Growing carnivorous plants can be a uniquely rewarding horticultural experience. So many shapes, flower sizes and foliage—the options are numerous. And the trap options are numerous, too—like the sticky leaves of butterworts and the closing traps of Venus fly traps.
These plants are not just beautiful but also fun to watch. Like most gardeners, I have watched many of my plants get assailed by insects, so I take great pleasure in keeping a few plants that bite back.
Venus fly traps (above) are probably the best known carnivorous plants and are found in the swamps of North Carolina. Because of their exotic, even alien appearance, many don’t realize that these plants are adapted to a winter dormancy period. In the fall they need lower temperatures and drier conditions so they can die back and take a rest.
Sundews (above) are closely related to the Venus fly trap and can be found all over the world in both temperate and tropical regions. They have sticky trap leaves to catch unwitting insects that try to walk over their leaves.
Butterworts (not pictured) are another sticky carnivore. They have lime green leaves covered in minuscule sticky hairs to catch their prey. However, their most striking feature is the lovely flower they produce.
Pitcher plant (above) is a common name used to refer to several species including the American Pitcher Plant and the tropical Nepenthes. The trapping method for these lethal lovelies is the same; an insect is lured in to drink the fragrant liquid in the pitcher where it becomes trapped, and is digested by enzymes in the liquid.
Carnivorous plants are not the easiest plants to care for but with a little TLC they can thrive as houseplants. Start a well-drained potting mix with lots of peat and sphagnum; some sand won’t hurt either. Make sure plants get plenty of sun, a southern window is ideal but an eastern one will do. In my office here in the Powell Gardens’ basement my carnivorous plants thrive under grow lights.
Special care must be taken with water for carnivorous plants; only distilled, rain or reverse osmosis water should be used. Humidity is also a concern as many of these plants are native to steamy bogs. I like to grow my carnivorous plants in terrariums to insure constant humidity and simulate their habitat.
Don’t be afraid grow a carnivorous plant today. If you want to learn more check out our Monster Terrarium class on April 11. Although registration has closed online, we have room for a few more. Call Linda for late registration options at 816-697-2600 ext. 209.