CARNIVOROUS PLANTS – A Hobby That Is Not As Hard As You Think!

Being a lover of insects, I have also always found carnivorous plants a fascinating subject. I remember growing up and seeing the ads in the back of comic books advertising meat-eating Venus Fly Traps (right alongside the ads for live pet monkeys), ads that sensationalized them as being little monsters. I tried many times to grow these amazing plants but with no luck. They always ended up withering and dying on me.

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As time went on, I just gave up on these plants because I just couldn’t seem to keep them alive. Little did I know, the reason that I was so unsuccessful is because so little was known about these plants as I was growing up. The care sheets that came with them had little useful information so untimely deaths was normal for Fly Trap keepers. All of this changed for me with the discovery of a really good book called “The Savage Garden,” by Peter D’Amato.

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This book became somewhat of a bible for me. Not only did it tell me how to care for my all time favorite carnivorous plant, the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula), but it also introduced me to so many other great species of carnivorous plants. At the time that I originally got this book, I started to notice that stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot started, on occasion, to carry a variety of carnivorous plants, including pitcher plants and sundews. I honestly believe that my new-found success with these plants was due to this book!

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My first goal after reading this book was to successfully grow the Venus Fly Trap, a North American species. I bought a few plants, keeping them in a south-facing window. Since these plants live in bogs, I put water dishes under their pots and gave the plants plenty of distilled water. Not only did they grow, but they thrived! Each season the plants got larger and I started to find seedlings growing in other pots, thanks to flower stems that were allowed to mature and go to seed. I then found some amazing online dealers who not only sold some great plant varieties, but they also offered the correct planting substrate that I could use to transplant my plants to larger pots.

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The next plant I tried was the Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea), also from North America. I figured it would be smartest to go with North American species since their requirements are not as strict as for the tropicals. Keeping this plant is pretty much the same for the Venus Fly Trap, though I find they do equally well in either a south-facing window or north-facing window. I keep plants in both because it is interesting to see how the sun affects the colors of the plant. The more sun they get, the redder they get! In fact, plants kept in the north windows remain almost entirely green, with only the veins in the leaves turning red.

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Next up I thought I would take a chance with something rare, requiring more care. This plant is the Australian Pitcher Plant (Cephalotus follicularis). This is a smaller plant that grows close to the ground. What is really neat about this plant is the look of the pitchers. They are very detailed and covered in little hairs. If a pitcher trap can be cute, then these traps are the cutest. I have found these plants do equally well in both north or south-facing windows. Like most carnivorous plants, the more sun they received the more vibrant the colors will be. It’s care is very similar to Venus Fly Traps and Purple Pitcher Plants though they tend to like a more sandy substrate mix. It is possible to over-water these plants. Never allow the substrate to completely dry out but if left in standing water for too long, the roots can rot. These plants tend to be more expensive but they are really worth it!

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The next group of plants I got into were the Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes). These plants are just amazing and make great hanging plants for your windows and decks. They do require slightly higher temperatures and humidity but they are so worth the extra efforts. Most of these plants grow very large with pitchers in some species large enough to capture small mammals! I have found that east and west-facing windows do the best for these plants as direct sunlight all day (in south-facing windows) tends to burn the leaves and slow down pitcher production. There are so many great varieties of these plants and just collecting this family can be very addicting!

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I hope this brief introduction into the world of carnivorous plants has inspired you to try your hand at growing these, some of the most amazing plants on this planet! There are so many great sources out there now as well. Online suppliers of plants and supplies as well as some great new books in the hobby have been released.

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Stewart McPherson has released a whole bunch of beautiful books on carnivorous plants. Though these books are expensive they are really worth it. The books are huge and feature hundreds of color pictures and great information. The two books pictured above are highly recommended if you are just starting out in the field. From there, you can purchase more specialized books, dealing with particular species.

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This is actually the first of McPherson’s books that I purchased and to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. Venus Fly Traps will always be special to me as they were my introduction to carnivorous plants. When this book arrived I was shocked in such a good way. This hardcover book is 448 pages covering everything you ever wanted to know about the most famous of carnivorous plants! This work provides the first complete overview of the natural history, biology, ecology and cultivation of Dionaea as well as describing, in full color, one hundred Dionaea cultivars, many of which have never been documented before! This whole series of books cannot be recommended more.

There are also many suppliers online worth looking into. These three are three that I buy from regularly and highly recommend!

CALIFORNIA CARNIVORES

FLYTRAPSTORE.COM

SARRACENIA NORTHWEST

Good luck and I hope you enjoy this amazing hobby!

~David Albaugh

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