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Carnivorous plants: care tips & tricks for keeping

They appear like hybrid creatures made up of plants and predators: carnivorous plants. Why they love insects but cannot tolerate tap water. Care tips for pitcher plants, sundew, Venus flytrap and Co.

Plants are usually expected to live on water and fertilizer, but not to eat small insects. This ability to digest protein is a simple evolutionary trick: Carnivorous plants come from very nutrient-poor areas. An additional source of nutrients was needed - bad luck for flies and mosquitoes.

Proper care for carnivorous plants

Many carnivorous plants can be kept both in the garden and in the apartment. They like nutrient poor soil. Experts generally advise against using normal potting soil as a substrate and instead recommend a mixture of unfertilized raised bog peat - preferably white peat - and quartz sand. There is generally no fertilization because the plants come from nutrient-poor areas.

Water, on the other hand, should be in abundance. The substrate can be kept moist by always standing water in the saucer - about one centimeter high. Water may only be poured with water that is low in lime, for example rainwater. Tip: You can also make a mixture of distilled water with ten percent tap water.

Plants also appreciate moisture in the air, so carnivorous plants should not be placed over a heater. A number of species come from cloud forests and need a humidity of at least 60 percent. To achieve this value, you can put the plants in a terrarium.

Carnivorous plants for the home

If you want to set up carnivorous plants in your home, it is best to use easy-care species. These include, for example:

  • Butterwort (Pinguicula)
  • Sundew (Drosera)
  • Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipulaals)

Carnivorous plants can also be kept well in the terrarium. It is best to irradiate them with an additional light source.

Carnivorous plants for the garden

Carnivorous plants: The leaves of pitcher plants have twisted into hollow tubes. (Source: JillianCain / Getty Images)

In this country, especially the northern, less sensitive species can thrive in the garden. This includes:

  • Red pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea)
  • Green pitcher plants (Sarracenia oreophila)
  • Yellow pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava)
  • Pale pitcher plants (Sarracenia alata)
  • Alabama pitcher plants (Sarracenia alabamensis)

Species that are more sensitive to the cold, such as the white pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophylla) with slender white-purple hoses or the parrot pitcher plant, need winter protection. However, it is enough to cover them with leaves or twigs.

Create a bog bed for carnivorous plants

In the bog bed, carnivorous plants, such as pitcher plants, feel particularly at home in the garden. If you want to create a bog bed, first dig a hole about 80 centimeters deep like you would for a pond. Line this hole with pond liner to make it waterproof.

Then place the plastic bucket upside down on the bed base. These form water reservoirs that are later filled up through holes in the bottom of the bucket. On top of this is a layer of white peat that is planted. The peat can be stretched with a proportion of 30 percent coconut fiber.

Pitcher plants: care and fishing method

The pitcher plants (Sarracenia) have a striking shape. Their leaves have twisted into hollow tubes. They narrow towards the bottom, at the top they remain invitingly open and attract insects with bewitching colors and sweet nectar. That is the pitcher's trap. Pretty much everything that fits in falls into its leaves. The insects do not come up again because the smooth walls inside the plant keep them down. The plants release digestive enzymes here, which are also found in the human stomach.

Pitcher plant: They attract insects like hover flies with bewitching colors and sweet nectar. (Source: imago / imagebroker)

Pitcher plants, as typical carnivorous plants, carry out photosynthesis and live with the help of sunlight. At the same time, by catching insects and utilizing their proteins, the plants achieve a valuable additional supply that enables them to bloom profusely on nutrient-poor soils.

In order to be really effective at catching insects, some species have even more in stock: The yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava) does not only offer pure nectar at the top of the collar. She also mixes it with an anesthetic that acts on the insects. The parrot pitcher plant (Sarracenia psittacina), which is originally found in the Mississippi Delta in the United States, is even more successful in flooding than on land. Because many arthropods like water fleas believe they are supposedly safe in their tunnels. The peculiarity of this subspecies: The insects do not come out again because the finest, downward hairs in the upper part of the tunnel keep them down. It is therefore also called a trap trap.

