Consider Trying Carnivorous!

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Member Spotlight: This is a guest post from GrowIt! community member @turtlekit’s blog “Ferocious Flora.” Learn about predatory plants and check out all of her posts and subscribe to her blog here.  Connect with her on GrowIt! here. (tap from mobile). Be sure to upload all of your unique Halloween-themed plants with #HAUNTED 🎃 and check out the GrowIt! community’s spooky plants here

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A lot of the time when people come over to my house and see my plants, they’ll ask things like “It won’t bite my finger, will it?” Well, I can guarantee you, no carnivorous plant will hurt you! Out of the carnivorous plants, the only ones that could be said to “bite” humans are venus flytraps, but their bite is totally harmless to you. It’s still not a good idea to trigger the trap mechanism with your finger, though, since it burns a lot of the plant’s energy and may harm it.

It’ll be a year ago this November that I first started growing carnivorous plants, although I’ve been growing other potted plants for longer than that. My first ones were a Pinguicula primuliflora which I sadly lost to poor water quality, and a Sarracenia ‘Scarlet Belle’ which I still have today, although it’s currently among several plants I’m trying to treat for spider mites. Like any other type of gardening, there’s a learning curve to growing carnivorous plants, but it’s well worth climbing it! I’ve since built my collection to include a great deal of sundews, several Venus flytraps and American pitcher plants, and a few butterworts, as well as two Albany pitcher plants.

Carnivorous plants have a bad reputation for being difficult to grow, and although this is the case for some, many of them are actually very easy to take care of, and they’re a ton of fun to grow, not to mention an awesome conversation starter! The most important thing to remember when growing them is that they need very pure water, most tap water isn’t suitable and will kill them. I use distilled water for mine, but rainwater and reverse osmosis water are also options. The majority of commonly grown carnivorous plants enjoy being in a dish with some standing water in it, although some more difficult species may be a bit more particular about water. I’d recommend researching both the amount of water and the appropriate soil mix for each individual plant you grow separately. It’s important to give most carnivorous plants plenty of light, too! You never have to fertilize carnivorous plants and they’re too sensitive for most fertilizers, but if they’re not catching any bugs, then feeding them a little bit can help them grow. Some species require the occasional bite to eat. I feed my indoor plants betta fish pellets, but not often and not in large quantities, as overfeeding can harm them. It’s important to do your research before feeding your plant anything, to be sure that what you’re giving them is safe! For instance, contrary to popular belief, hamburger meat is very bad for flytraps. Dealing with pests can be difficult since the plants are sensitive to chemicals, but mine haven’t given me much trouble with pests. The only issues I’ve had so far have been an easily fixed infestation of thrips and a spider mite infestation that’s proved much harder to eradicate. As with other plants, it’s important to keep sick plants away from healthy ones so that the disease doesn’t spread.

There are too many different exciting and worthwhile carnivorous plants for me to list here, so I will just make a couple of recommendations for beginners. Keep in mind that these are only a couple options, there’s a wide variety of suitable beginner carnivorous plants! If you’re growing indoors or if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, my best recommendation for a beginner plant would be the cape sundew, Drosera capensis. It comes in a variety of cultivars, and is one of the most interesting looking sundews as well as one of the easiest to care for. As long as it’s got bright light (either natural or from grow-lights), a dish of suitable water a few inches deep to sit in, and, if you’d like to speed its growth, the occasional food; it thrives without much attention and is relatively forgiving about temperature and humidity.

For the outdoor grower in a more temperate climate, I’d recommend starting with a Sarracenia. There are a whole bunch of species and hybrids, and they tend to be dramatic-looking and relatively hardy. Although you should keep them sitting in water at all times if possible, Sarracenia can sometimes even survive a short time without enough water, though this has a negative impact on their health and is not recommended. Apart from a dish of water, they really only need to be set outside in a sunny spot, and they’ll do the rest themselves! They’re very efficient at catching bugs, and a large one can even catch wasps. When growing these and other temperate carnivores, though, you must keep in mind that they need a cold winter dormancy, during which they’ll die back. Continue caring for them and they’ll return in Spring, bigger and better than before. If you’d like, you can trim off their old dead pitchers once new ones are fully formed, but this isn’t strictly necessary.

When buying carnivorous plants, it’s important to buy them from a reputable dealer if you’d like them to do well long-term! I’d recommend either finding a small local grower who knows what they’re doing or ordering online from a specialty nursery. I hope that reading this post inspires more people to try their hand at growing these amazing plants, and I hope that they can find as much joy in them as I have!

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