Carnivorous Plants

I was reading a totally unrelated post by one of our members when his user name reminded me of one of those questions you always want to ask but never remember to do so.

Has anyone here ever raised a carnivorous plant?

Virtually everyone I know has plants. They have indoor plants, outdoor plants, flowery plants, leafy fern-like plants, vegetable gardens, etc. You name it, they have it, but nary a one has even a single carnivorous plant.

Yes, I Googled the subject but, quite often, what is written in theory on paper can be much more difficult to implement practically. I would value the opinion of a Green Thumb much more.

I think I’d like to try raising one. It would be potted, of course, and I’d like to set it out on my deck on good days but be able to protect it indoors otherwise. Any thoughts?

Yep. First visit California Carnivores. If you happen to be in CA that should include an in person visit ;). It’s a neat little place.

Next, pick up a copy of the founder of that store’s book The Savage Garden. Very useful.

Myself, I’m partial to butterworts. Pretty blooms and mostly reasonably hardy. You’ll be amazed at the number of tiny insects it takes out.

There are tons of pictures / videos / blogs on people growing them. Search of Nepenthes or sareacenia or pitcher plants.

Yes, I’ve grown pitchers, flytraps and sundews. The most common sundew available is a local species, I highly recommend it as a first carnivorous plant, it’s quite hardy.

Great advice from you both! Thank you!

I kept sarracenia outside in buried tubs. I’ve never been able to Winter over venus flytraps, even when I bought them from a local grower who kept them outside.
Nepenthes are tropical pitcher plants. I keep them under glass to preserve humidity.

California carnivores is great.

Flytraps used to be pretty commonly available wherever houseplants were sold; still might be for all I know. I never had great luck with them but it was one way to waste $5 as a 12 year old.

They used to either rot in the little plastic terrarium they’d come in or dry out otherwise. Best luck I ever had was keeping one in its pot in a saucer of water. I guess the water kept the peat moist and gave it enough ambient humidity to keep it happy. Then I’d get bored trying to find appropriate bugs for it and feed it hamburger or lunch meat which probably did it in (hey, I was 12)

“Buried tubs” - I never thought of that. Thanks.

I grew them in terrariums when I was a kid. I don’t think they’re very hardy or easy to grow – at least mine often died eventually. I may have been a sloppy terrarium tender.

They grow without getting animals into them, but they grow slowly. And diluted organic fertilizer helps a little, but they remain small, kinda sickly plants.

Pitcher plants are easy to grow, and get bigger and bigger. Its easy to drop dead bugs in the pitcher, and they just get huge. I’ll grant that.

I used to stun mosquitoes that bit me and drop the twitching skeeter onto the Venus flytrap. The trap got a dead bug, and a drop of human blood. Problem is, they started to crave the latter, and would snap at me when I opened the cover. :dubious: :smiley:

Feeding plants like the Venus flytrap and sundew a crumb of raw meat is just a bad idea. The meat just rots and takes the leaf with it. I’d heard that the flytrap really responds well to egg white, and observers that it clamps right down on the albumin, and absorbs it well. Either whipped raw or lightly cooked. This was first noted by Charles Darwin.

I’d heard that Venus flytraps only have a few closings before the leaf dies, something like 3 to 5 total. So if you’re playing, or even if it caught a gnat, it soon loses that leaf. However, catching a a bunch of tasty bugs doesn’t help it grow all that much healthier. And left without meat, it doesn’t grow very strong.

I agree with most of what has been said here. I’ve had venus fly traps, sundews, and pitcher plants. I wasn’t impressed with the fly trap. It came with a couple trap leaves from the store, but after those died, it never grew more. The plant lived another year or so, and then died.

The sundews did pretty well, and actually attracted flies. I kept them in the window over the kitchen sink, and the sundews would catch some of the little flies that came through the screen. They grew, and had pups, but only lived a few years total.

The pitcher plant is by far the easiest. It grew so much I now have cuttings in multiple places.

The flytraps and sundews grow in peat moss, and need to be watered with distilled water. They are not tolerant of drying out, so have to be watered weekly, or more. I didn’t keep them in terrariums, just on a window sill. The pitcher plants I just keep in jars of tap water, and they’ve been doing great for years. I do feed the pitcher plants the occasional bug, when I catch one.