Parrot pitcher plant: Insects do not come out of the parrot pitcher plant, because the finest, downward hairs in the upper part of the tunnel keep them down. (Source: blickwinkel / imago images)

Pitcher plants are also suitable for living spaces. It is best to keep them in a terrarium and give them additional lighting. In winter they should be in a cool room without dry, heated air. Sarracenia need as much light as possible and like acidic plant substrates. Experts recommend soil made from six parts of white peat, two parts of perlite and one part of quartz sand. It is watered in the damming, so from below up to a height of about two to three centimeters. The substrate should never dry out. Pitcher plants do not tolerate tap water at all because it is hard and rich in minerals. Instead, use demineralized water or rainwater, experts advise.

Sundew: care and fishing method

Sundew: The carnivorous plant mainly needs a lot of sunlight and water. (Source: BjornStefanson / Getty Images)

Sundew forms a lot of flowers and is therefore particularly beautiful to look at. Despite the extravagant appearance with the glittering glue traps, the plant does not require any special care. The native species include:

  • Round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
  • Middle sundew (Drosera intermedia)
  • Long-leaved Sundew (Drosera anglica)

The first type forms plate-like outgrowths on which the glue traps sit and is green and red in color. The other two species grow more elongated and their sticky traps appear purple and reddish, respectively. The sundew catches insects with sticky excretions in its glandular hair. The animals are then dissolved in the rolled sheet.

Sundew catches flies: Animals stick to the sundew and are then rolled into the leaf. (Source: CathyKeifer / Getty Images)

The houseplants mainly need a lot of sunlight and water. It is best to plant the carnivore in a pot with a passage at the bottom. It is best to place the pot on a large saucer and make sure that this is always about two centimeters full of water. Since the sundew is very blooming, you should regularly remove dead flower stems. This will encourage the formation of new flowers.

Venus flytrap: care and trapping method

If you want to keep the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipulaals) as a houseplant, you should choose an extremely sunny location for it, preferably a window seat. Since the Venus flytrap makes few demands on the earth, a nutrient-poor earth is completely sufficient. However, the plant needs a high level of humidity, which is why it is advisable to spray the houseplant regularly with water.

Venus flytrap: The carnivorous plant does not like tap water because it does not tolerate lime. (Source: swedewah / Getty Images)

The Venus flytrap needs constant soil moisture and therefore has to be regularly supplied with water. The best way to do this is to use a planter that is permeable to the bottom and stands on a large saucer with water. The water should be about two centimeters high. If the Venus flytrap has used up the water, it should stand dry for two days before the water is topped up. She does not like tap water because the plant does not tolerate the lime. Still mineral water or rainwater are the right choice.

The Venus flytrap catches insects with its catch leaves, which secrete an attractant liquid. If a fly touches a small bristle on the inside of a catch leaf, it closes and the trap snaps shut. The spines of the outer catching leaf interlock in such a way that the captured prey can no longer come out. The plant adds a digestive secretion and completely decomposes the animal after a few days. Then the sheet opens again. If the traps turn black, this is a normal regeneration process. After two to three catch cycles, the snap trap dies and new ones are formed.

Pitcher plants: care and fishing method

The natural habitat of the pitcher plant (Nepenthes) is in Southeast Asia. The carnivorous plant primarily needs a high temperature of around twenty degrees with very high humidity at the same time - so the best location for the carnivorous plant if you want to keep it as a houseplant is in a bathroom with a window.

The carnivorous plant should be in a light place without being exposed to direct sunlight for too long. It is important that only lime-free water is used to water the houseplant, for example rainwater.

Pitcher plants: They have a smooth edge that is inclined inwards so that the prey that has fallen into the pitcher does not get out again. (Source: goodaftermoon / Getty Images)

The pitcher plant forms leaves that are shaped like pitchers in order to catch insects and meet their nutritional needs of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. The pitchers have a smooth edge that is inclined inward so that the prey that has fallen into the pitcher does not get out again. Above all, the wax scales on the upper edge of the jug ensure that the prey falls into the jug, as they easily peel off when touched. Once trapped in the jug, an insect dissolves in the digestive fluid, which is made up of a high concentration of enzymes and organic acids.

