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Many animals eat plants, but have you ever heard that plants can eat animals too? These fascinating plants make intriguing houseplants.
They have developed a range of colorful pitchers or sticky leaves and stems to trap and consume insects and other small creatures, which provide them with nitrogen and other essential nutrients. Since they often grow in bogs, most carnivorous plants need boggy soil to thrive and some require more specialist care, so check that you can provide the conditions they require.
That said, taking care of meat-eating plants can be a bit challenging. However, with proper guidelines, the chances are a lot higher. Let’s learn about some common carnivorous plants and their care requirements.
There are different types of carnivorous plants, some of them have snap traps that quickly shut around their victims like Waterwheel plants and Venus flytraps, while others have a lip of nectar to attract their prey. They use digestive enzymes to digest their prey and sometimes they don’t even look like carnivorous plants at all. Here is a list of them.
California Pitcher Plant
California Pitcher Plant has hooded pitchers and fang-like structures that closely resemble a snake’s head, hence the name Cobra Lily.
Pitcher plants in general have funnel-shaped, tube-like leaves that poke up from the ground. They are leathery, their veins are accented – they simply look vaguely supernatural.
Flowers bloom in the spring and they contain purple veins. They are followed by red-veined pitchers that emit a honey scent to attract their prey. You may see tiny insects inside this plant and see-through windows on the hood confuse trapped pray who tire themselves out trying to escape.
Growing carnivorous plants like this is quite demanding, so make sure you can provide the following conditions.
- Botanical name: Darlingtonia californica
- Common names: California Pitcher Plant, Cobra Lily, Lobster Pot Traps, Cobra Plant
- Size: 40 x 20 cm
- Care: Challenging
- Temperature: 6-26 degrees C
- Light: Set in sun during the summer. When dormant in winter, place it outside in a shaded area or in a cold, bright unheated room.
- Humidity: Moderate. Stand the plant on a shallow water-filled tray.Water: Water daily with rainwater or distilled water.
- Soil: Equal mix of moss, perlite, and horticultural sand.
- Feeding: Don’t feed.
Venus Fly Trap
This meat-eating plant features jaw-like leaves that capture prey like flying insects that come within the plant’s reach. There are two leaf types, one type is broader and appears in the spring, while the summer leaves are longer and develop traps further away from the center.
Venus flytrap produces white tubular flowers. Unfortunately, it lives for a month or two and then goes dormant and much as it is a thrilling sight, it doesn’t last long.
- Botanical Name: Dionaea muscipula
- Size: 10 x 20 cm
- Care: Fairly easy
- Temperature: 10-27 degrees C. Move Venus flytrap away from radiators and heaters.
- Light: Place in a sunny spot and open windows regularly to let insects in.
- Humidity: Moderate.
- Water: Place the pot in a deep tray of rainwater or distilled water from spring to late summer. Then, from fall to late winter, remove from the tray but keep the growing medium moist.
- Soil: Plant Venus flytrap in a 10 cm pot of sphagnum moss and perlite. Don’t use potting compost.
- Feeding: Don’t feed.
Special notes: Remove flowers because they waste the plant’s energy and weaken it. Repot every year in late winter or early spring.
This sundew carnivorous plant is one of the easiest to grow. It features long slim leaves covered with colorful tentacles that emit a sticky mucilage on the leaf surface which resembles morning dew, hence the name. This sticky mucilage is how these carnivorous plants attract their prey.
Its leaves trap insects and curl around them. Pink flowers also appear in late spring and early summer, but last only one day.
- Botanical name: Drosera capensis
- Size: 15 x 20 cm
- Care: Easy
- Temperature: 8-29 degrees C
- Light: Filtered sunlight. Open windows frequently to let insects in.
- Humidity: Moderate
- Water: Leave the plant in a deep tray of rainwater or distilled water all year round, as it likes waterlogged soils. It is true that it goes dormant in winter in its native habitat, but in a warm home the conditions need to be amended here.
- Soil: Plant in a 15 cm pot in an equal mix of moss and perlite. Don’t use potting soil for these insectivorous plants.
- Feeding: Don’t feed. It will suffice if the plant consumes at least 3 insects per month.
Special notes: Remove dead leaves and all flowers and repot annually in a fresh mix of perlite and sphagnum moss.
Monkey Cups is one of those tropical insectivorous plants that have deep red pitchers which dangle from the slender stems, making the plant perfect for a hanging basket. The color and nectar of the pitchers attract insects that drown as they fall in.
- Botanical name: Nepenthes species
- Size: 30 x 45 cm
- Care: Fairly easy
- Temperature: 13- 25 degrees C
- Light: Filtered sun with good ventilation.
- Humidity: Moderate to high. Mist daily.
- Water: Never stand it in a tray of water, but keep the compost moist. Water from above with warm rainwater or distilled water.
- Soil: Plant in a hanging basket using a mix of pine bark, moss, and perlite. Don’t use potting compost.
- Feeding: Fertilize using a foliar spray and mist the leaves every 2 weeks. Give it an occasional snack, a fresh fly.
Special notes: Repot every 3 years when root-bound.
Butterwort is a Mexican hybrid species that features small red, pink or blue flowers held on slim stems. The foliage is lime green or bronze, covered with a sticky mucilage that traps insects like fungus gnats.
- Botanical name: Pinguicula
- Size: 15 x 10 cm
- Care: Easy
- Temperature: 18-29 degrees C
- Light: Bright filtered sun away from direct summer sun.
- Humidity: Moderate
- Watering: Water from above using rainwater or distilled water. Reduce watering in winter, allowing the medium to dry out between applications.
- Soil: Grow in a carnivorous plant compost of a 3:1:1 mix of silica sand, moss and perlite. Never use potting compost.
