Growing Tips

We strongly recommend Peter's award-winning, best-selling book "The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants" to anyone who want to master the art and science of growing these fascinating plants.

General Carnivorous Plant Care

Soil: We offer both individual ingredients and pre-measured mixes for all your carnivore needs. Click Here to find what you need!
Most carnivorous plants should be grown in some mix of peat moss, perlite or sand. Beware of "Miracle-Grow" peat and perlite as it has been fortified with fertilizers. We use only professional grade "Sunshine" Milled Canadian Sphagnum moss available at many garden centers. The sand should be only washed horticultural or play sand.
We use New Zealand long-fibered Sphagnum moss as a base for many of our other plants such as Nepenthes and Heliamphora. Beware of impostors!Many retail garden centers and nurseries unwittingly sell Oregon green moss as Sphagnum moss. They are not the same, in fact Oregon green moss will kill our plants if it is used.
We use domestic long-fibered sphagnum to line the bottoms of our pots to prevent the peat and perlite from seeping out.

Water: All carnivorous plants should be grown with a pure, low mineral water. If you do have hard water, it is best to use collected rain water, distilled water, reverse osmosis water, or de-ionized water. The water vending machines at your local grocery store is a good inexpensive source for pure water. Britta and Pur water filters, however, do not remove enough dissolved salts to make much difference. The new counter-top purifier ZeroWater does remove dissolved salts and produces pure water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) is best if below 160 parts per million (PPM).

Most carnivorous plants may be watered using the tray method. Simply put your plants in their pots into a deep tray and fill it with pure water. This is really the best and easiest way to make sure your plants don't ever dry out. Exceptions are Nepenthes, Cephalotus, and Drosophyllum; their watering preferences are addressed below. are discussed below.

Fertilizer and Feeding:Carnivorous plants evolved to catch insects to get the fertilizers that are lacking in their soil. There are virtually no nutrients available in their planting media, so carnivores need to eat. Healthy plants that have access to lots of prey probably don't need any fertilizing, although it would still be beneficial. Most fertilizers are too strong for our plants and may severely damage or even kill them. We have found Max-Sea fertilizer to be the most gentle and effective. We lightly sprinkle all of our carnivores bi-weekly to monthly with 1/2-3/4 tsp. per gallon of water. Max-Sea may be used on all of our plants from seedlings to mature specimens. Use caution and lower concentrations when fertilizing more finicky South African sundews like regia, glabripes, and slackii.

Containers: Plastic or glazed ceramic pots are best for all carnivorous plants. Unglazed terra cotta pots are very porous and dry the soil out quickly. Also, they may leach salts out into the soil with time. We prefer small plastic pots with holes in the bottom, so that the tray method may be used. Large outdoor containers may be undrained.

Pests & Pesticides:Unfortunately and ironically, carnivorous plants may be afflicted with almost all of the same pests as normal plants. The constant sap sucking of aphids will cause the new leaves of sundews and pitcher plants to twist and contort as they grow. If you have cottony stuff in the growth points of your Sarracenia or at the base of Nepenthes leaves, then you have mealybugs my friend. Sarracenia are a favorite of thrip; their chewing causes silvery patches on the pitchers. Scale look like little waxy scabs that encrust the leaves and stems. Luckily all of these little plant parasites are treatable.

Our plants can be damaged by some pesticides and many are very toxic, but we have a few things that we know are safe for the plants. Before you spray, isolate the infected plants. Scale may be wiped away with rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip or cotton pad. Badly infested leaves may be cut away and thrown in the trash. Then you will have to spray. We recommend "Take Down"; the active ingredients are canola oil and pyrethrin, which comes from a daisy relative. It is totally organic and has almost no odor. You may buy it locally or order it from Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery in Sebastopol. It comes in a ready-to-use spray or a concentrate. They don't have this up on their web page yet, but you may order it from them over the phone (707) 823-9125. It is best to spray the plant outdoors in the evening. Make sure and cover every surface of the infected plant. You will need to treat the plant at least twice, 1 week apart. Continue until they're all gone. Avoid contact with skin and eyes. Organic does not mean non-toxic.