Moderator Action

Since the OP is more along the lines of advice and personal experience, this is better suited to IMHO.

Moving thread from GQ to IMHO.

Oh, and if your carnivorous plant starts saying things like “Feed me, Seymour!” it’s time to get a new plant.

I had a pot with a flytrap and some sundews in it, kept them for several years and yes, they did overwinter even with some snow. The trick with carnivorous plants is that they normally live in places where the water is nearly sterile and there’s basically no nutrition available at the root, which is why they evolved to eat bugs. You need to keep them in a sandy based mixture and they need their feet wet ALL the time because they’re swamp plants. There’s a carnivorous plant nursery (or used to be, anyway) in Beaver OR where they grow them in a greenhouse, in big kiddie pools with constant water flow from a nearby spring fed creek. Those things got MASSIVE and crowded and happy as can be. The guy just left the greenhouse door open so long as it wasn’t super cold and the plants took care of the bugs. Fascinating place, I used to stop every time I drove by.

Now I’m wanting another flytrap, they’re quite fun. If I get the kind of late summer fly action we had last year the thing would probably end up redwood sized.


My husband is obsessed with carnivorous plants, and he loves California Carnivores. The recommended book is also a great reference for him.

We currently have a couple Venus fly traps, a sundew, and a couple pitcher plants. I suggest getting plants that can winter indoors (that don’t need a really cold place to go dormant.) We put the ones that need ~40-50 degree dormant temps in the attached garage, but it’s really hard to climate control that, so inevitably at least one dies each winter. The ones we can keep inside by a drafty window (so cool, but not cold) always fare much better.

Carniverous plants are mostly weirdos that evolved carnivory because they lived in nutrient-poor soil. Most of them need nutrient-poor soil and will die if put in ordinary potting soil. For the easier species to grow you’ll need sphagnum peat moss as the soil, possibly with some clean sand mixed in, and they’ll want boggy conditions–not just water them often but keep the soil drenched. I used to use large plastic planters with a built-in watering tray or sit them in a large pan, always keeping it full of water.

Your best choice is going to be Sarracenia varities. Those are big, impressive, and fairly easy to not kill. Others such as sundews, venus flytraps, pings, sun pitchers, *Nephentes, *and Australian pitchers are either really small, really hard to keep alive, or both.

I raised mostly Sarracenia for around 10 years until a new plant brought a fast-moving fungus with it that mostly wiped them out and I never started over again. Some of my plants came from local stores that sold them in those small covered cups, from California Carnivores and from (which looks to have much less than it used to.) But most of them just came from Ebayas bare roots.

Typical pro-carnivorous-plant bias from poster carnivorousplant

Also, here are some old photos of plants I used to have.

Using distilled water is critically important with carnivorous plants; do not use city (tap) water! That will likely lead to their accelerated demise.

Soil should be kept moist, but not drenched (at least in my experience).

With sundews, try to avoid watering the leaves and especially the sticky bulbs of liquid that collect on the ends of them.

Many carnivorous plants hail from Southeast Asia. They like conditions there. They do not like to be cold, or to get too much direct sun or not enough. Any one of these will kill them. Some climates are simply too harsh for them, and no matter what you do, they will die.

Nurturing a thriving carnivorous plant colony has brought joy into my life just knowing that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of insects no longer pose any threat of biting me. In this world, any joy is worth pursuing in an informed manner.

We live just down the street from a small cattle farm, so we tend to get more flies than you’d expect for living in what is basically a desert. Our first year here we kept getting flies in the house, and hung up fly strips… which did nothing but look ugly. Eventually we decided to try venus flytraps, and have been pretty happy with them. They do catch the flies, eventually, and they look pretty neat, too. They’re kind of high-maintenance, though; we bought them a grow light, and have to give them distilled water.

Forgot one other important detail. Carnivorous plants should be in pots (or containers) that allow for water drainage out the bottom. Putting them in solid containers will kill them slowly.

If it is a very wet area, I cut some slits so that they can drain. My VFT became too wet when it began growing the next Spring.