When it comes to carnivorous plants, following the same care routine as you would for the rest of your house or garden plants will quickly end in their demise. These unique plants have specialized requirements, based on their natural habitats and how they have evolved, that need to be followed if you want to keep your plants around long term. Whether it’s light, water, soil or nutrients, getting care right is key to keeping your carnivorous friend alive.
There are more than 500 species of carnivorous plants, each with its own requirements. Some prefer full sun, while others can survive in partial shade. However, most popular species, such as Venus Flytraps and Pitcher Plants, need full sun for a large part of the day to truly thrive. This translates to at least 6 hours of sunlight when planted outdoors.
When grown indoors as they often are, the situation is slightly different. As light intensity is far lower inside, most carnivorous plants need to be placed in front of a sunny window where they can receive as much direct light as possible.
Those that prefer partial shade are susceptible to burning, and some carnivorous plants that have been accustomed to grow in lower lighting conditions may struggle when thrust into full sun. Check the requirements of your specific plant and slowly introduce them to changes in lighting conditions to avoid any potential damage.
Carnivorous plants evolved in acidic swamps and bogs where nutrients were scarce, causing them to develop their traps in order to survive. Due to these native habitats, it follows that these plants are major water lovers. Their soil needs to be kept moist consistently and some species can even grow mostly in water with just a little soil to keep them anchored.
Again, how often you water will depend on the species, but most prefer consistently moist but not soggy soil. Outdoors and in a sunny spot, this means watering a couple of times a day in hot weather. In these cases, it’s best to place these plants near a water source or where rain naturally collects around the garden to let nature do the work for you. Indoors, you’ll need to water once every few days and more often if the top layer of soil ever appears dry. Only water with collected rainwater or distilled water.
Unlike most of our garden plants, carnivorous plants prefer soil with little to no nutrients. The poorer the quality, the better it is. The soil should also retain lots of moisture to keep the roots consistently saturated and to recreate the environment these plants love.
When planting in containers, it’s best to make your own soil mix as many potting soil mixtures come with nutrients and added fertilizers that can burn the roots of your plants. A mixture of palm peat and river sand is best, adjusted according to how much water your chosen species prefers. Some can even grow in water alone, so make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you get to planting.
Fertilizer is a part of many gardener’s routines. However, when growing carnivorous plants, you can cut this step from your schedule altogether. When placed in the right spot, your plants will get all the nutrients they need from the bugs they digest. As they as used to low-nutrient soil, any standard added fertilizer will only end up burning the roots and potentially killing the plant.
If your plant is not getting enough nutrients from bugs naturally, some choose to drop insects from pet stores into the traps to help the plant along. Alternatively, there are specialized fertilizers you can place inside the traps to provide any nutrients that may be missing. Avoid using your standard garden fertilizer and always read the instructions on any product before feeding your plant to avoid doing more harm than good.