Non-organic pesticides that are safe for our plants are Seven and Orthene.

The Venus Flytrap(Dionaea muscipula)

Venus Flytraps are Dormant in Winter! If you order them during their dormancy, the plants we ship will appear smaller than the ones photographed. They will, however, quickly grow to the size of the photographed plant when they resume growth in the Spring.

Soil: Flytraps thrive in a mix of 1 part washed horticultural sand (play sand is also washed and safe) to 1 part peat moss or 1 part perlite to 2 parts peat moss.

Watering: Use the tray method, keeping the soil damp to wet year round. Flytraps do not appreciate persistent waterlogged conditions, and do best with a lower water table.

Light: Full to part sun.

Climate: Warm-temperate plants, flytraps need warm summers and chilly winters. Tolerant of light frost and brief freezes. They should be grown outdoors year-round in areas with mild Winters. If you live in an area with very cold Winters, they may be overwintered on a windowsill in an unused room or garage.

Sundews (Drosera sp.)

Temperate sundews including most forked-leaf sundews are Dormant in Winter ! If you order them during their dormancy, they may have no leaves at all. They will, however, quickly grow to the size of the photographed plant when they resume growth in the Spring.

Soil: Almost all species thrive in a mixture of roughly half peat and half sand or 2 parts peat to 1 part perlite. Tuberous sundews and most other Australian species prefer an even sandier mix. D. regia, adelae, schizandra, and prolifera do best in long fibered sphagnum moss.

Containers: Plastic containers with drainage holes are most suitable. Many species do well in undrained containers of plastic, glass, or glazed ceramic.

Watering:Most sundews thrive on the tray method, which keeps the soil permanently wet. A few prefer to be waterlogged. Winter growing species require periods of complete summer dormancy, at which time the soil has to be dried out.

Light:Full to part sun.

Climate:As sundews grow worldwide, they come from varied climates:
Temperate sundews require cold Winters.
Warm-temperate and sub-tropical sundews do well on windowsills, in cool greenhouses, or terariums. They appreciate cool nights.
Winter-growing sundews from Australia and South Africa could be grown outdoors in a Mediterranean climate without frost or in a cool greenhouse.

Butterworts (Pinguicula sp.)

Soil: Temperate species: Use a mix of two parts peat, one part sand, and one part perlite. Warm-temperate varieties do well in a soil of one part peat to one part sand. Mexican and tropical species enjoy a more open mix of equal parts sand, perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Some growers add dolomite or gypsum to this, although I have not found it necessary. But when it's handy, add an additional part of lava rock or pumice. They may also be grown in a Nepenthes mix.

Containers: Plastic or glazed ceramics with drainage holes suit most varieties. Warm temperate species can also do well in un-drained containers, but you should let the water level fluctuate without drying out the soil. Mexican species do best in well-drained containers, but I have also grown them in shallow, un-drained ceramics with very careful watering. I also enjoy growing Mexican pings in abalone shells (they enjoy the calcium) and chunks of lava rock that have large nooks and crannies. I use the recommended soil for these, but I top-dress the medium with a few strands of long-fibered sphagnum to keep it intact. Larger-leafed varieties look best in wide shallow containers.

Watering: All temperate and warm-temperate species should be grown permanently wet on the tray system, with frequent overhead watering. Use chilly water for your temperate pings. The Mexican varieties can be kept on the tray system with overhead watering while they have carnivorous foliage in summer and autumn. When the rosettes change to their small succulents in winter, keep the soil on the dry side, dampening them only slightly and occasionally. You can usually tell how dry a species enjoys its winter by the size of its succulent leaves. The tighter smaller leafed rosettes such a P. gypsicola or the bulblike P. heterophylla and P. macrophylla require bone-dry conditions. Species with larger winter leaves, like a few of the P. moranensis varieties or P. agnata, enjoy winters soils just slightly damp. Cuban species should be kept wet year-round, with only slight winter drying.

