General Carnivorous Plant Information
Water: Carnivorous plants require water that is low in minerals. Regular municipal tap water, well water, and bottled water will kill most carnivorous plants. In order to keep your plants healthy, only use distilled, reverse osmosis, or rain water.
If you've tested your tap water and it measures under 100 PPM that is also fine. Carnivorous plants are often watered with the tray method, which means setting the pot in a tray of water to be absorbed through the bottom. These are "bog"
conditions. Some plants prefer being top-watered. This is covered in the below sections on specific plants.
Light: All carnivorous plants require bright light. They will not produce carnivorous traps unless they are in a bright windowsill, under artificial light, or outdoors in direct sun. Specific light requirements are covered in the below sections.
Soil: Never use commerical potting soils for carnivorous plants. These often contain fertilizers or other minerals and are dangerous for your plants. Use either a mix based on long-fiber Sphagnum moss (which we include with the plants we sell), or one based on fertilizer-free Sphagnum peat. We have more information (and also sell pre-mixed soils) in the "supplies" section. Most carnivorous plants can be repotted every 2-3 years.
Temperature: Carnivorous plants enjoy a wide range of temperatures. Temperate plants (like flytraps and Sarracenia) go dormant in winter, and can safely experience freezing temperatures. Tropical and subtropical plants usually prefer temperatures of 55-80 degrees F.
Food: Bugs are fertilizer for carnivorous plants, and they don't need much. Plants grown outdoors will catch plenty of prey by themselves. Indoor plants will also catch some. If you'd like to feed your plants, it's best to feed them bugs (like swatted flies, or freeze-dried meal worms), or things like betta fish pellets, which are made from krill. Venus flytraps must be fed live prey. You can also mist your plants with a 1/4 strength orchid fertilizer. Do not fertilize through the roots, as this can damage or kill carnivorous plants.
Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes)
- Nepenthes prefer bright, indirect or filtered light. An east windowsill with morning sun is good, as is a shaded south window. They can be grown outdoors in a protected spot in mild climates, or indoors under fluorescent or LED lights.
- Nepenthes soil should stay damp at all times, but not sopping wet. Top-water weekly, or whenever the moss starts to dry. Do not let Nepenthes sit in water for too long. Most Nepenthes prefer a soil based on long-fibered Sphagnum moss, which can also include orchid bark or pumice for drainage. In dry climates it can be useful to mist your Nepenthes twice a day.
- Nepenthes are tropical plants and cannot tolerate freezing or near-freezing temperatures. Highland Nepenthes prefer cool nights in the 50s or low 60s, while lowland Nepenthes prefer warmer temperatures.
- If your Nepenthes is not producing pitchers, it probably either needs more light or more moisture.
Venus flytraps (Dionaea)
- Venus flytraps require intense, direct light. Most of the time this means full outdoor sun for at least 6 hours per day. Flytraps grown in windowsills usually weaken and die over time. Light is the most important thing for flytraps.
- Water flytraps using the tray method. The soil should always be damp, and the pot should be sitting in water. They do fine in bog soil or in long-fibered Sphagnum.
- Venus flytraps are temperate plants that go dormant in winter, when leaves die back. When dormant they can tolerate modest freezing just fine. Extreme cold (extended periods under 20 degrees F) can be dangerous. Move flytraps into a protected garage or shed during these conditions, or mulch them heavily to protect in winter.
- Avoid triggering the traps, as this stresses the plant and can kill it. Healthy flytraps will have firm, bright green or reddish leaves. A dormant plant might look unhealthy, but that is just the time of year. Wait until spring to see.
- Butterworts can tolerate bright, indirect light, but they are most colorful and healthy in intense light, such as a south windowsill, full outdoor sun in mild climates, or under bright fluorescent or LED light.
- Water Pinguicula with the tray method. They can tolerate occasional drier periods. Most butterworts do fine in either bog soil or long-fibered Sphagnum.
- We mostly sell Mexican Pinguicula, which cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. In winter these plants will sometimes go dormant, forming smaller, succulent leaves. They return to normal in spring and summer.
- Healthy butterworts are covered in a tiny layer of dew droplets. If you aren't getting dew they may need more light.
- Sundews require extremely bright light to thrive. A windowsill with 4-5 hours of direct sun is best, or they can be grown outdoors in full sun if they are protected from the wind and from freezing temperatures. They also do well indoors under bright fluorescent or LED lights.
- Water Drosera using the tray method. The soil should be damp at all times, and the pots should be sitting in water. Most sundews do fine in either bog soil or long-fibered Sphagnum.
- Most sundews we sell are tropical or subtropical and should not be allowed to freeze. Some sundews can come back from the roots if frozen, but not all. To be safe, protect from freezing temperatures.
- Healthy sundews have dewy, colorful leaves. If your plant is not producing dew it probably either needs more light or more water.
American Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia)
- Sarracenia require intense, direct light. They do best outdoors in full sun for at least 6 hours per day. Most windowsills are not bright enough, and plants will weaken and die without enough light.
- Water Sarracenia using the tray method. The soil should be damp at all times and the pot should be sitting in water. Sarracenia do fine in either bog soil or long-fibered Sphagnum.
- Sarracenia are temperate plants that go dormant in winter. The leaves die back, and they can tolerate modest freezing just fine. Extreme cold (extended periods under 20 degrees F) can be dangerous. Move pitcher plants into a protected garage or shed during these conditions, or mulch them heavily to protect in winter.
- Sarracenia produce a Spring and an Autumn flush of leaves, and look best during these times. Insufficient light will lead to droopy, colorless pitchers, or even non-carnivorous leaves.
- Utricularia can tolerate a wide range of light, from modest windowsills to full sun. Most do best in brighter light.
- Water bladderworts with the tray method. Most species actually prefer to be occasionally submerged, which promotes faster growth. They do fine in bog soil or in long-fibered Sphagnum.
- Most Utricularia we sell are tropical and should not be allowed to freeze. Protect from cold temperatures.
- Bladderworts usually flower once they've filled in the pot. Sometimes seasonal changes help. If your plant stops flowering, try dividing and repotting it in fresh soil.