Butterwort: care and fishing method

The butterwort (pinguicula) is characterized by fleshy, shiny, greasy leaves. The rosette-shaped plant forms stems up to ten centimeters long in spring, which are crowned by magnificent flowers. Depending on the type, they shine in pure white or intense purple. Most of the approximately 85 types of butterwort come from Central America. In this country they are popular as indoor plants, especially since they require little care.

Butterwort: Small insects stick to the sticky secretion on the butterwort leaves. (Source: jojoo64 / Getty Images)

The carnivorous plant needs a bright location without direct sunlight. She also loves it warm and humid: the temperature in summer should be between 18 and 20 degrees. In winter you should place the plant at temperatures around ten degrees cooler. Depending on the species, the butterwort thrives at a humidity between 60 and 80 percent. If the air at the location is dry, it can make sense to mist the plant daily with decalcified water.

Butterwort: The carnivorous plant forms flowers in spring. (Source: Westend61 / imago images)

Butterwort needs a lot of water in summer. Water the plant regularly in small portions so that the soil is always moist without waterlogging. In winter it needs less water and it does not need fertilizer either: the insects that serve it as food contain sufficient nutrients. This catches the butterwort by means of a sticky secretion on its leaves, to which mosquitoes, for example, stick.

Do you have to feed carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants do not need additional food and do not need to be fed. However, it does not harm them either, and on the occasion the fishing method can be closely observed. However, the plants should only be fed with live insects and never with leftover food, because they would not tolerate it. However, the plants get by with a minimum of animal food. Mostly mosquitoes, fruit flies and house flies, which are in the apartment from time to time, are enough for them.

Carnivorous Plants: There are five types of traps

  1. Glue traps: With the sticky traps, the insect gets stuck on a secretion. Enzymes break down the victim. The sundew belongs to this group.
  2. Folding traps: They consist of two halves of the leaf that collapse when touched. The Venus flytrap is a well-known example.
  3. Suction traps: Water hoses are the largest species-richest genus of carnivorous plants and at the same time the only one that works with the suction trap principle. The trapping organs are air-filled trapping bladders that suck in their victim through negative pressure.
  4. Pitfalls: The pitcher plants are typical pitfall traps. The insects do not come up again because the inner walls of the plant are too smooth.
  5. Trap traps: They lure their victims inside with attractants. Small bristles prevent the animals from crawling back. So they end up in a kind of stomach. The parrot pitcher plant is one of the trap traps.

Overview: Carnivorous Plants

Plant speciesmaintenance
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipulaals)The Venus flytrap needs a lot of sun and can be kept in the garden in the bog bed or as a houseplant. Good breeds also survive frost in winter. From autumn onwards, the plants usually retreat to the rootstock. Indoor plants need to be kept at five to ten degrees in winter. Then the humidity should also be lower than in summer. The general rule is: do not feed, do not fertilize.
Sundew (Drosera capensis)Likes a lot of direct sunlight. Ideal as a houseplant, as sundew is usually not frost-resistant. Sundew can, however, like to move outside in summer. In dry air, no adhesive droplets form, so you should pay attention to high humidity. Wintering is also possible at room temperature.
Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)This variety grows both indoors and outdoors in pots or in bog beds. It prefers a bright location without direct sunlight and high humidity. It hibernates well outdoors, is one of the sticky traps and bears flowers in summer.
Water hose (Utricularia sandersonii)This plant is easy to keep in pots and has pretty flowers. The pot should always be two to three centimeters in the water, and the saucer should be cleaned regularly. Direct midday sun should be avoided.
Pitcher plant (Nepenthes)Small insects are caught in the can-shaped traps. The location should be bright, but not too sunny, otherwise the sensitive pitchers will burn. Regular spraying increases the humidity.