Some tips to having healthy and happy Carnivorous Plants


For a lot of people, growing these fascinating plants may seem a bit intimidating.  Well I'm here to tell you..."If I can grow them, you can too!" There is not a set rule book to successfully grow CP's, but there are definitely some basic necessities that need to be provided for these plants to simply survive.  I'll go over these as quickly as I can in the following paragraphs, but to begin I want to lay out the MOST IMPORTANT RULE to growing carnivorous plants...and here it is.  

**Have fun and enjoy them!**

If you don't enjoy them, they won't be happy

Like everything in life, if we're not having fun or enjoying a task, more than likely it won't be completed at all or it won't be completed correctly.  And besides, if it's not fun...why do it?  Bottom line is, if you think carnivorous plants are interesting, bizarre, or just plain cool, then your a prime CP grower.  So lets get started!

Basic CP Needs

Wet roots, good dirt, sunny leaves, winter rest 

The title above says it all in a nutshell, but here are more details on each part.

WET ROOTS ~ There's some controversy on just how wet plants need to be, but basically all CP's native to the United States like marshy conditions.  So, to keep it simple, most folks keep a saucer of water under a pot of carnivorous plants and keep it full.  I'm a huge rain water fan, but any water low in minerals and additives should do fine.  Inground bog gardens need watered on a regular basis, which can be done by overhead watering or by using a soaker hose.

GOOD DIRT ~ Now when I say "DIRT" I don't really mean dirt.  The marshes that most CP's grow in are made up of very acetic material and sometimes sand.  Bacteria doesn't survive well in acetic soil to break down dead organisms into nutrients for plants, and that's why CP's catch bugs for nutrients.  Sphagnum peat moss is a good generic soil for CP's due to it's low nutrient and acid levels.  Peat can be mixed with sand or perlite to help aerate the planting medium. Just make sure that the peat or perlite doesn't contain fertilizer or your plants wont last long at all.

SUNNY LEAVES ~ This part is probably the easiest, but you'd be amazed at how many people fail to meet this requirement.  Sarracenia pitcher plants, sundews, and flytraps all love lots of sun!  That's why I'm a firm believer that all these plants belong outside.  I do believe that flytraps and sundews may survive in a very, very sunny window seal, but they would FOR SURE be happier outside basking in full sunlight.  In the end, it all falls back on the number one rule... HAVE FUN. If you can't enjoy your CP's outside, then by all means try a sunny window and see what happens.

WINTER REST ~ This part may be the trickiest part to keeping CP's happy.  These plants seem to do best when they have a winter dormancy.  Think of it like hibernation for some animals.  While they sleep during the winter, they rest, they grow stronger root systems, and often times they develop new growth points where new plants can be divided.  After frost sets in late in the season, CP's can be given protection if necessary for the coming winter.  If planted in pots, simply carry them into a cool garage or basement until spring time has arrived (BUT DON'T FORGET TO KEEP THEM WATERED!!!).  Plants planted in bog gardens can be left alone, but if you're in an area that sees sub zero temperatures then you may want to cover your bog with a thick layer of pine needles or leaves (oak leaves work well because they are acidic). Once spring arrives simply uncover.


For me, the biggest pest infestation I've ever encountered has been with aphids.  Aphids can be sneaky little boogers that start off in small amounts but quickly grow into large problems.  Most of the time, deformed leaves are a good indication of aphids.  I think of aphids like mosquitoes for plants...they suck the sap out of the leaves for food.  When they do this, it can cause the leaves to grow irregularly and unsightly.  To treat an aphid infestation, I spray the leaves with a systemic pesticide (systemic means that the plant absorbs the insecticide into the leaves).  So far, my most successful insecticide is Orthene.  But I must warn you, this stuff doesn't smell pleasant at all, but it's highly effective against aphids, thrips, mealybugs, and other problem pests.  Be sure to read all safety instructions when handling the product.

For mold and fungus control, I've used neem oil and sulfur powder.  Both seem effective, but for plants in the greenhouse I've noticed that sulfur seems to control powdery mildew very well.  Powdery mildew is exactly what it sounds like: it's a white powdery mold that grows on leaves when poor air circulation no rainfall is present.  This doesn't seem to hurt the plants, but it will cause unsightly "rusty" spots on the leaves.  Spraying with sulfur seems to stop this mildew fairly well, but I've also read that regular watering with sprinklers or misting overhead can keep powdery mildew from spreading as well. 

Remember, if I can grow them, you can too!

Check my other sections for more tricks and garden ideas. Look around and make yourself at home.