Frequently Asked Questions

Growing Carnivorous Plants

What are carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants are a small subset of plants that have developed various mechanisms to trap and digest animal prey for their nutrients. They are found across the world on every continent except for Antarctica, South Africa has nearly 50 species of carnivorous plant! They typically live in nutrient-poor soils and use carnivory to gather some essential nutrients needed for growth.

Are carnivorous plants difficult to grow?

Not at all! Carnivorous plants are painted as “exotic tricky” plants, but for the most part they are straightforward and easy to grow. All you need is bright light, clean water, and the right soils. Once those basic needs are met they often grow out of control! Most of them do not need to be grown in terrariums or with lots of humidity, in fact the beginner-friendly species enjoy being stuck right in the sun outside with lots of airflow.

Which carnivorous plants are beginner friendly?

Out of all the carnivorous plants, a few stand out as exceptionally easy beginner plants:

  • Cape sundews – A local sundew species, the Cape Sundew is hardy, grows fast, and can recover from almost any problem. Keep it sunny and wet and it’ll grow wonderfully.
  • Tropical pitchers – Nepenthes are gorgeous vining pitcher plants found through a variety of tropical forests and mountains, but many of them are easy to grow! Selected hybrids like those produced by Pan’s Carnivores are hardy, vigorous, and a great option for beginners.
  • Venus flytraps – All flytraps are the same species Dionaea muscipula and bred into the different cultivars you see today. They are happy to grow in the sun while kept moist, and kept a little drier during winter dormancy.
  • Trumpet pitchers – Sarracenia are hardy North American pitcher plants known for their beauty and ferocious appetite. They are hardy and grow well outdoors. Like flytraps, they have a winter dormancy

For more information about these wonderful plants check out our care sheets. A collection of strong beginner plants is available in the shop.

What soil do I need for carnivorous plants?

Wild carnivorous plants grow in nutrient poor soils, which we must replicate to grow them at home. Potting soil and compost is too rich and will burn their roots, killing the plant. For best success sphagnum peat moss or long fibre sphagnum moss must be used. Make sure to buy plain peat or moss without any added fertilisers or pH balancing, as those can burn and kill the plants. Peat moss or sphagnum moss can be mixed with sand, perlite, or Japanese clays (akadama, pumice, kanuma) for grit, aeration, and drainage.

Coco-peat must be avoided, unlike acidic sphagnum peat which is a naturally decomposed sphagnum moss, coco peat is milled or chipped coconut tree husk and is often full of salts that are harmful to carnivorous plants. It is not recommended for use as it is difficult to safely prepare for carnivorous plants and can lead to death of your plants.

For more information on plant-specific mixes please read our care sheets. Our Carnivorous plant mix can be purchased here and is free of any harmful components

What water do I need for carnivorous plants?
Carnivorous plants mainly grow in water with very little mineral content. In cultivation this must be copied, so rainwater, reverse-osmosis (RO), or soft tap water is recommended. The total mineral content must be under 50PPM (parts per million) dissolved minerals, this can be tested with a Total Dissolved Solids metre sold at aquarium shops. Fish shops and some grocery stores also sell RO water for low prices, or can be produced at home with an RO filter. Bottled water is okay so long as the TDS is 50PPM or less, which can be found on the label. Using water with too much mineral content can lead to mineral buildup in the soil, damaging your plants roots.

Most carnivorous plants can be grown in shallow trays of water to keep the soil wet, while Tropical pitchers prefer top watering when the soil starts drying.

How much light do carnivorous plants need?
Lots! Often as much as you can give them. Most wild carnivorous plants grow in full sun, especially the beginner friendly ones! Your trumpet pitchers, venus flytraps, and cape sundews should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day for a healthy plant. Tropical pitcher plants do not enjoy as much sun, instead being happy with a few hours of bright, morning or afternoon light every day. If your plant is looking pale green and leggy it is a sign that it wants more light.

Carnivorous plants can be grown under artificial lighting but it is not as easy as growing under natural lighting.

For more specific information please read our care sheets

How does dormancy work? (Flytraps and Trumpet pitchers)
North America is known for its harsh winters with frequent snow and frost, so the native Venus Flytraps and Trumpet pitchers go dormant to avoid the worst of winter colds. In Autumn time the plants slow growth in response to the shorter days and cooler temperatures. Most of the older traps or pitchers die off as they go dormant, often mistaken for the plant dying! They will retain a few small leaves/pitchers for dormancy and remain that way for a few weeks or months of dormancy. When Spring breaks they will erupt with new, larger growth and look better than ever.

When a plant is dormant it must be given less water, just enough to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged otherwise they can rot.

For more advanced information please visit our dormancy guide

How do I feed carnivorous plants?
The easiest way to feed carnivorous plants is to grow them outside and they will catch more than enough food for themselves to grow happily. Flytraps can be fed the occasional insect by hand but overfeeding can kill the trap. Strong chemical fertilisers must be used with caution and should not be applied to the soil or roots of most carnivorous plants as it can easily burn the roots and harm the plant. Dilute fertilisers can be added to pitcher plants for faster growth.

Feeding is not essential for carnivorous plants to survive and they can often catch their own fill. Please read the fertilizing guide for more in-depth information.