The term carnivorous plants may sound a little creepy but wait until you see them adorn your homes. Yes, you heard it right, you can keep these exotic plants indoors. If you’re up for more unique choices for your indoor plant collection, better add one or two of these meat-eater plants.
Carnivorous plant is a collective term for plants that feed on insects by trapping and digesting them using enzymes or bacteria. There are different species of this plant and they also vary in their care and maintenance requirements. But frankly speaking, carnivorous plants are quite challenging to tend to especially in an indoor setting.
To give you basic knowledge on how to care for some of the most common carnivorous plants, here are some important information to guide you:
||Depending on type
||North and South Carolina
Cape in South Africa
||Depending on type
||Relatively small, less than 30 cm (1 foot) high, often only 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches)
||Bright, indirect light
||Depends on which type
|Soil or Potting Medium
||Wet, well-draining soil,
50/50 mixture of sphagnum peat moss and coarse sand
||One insect per week
||Seeds, leaf cuttings, division
||Non-toxic – Venus flytrap,
||Aphids, fungus (black spots and rust), scale, mealybugs
Carnivorous Plant Overview
According to Britannica, there are around 600 species of carnivorous plants. The largest family is the Lentibulariaceae where there are more than 300 species belonging to the genera Utricularia, Pinguicula, and Genlisea. They are characterized by their trapping mechanism where they use their modified leaves to lure insects, trap them, and digest them eventually.
The digested prey serves as a supplementary source of nutrients because the soil where they thrive is quite poor. Carnivorous plants, like other plants, also undergo photosynthesis. That’s why light, water, and carbon dioxide are integral parts of their growth and development.
Generally, carnivorous plants like wet to almost waterlogged soil. This means that you have to constantly water the pot so the roots won’t dry out. You can place the potted plants in a saucer filled with water to ensure it gets quenched every day.
Be careful with the quality of water that you use for your carnivorous plants. Unfiltered tap water contains high amounts of minerals that can potentially harm the plant. If possible, use distilled or rainwater.
Alternatively, you may let the tap water sit for 24 hours before using them on your plant. That should be enough time for the chlorine to evaporate. Your water is safer to use on plants after that considerable amount of time.
A bright, indirect light is ideal for most carnivorous plants. You can place them in a south-facing window. When light is too intense, make sure to put curtains in between for protection.
Exposure to direct light, especially with strong intensities, can scorch the leaves of the pitcher plant. On the other hand, the low light level is also not good for the carnivorous plant’s health. Partial to full sun is good, assuming that the intensity is not that harmful.
Bright light enhances the color of venus flytrap and sundews increasing their chance of seducing their prey. In bladderwort, it promotes flowering. If natural light is lacking, you may supplement using grow light as an artificial source.
Humidity & Temperature Preferences
Carnivorous plants love a highly humid environment. That’s why most of them are suited in a terrarium set up. Make sure your plant receives regular misting otherwise it will easily get wilted and will not grow well.
Humidity is important for the carnivorous plants to develop their traps (pitcher plant and venus flytrap) and dews (sundews and butterworts). Some carnivorous plants are grown in temperate climates while some are tropical. It’s important to know which growing condition is ideal for your plant.
Pitcher plants require 70 to 80oF (21 to 32oC) while sundews prefer a slightly lower range of 50°F to 95°F (10°C to 35°C). Venus flytrap, on the other hand, needs a cooler temperature of 35 to 55oF (-1 to 10oC) because it has to undergo a dormant period.
Plant Food and Potting Media
Unlike your normal potted plants, carnivorous plants would require a poor potting mix to start with. It has to be highly acidic and nutrient-deficient soil. They’re actually adapted to such a poor condition that giving them rich soil will harm them.
To prepare the right potting soil, create a 50/50 mixture of sphagnum peat moss and coarse sand. Do not add organic matter in there because carnivorous plants have no use for that. They can get all their nutrients from the insects they preyed on so fertilizers are not needed.
What you can do is supplement the plant with a variety of insects that you can buy from stores. Feed your plant once a week. This is necessary because there are limited insects that your carnivorous plant will find indoors.
You won’t need to prune your carnivorous plants as often. Since they’re relatively small plants, there’s no need to constantly trim the foliage unless it’s necessary. You can cut back the leaves that are aged, discolored, and diseased once they appear.
In doing so, make sure to use sterilized scissors or pruning shears to avoid contamination on the wounded portions.
Like the others, your carnivorous plants would require repotting once in a while. This will keep the plant healthy and thriving for a long time. Repotting is also a good chance to trim down your plants.
Venus flytrap would require 1 to 2 years before repotting. This should be done during winter. Bladderwort and butterwort require 2 to 3 years before repotting. Sundews will require less frequent repotting and will do well in a single pot for many years.
You can use different types of pots such as plastic pots, glazed ceramics, or wooden orchid baskets. Use the size that is appropriate to the size of your plant as well. When repotting, trim down the roots and the upper portion of the whole plant to encourage new growth.
There are different ways to propagate carnivorous plants depending on which type of plant. Seeds, cuttings, divisions are common ways to propagate them. In large scale production, tissue culture is an efficient way to produce more plants.
The best way to propagate bladderworts is by division where you separate smaller plant colonies and plant them individually. In butterwort, using leaf cuttings is the most suitable method while stem cuttings work best for pitcher plants. For venus flytrap, you can either divide the clumps or use leaf cuttings.
Pests & Diseases
Even if carnivorous plants feed on insects, they’re not spared from the harm that pests bring. Aphids are a common problem for all carnivorous plants. Scales, thrips, and mealybugs can be a problem for pitcher plants.
In aquatic bladderwort, algae can be a pain. Fungus can also lead to rust and black spot diseases especially when there is high humidity and limited air circulation. Pests and diseases are mostly preventable if you’re just careful enough to provide the appropriate growing conditions for your plant.
Venus flytrap, pitcher plant, sundew, bladderwort and butterwort are considered non-toxic to pets and humans. Luckily, they don’t contain toxic properties that will threaten the life of cats and dogs. However, you have to ensure that they don’t make close contact with these plants.
Carnivorous plants are pretty sensitive to movements around them. They might mistake your moving pets for an insect roaming around and accidently trap them. Although such an impulse won’t be hurtful to your pets, it would be best to keep them out of touch.
Can I fertilize carnivorous plants?
No. Adding in fertilizer to carnivorous plants will do more harm than good. They prefer their soil to be in poor condition because that’s what they’re accustomed to. Their need for nutrients is basically augmented by the food they eat such as insects.
Why are my carnivorous plants wilting?
This is a common sign of underwatering. Carnivorous plants love plenty of water. The soil has to be wet and almost soggy.
If you’re giving your plants minimal amounts of water, it probably is not enjoying it. As a result, they easily get dehydrated. The result is a wilted plant.
Why are my carnivorous plants looking pale?
Light is a factor that leads to vibrant color of your plants such as the venus flytrap and the pitcher plant. If the color is pale, it can be caused by lack of exposure to bright light. These plants would love to have an ample amount of light.
Although the idea of tending carnivorous plants indoors seems foreign, it’s not impossible to do. You can basically keep them indoors the same way you do with other plants. The only thing that makes them unique is that they eat small pieces of meat, thus, a carnivore.
Nevertheless, aside from that one thing, carnivorous plants are pretty similar to your ordinary plant in all aspects. Given proper growing conditions, you’re most likely to observe them flourish and decorate your home with an exotic vibe.