- Feeding: Don’t feed, but give the plant 3 insects per month to thrive.
Special notes: Repot when dormant.
North American Pitcher Plants
Most carnivorous plants of this kind are vividly colored carnivorous plants that come in a range of sizes and colors, including red, burgundy, purple, pink, and green. They are prized for their decorative veins. Since pitcher plants are flowering plants, pendulous red or green flowers emerge in summer. Pitcher plants are also called pitfall traps and they digest insects using their digestive enzymes.
- Botanical name: Sarraceniaceae
- Size: 30 x 15 cm
- Care: Fairly easy
- Temperature: -3-25 degrees C. Move to a cool room at 10 degrees C in late fall, all through the spring.
- Light: Bright indirect light.
- Humidity: Moderate
- Water: Stand it on a tray of rainwater or distilled water in summer. Remove from the tray in winter, but keep moist.
- Soil: Plant in a 2:1:1 mix of fine fir bark, coarse grit and perlite. Don’t use potting compost.
- Feeding: Don’t fertilize. Stand it on a windowsill in summer to give it chances to catch prey.
Special notes: Repot this carnivorous plant every 3 years but not in a large container.
Like Venus flytraps, Waterwheel plants also have snap traps, which quickly close shut around their animal prey, digest prey, and absorb nutrients from them. It is an aquatic plant and rootless, floating just beneath the surface.
Waterwheel wild plants can be found in aquatic habitats in Africa, Europe, and Australia. Sadly, the species is considered endangered. It is also very rare in cultivation.
- Botanical name: Aldrovanda vesiculosa
- Size: 10 to 30 cm long
- Care: A bit challenging
- Temperature: This carnivorous plant enjoys warm summers and colder winters. Provide summer temperatures between 18 to 29 degrees C and winter temperatures of around 10 degrees C.
- Light: Full sun.
- Humidity: High.
- Water: Use distilled, slightly acidic water.
- Soil: This aquatic species don’t require soil. They appreciate peat moss at the bottom of a growing habitat such as a bowl, terrarium or glass.
- Feeding: It likes eelworms, but avoid fertilizing this plant.
Special notes: The best display for this plant is a bottle garden, terrarium, glass water basin, or bog garden.
The bladderwort is an amazing carnivorous plant whose leaves have evolved over a long time from pouch-like bladder traps to help them get the nutrients they need to survive. Bladderwort carnivorous plants digest mosquito larvae and other small insects.
Its underwater traps are triggered by sensitive hairs that, when touched by prey, open the trapdoor, which then swells up and sucks the victim into a pouch. Personally, the plant reminds me of a vacuum cleaner that sucks in small prey as they swim by.
A fun fact, the leaves of aquatic bladderworts are dried and used for making medicinal tea that has many beneficial properties.
- Botanical name: Utricularia
- Size: Between 10 and 35 inches
- Care: Somewhat challenging.
- Temperature: Regular room temperatures.
- Light: Bright indirect sunlight.
- Humidity: This carnivorous plant requires high humidity.
- Water: Constant moisture. Keep it in water all year round.
- Soil: This plant is native to places with wet, acidic, nutrient-poor soil like bogs. So they don’t need nutrient-rich soil. Use perlite and peat moss, without potting soil.
- Feeding: Feeding isn’t necessary.
Special notes: Use peat even if you are growing the plant in a water pond or bottle garden. Pair it with a corkscrew plant and they will become best friends since corkscrew plants require the same type of soil and also grow in bogs.
Care Needs In Brief
All carnivorous plants enjoy similar growing conditions. They love bright light, moderate to high humidity and good air flow with delicious insects storming in.
Temperatures should be warmer in summer, but move the plants to a cool, bright room in winter.
They like to be watered with lukewarm rainwater or distilled water, less frequently during dormancy.
They don’t like potting compost and prefer a mix of peat moss and perlite.
Most of them detest fertilizer because they thrive in protein- and nutrient-poor ecosystems, like bogs.
Even moisture is crucial and most carnivorous plants can sit in a watertight metal tray with sides that can be filled and refilled with water as the level dwindles. In fact, even moisture is even more important than light. This is because they like soggy roots.
They should be repotted when root-bound to a container that’s not too large. Remove flowers and dying leaves to save the plant’s energy.
Carnivorous plants have become immensely popular not only because of their intriguing leaf patterns but also for their function. They have evolved independently in a way that enables them to trap prey using their trapping organs and produce digestive enzymes to obtain nutrients from their dead prey. Your other plants will adore being friends with them for protection and you won’t have to use flypaper traps or adhesive traps if you collect plants that have carnivorous habits.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Characteristics of a Carnivorous Plant?
Carnivorous plants have very distinctive and easily recognizable appearance. Most pitcher plants have funnel-shaped leaves that are colorful and highly veined, while other have traps. Carnivorous plants live in bogs and places with poor soils. Most species emit a sticky mucilage that attracts prey,while others open at the slightest contact with insects and devour them.
Can Carnivorous Plants Survive Without Insects?
Carnivorous plants don’t actually need to eat insects to survive; they are supplemental, yet beneficial. Kids love cramming flies into their carnivorous pets and this will do the plants good. Pitcher plants have the biggest appetite of all carnivorous plants.
How Do Carnivorous Plants Get Their Prey?
Species of carnivorous plants like Venus flytrap open and trap insects that come within its reach, while other plants like Butterwort are covered with a sticky mucilage that resembles honey – highly irresistible for insects.
Which Plants Are Insectivorous Plants?
As we have mentioned, some of the carnivorous plants are Venus flytrap, Cape Sundew, Monkey Cups, Butterwort, Bladderwort and carnivorous Pitchers. Carnivorous plants attract and capture prey by using their many charms, appearance and scent, and derive digestive enzymes from them.