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Carnivorous Plant Care

June 16, 2022

carnivorous plants attract

insects

Growing carnivorous plants can be simple if they are provided with the right environment. These hungry predators are known to capture and/or kill prey using different mechanisms like displaying vibrant leaves and producing sweet nectar. Some carnivorous plants even produce digestive enzymes to aid in nutrient absorption. If you’re not sure where to start, follow this carnivorous plant care guide to ensure your ravenous plants thrive.

MVG carries Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants. Learn the proper care to keep them happy and healthy.

Venus Flytrap

Venus flytrap thrives in poor, acidic soil that stays damp but still has good drainage. Avoid planting it in regular potting soil: A blend of one-third sand and two-thirds sphagnum peat moss provides the best drainage and moisture retention. Don’t add lime to the soil and never add fertilizer.

Venus flytraps do best in bright but indirect light. It’s especially important to avoid placing them in direct sunlight in summer, which may get too hot and cause the leaves to turn crispy.

When grown inside under artificial lights, keep flytraps 4 to 7 inches away from fluorescent lights. If your plant’s traps don’t show a pink interior or if the leaves look long and spindly, provide more light.

For best Venus flytrap care, keep the environment humid and the soil moist but don’t let the plants stand constantly in water. You’ll be most successful if you provide a humid environment by putting the plant inside of a terrarium with some air flow via a gap in the lid.

Never give your plants what comes out of your tap; it’s usually too alkaline or might have too many minerals. Instead, rely on rain or use distilled water. Good air circulation is also important in growing Venus flytrap plants, so turn a fan on in the room where you keep them.

Venus Flytrap Food

Venus Flytrap Food

Typically, Venus flytraps fend for themselves when it comes to catching and eating food. They have evolved to be able to hunt prey without relying on plant parents to help them out. It’s not necessary to feed the plant because it has adapted to capturing insects on its own, and insects will naturally be attracted to it.

If you’re growing inside and there aren’t any bugs in your space, you should consider feeding the plant. A fly, spider, or another small morsel once every few weeks will be sufficient. Use a pair of tweezers to gently put the bug into the trap.

If the plant is not hungry, it will remain open for a while and then close up within an hour or two, which means it does not want to eat that specific bug.

You need to pay attention to size because not all bugs or insects are suitable for a Venus flytrap. A good rule of thumb is to choose insects that are one-third of the size of the trap.

Feeding is not at all required during the winter months when the plant is dormant. 

Dormancy

As winter approaches, your plant will slow down in growth and eventually stop growing. It’ll retain some of its leaves throughout the winter months, but the leaves will turn brown around the edges and the traps will stop working. This is perfectly normal. Flytraps require 3-4 months of winter dormancy triggered by cold temperatures (below 50F) and shorter daylight hours. Even while dormant, your plant will still need to sit in a small amount of standing water to prevent its soil from drying out.

When the temperature slowly creeps up and daylight hours become longer, your plants will gradually emerge from dormancy. Clip off all leaves from the previous year to make way for flower buds and new leaf growth. Look for flowers in late spring.

Venus flytrap
Green Carnivorous Plant

Pitcher Plant Care

Pitcher Plants are perennial carnivorous plants growing from rhizomes, forming clumps, lacking true stems and with leaves modified into insect traps called ‘pitchers.’

The American Pitcher Plants are fairly tolerant of general Carnivorous Plant growing conditions.  A standard Carnivorous Plant soil mix of peat and sand works well. They grow better when the peat content is higher.  Mature Pitcher Plants prefer a deeper large pot of 6-8” (15-20cm) because of their long roots. 

Most pitcher plants do best when the soil is evenly moist, but not soaking wet.  They can tolerate very wet, even submerged conditions, for weeks at a time.  Let the soil become drier; yet remain somewhat moist, during winter dormancy.  Water from below with mineral-free water like rainwater.  The tray method works very well.  Stand the pot in a tray or saucer and keep about 1” (2.5cm) of water in it at all times during the growing season. 

American Pitcher Plants prefer full sun and develop their best colors in very bright light.

Containers

Pots make it easy to enjoy pitcher plants. Rather than building a bog in your yard, a container can become a bog with a few simple steps. First fill a plastic container—plastic is best because it will retain moisture well—with 50-percent peat and 50-percent perlite or vermiculite. Do not use potting soil and fertilizer for pitcher plants, both have the potential to kill pitcher plants. Place the container in a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Set the pot in a tray filled with water. The constant moisture will keep the peat and perlite mixture wet, creating a bog-like environment. 
 
In Zones where pitcher plants are hardy, overwinter potted plants by burying the pot up to the rim in the garden. Choose a protected location, such as the south side of a building or in a protected corner of the landscape. Containers may be brought inside in winter and kept in a cool area, such as an unheated garage or basement. Keep soil moist in indoor locations. 

Purple Pitcher Plant
Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea L. Flower

Dormancy

A winter rest period is required of mature plants.  As day length and temperature diminish the plant will slow its growth and many of the traps will die back, starting at the tops.  Traps in the winter may still trap insects and nutrient decomposition still occurs. 

Cut back on winter watering, but allow the soil to stay moist.  Provide cooler temperatures during dormancy.  A cold porch or garage may work well. Trim dead tissue back in winter as pitchers die, and trim dead growth in early spring before flowers shoot. Mulch with 6-8 inches of pine needles or similar mulch to protect plants from cold temperatures, especially -22°F (-30°C) and below. Or remove rhizome from the soil, wrap in damp long-fiber sphagnum, lightly sprinkle with fungicide or “bulb dust”, and store in the refrigerator for 90+ days.  A colony of plants will develop in a few years from natural budding along the rhizome.

Feeding

American Pitcher Plants are constantly luring, trapping, and digesting weary prey with their passive traps.  They are quite good at this and provided with natural access to insects they will “feed” themselves.  Even indoors they will attract and capture an occasional fly or other insect.  Do not feed them meat or cheese.  This will likely rot and kill the trap.  If feeding is desired, drop in a few dead crickets, wasps, or similar insects.  Freeze-dried food from the pet shops works well.

Pitcher Plant Care
Pitcher Plant Care

Tips

Repot in spring only when needed. Handle the roots carefully because they’re delicate and break easily. Plant Nepenthes in a basket with drainage holes to prevent soggy medium, which can cause root rot.

Prune it back in spring to keep Nepenthes a reasonable size. Older plants can be cut back harshly. Pruning encourages new growth so you’ll get a fuller plant.

Humidity: Moderate to high (50-80% relative humidity) is a must for pitcher plant care. Mist the plant every day or use a cool-mist room humidifier. Pitcher plants grow best in a heated greenhouse.

Temperature: Average to warm 75-85°F/24-29°C. It will tolerate a minimum of 65°F/18°C.

Soil: Use a nutrient-poor medium because rich potting mix will harm its roots. You can plant it in live sphagnum moss, or if that is not available, mix 1 part peat moss with 1 part perlite or horticultural sand.

Fertilizer: Don’t fertilize the plant. In spring and fall, drop a few insects into the pitchers occasionally if there are none flying around. Don’t use bugs that have been treated with insecticide.




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