in the genus. 

The hinged leaves are edged with stiff spines and glands that secrete nectar.

There are tiny sensitive hairs inside the leaves and when they are touched, the leaves spring shut and trap the prey. The insect is then dissolved by enzymes

The trap reopens and any remains are either washed or blown away. 

Repeated false alarms are harmful to the plant, so don’t touch the leaves.

How to grow

It likes temperate, tropical and subtropical climates. Grow it in pots in full sun.  

POTTING MIX is made from three parts peat moss to one part coarse river sand. 

MULCH with sphagnum moss, which serves as
a moisture indicator. When the moss turns brown, the soil is lacking in water. 

WATER with distilled water regularly and stand the pot in a tray with about 20mm of water at all times. 

TIP Cut the trap off at its base when it dies and a new one will quickly grow. 

Venus Flytrap, Growing Carnivorous Plants
Venus Flytrap grows naturally in North and South Carolina in the USA and there is only one species in the genus

Monkey Cups 

There are about 140 species of nepenthes and they’re commonly called tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, as they grow so big that monkeys drink from them.

They catch their prey in modified leaves or pitchers by luring insects, and even small frogs, with nectar found around the rim. 

The insects slip down the waxy insides and drown in a deadly mix of digestive fluids.

How to grow

The majority of nepenthes need warmth and humidity.They can be grown outside in tropical regions or in a hothouse in temperate areas.

The highland species will grow outside in temperate climates. Plant in pots or hanging containers so they get the morning sun.

POTTING MIX is made from two parts sphagnum moss to one part orchid bark. Don’t pack down the mix, as they love free drainage.

FEED with a fertiliser high in nitrogen at half strength if they’re in a hothouse. If grown outdoors, they don’t need fertilising.

WATER from the top every few days. Don’t stand the pot in water or the roots will rot.

Monkey Cup Plant, Growing Carnivorous Plants
Monkey cups catch their prey in modified leaves or pitchers by luring insects with nectar found around the rim

Pitcher Plants 

Native to North America, there are eight species in the Sarracenia genus. They produce stunning flowers and can grow vertically or prostrate. 

These plants catch prey in leaves that form a funnel. The insects crawl into the pitcher, attracted by the sweet-smelling nectar. 

Once inside, downward facing hairs and a slippery wax coating prevent their escape. Their fate is sealed when they fall into a pool of digestive liquid at the base.  

How to grow

Sarracenia will grow in temperate and tropical areas in pots or bog gardens.

They can be placed in a pond as long as the rim of the pot is above the water level. Position them in full sun with protection from frost.

POTTING MIX is made from three parts peat moss to one part coarse river sand. 

MULCH the mix with damp sphagnum moss.

WATER freely in summer with distilled water and
use a pot tray. They are dormant in winter, so remove the tray and water just once a week. 

Pitcher plants, Growing carnivorous plants
Pitcher Plants catch prey in leaves that form a funnel

Sundew

The sundew, or Drosera, derives its name from the beautiful display itputs on when its sticky tentacles are wet from
the dew and shimmering in the morning sun. 

These plants secrete a sticky substance on the end of fine hairs that attract and catch insects. 

On landing, an insect is glued to the plant by these hairs and, within minutes, escape is impossible.

The secretion then acts as an acid, dissolving the insect’s internal organs into a form that the plant can use to feed itself. 

There are about 104 species around the world and over half of them are native to Australia. 

How to grow

Sundews are easy to grow, especially if you find one suited to your climate.

Raise them in pots and find a spot for them in bright, filtered sunlight.

POTTING MIX is made from three parts peat moss to one part sand. 

MULCH the mix with damp sphagnum moss.

WATER by placing the container in a tray of water. Remove the tray in winter and water once a week.

Sundew, Growing Carnivorous Plants Sundew plants secrete a sticky substance on the end of fine hairs that attract and catch insects

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