Light: Partly sunny growing conditions. Great for sunny windosills. When grown under high-intensity fluorescent grow lights many of them will blush so that the entire plant is glowing pink or red!

Climate: As butterworts grow worldwide, they come from varied climates:
Temperate pings need cold winters while the're dormant to thrive.
The warm-temperate species from the U.S. tolerate light frost and brief freezes. They do best outdoors in areas with mild Winters.
Mexican Butterworts do great in terrariums, greenhouses and windowsills.

American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia sp.)

American Pitcher Plants are dormant in Winter. As such, if you order them from November - March, they may have only dry brown pitchers or none at all. In the Spring they will quickly grow up to look like the one pictured in the catalog.

Soil: Grow Sarracenia in a mix of 2 parts peat to one part perlite; or one part peat to one part sand. Long fibered sphagnum moss is also excellent.

Containers: Best in plastic pots or glazed ceramics. They do well in deeper mini-bogs and bog gardens.

Watering: Use the tray method. Keep the soil damp to very wet!

Light:Full to mostly sunny is best. They'll grow in less sun, but the pitchers will be green and stretched out.

Climate: Warm-temperate plants, Sarracenia need warm summers and chilly winters. Tolerant of light frost and brief freezes. They may be grown outdoors year-round in areas with mild Winters. In areas with severe Winters, keep your dormant Sarracenia on the windowsill of a cold garage or unused room.

All Sarracenia should be completely cut back some time in the late Winter or early Spring, preferably just before the new growth resumes in Spring. Most years this is late February or Early March.

Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes sp.)

Soil: Nepenthes enjoy loose, open soil that remains wet to moist but allows drainage of excess water. They are tolerant of a wide variety of soil mixes. The best are about three parts New Zealand long-fibered Sphagnum moss to one part of some combination of course materials, such as perlite, orchid bark, pumice, tree-fern fiber, lava rock or charcoal.

Containers: All containers must have drainage holes. Place a thin layer of sphagnum at the bottom of the pot to prevent the gradual loss of soil through the holes. This will also retain moisture. Plastic pots work well, as do terra-cotta or glazed ceramics. Wooden boxes or orchid baskets work wonderfully. 6 to 10 inch pots are recommended for mature plants.

Watering: In greenhouses avoid the tray method of watering entirely and place the containers on benches or hang them so water can freely drain away. Terrariums and on windowsills, place the pot in a shallow saucer and water overhead as soon as the water in saucer evaporates. Don't allow the pot to sit in deep water for extended times.

Light: Most Nepenthes enjoy very bright, diffused light or partly sunny conditions. Many can be grown easily on a sunny windowsill. Terrariums with high-powered fluorescent lights are easy to set up and ideal

Climate: All Nepenthes are tropical plants, roughly divided into lowlanders and highlanders. Lowlanders come from low elevations in tropical Southeast Asia. Constant temperatures in 80's with high humidity is ideal, although some species will grow on sunny windowsills in warm homes. they are not tolerant of low temperatures. Highlanders do best with day temps in the 70's and 80's. They require a night time drop in temperature of about twenty degrees in order to thrive. Most highlanders can be easily grown on sunny windowsills. They can be damaged or killed by temperature below the low forties.

Cobra Plants (Darlingtonia californica)

Soil: The best mix for Cobra plants is three parts NZ long-fibered sphagnum moss to one part pumice or lava rock. Another good mix is two parts lava rock, and or pumice to one part peat. Basically the mix should be airy and the rock ingredients will help cool the roots. Live sphagnum makes an ideal media as well.

Containers: Best in light-colored, preferably white, plastic or glazed ceramic pots. Single plants grow well in six- to eight-inch pots. The bigger the pot the better really, as their mass will resist warming. They do well in deeper mini-bogs and bog gardens too.

Watering: Use the tray method, keeping the soil damp to wet year round. Keep the soil cool by watering with cold water, (refrigerated water is quite helpful on warm summer days).

Light: Partly sunny is best. Shade the pots if possible to keep the solar heat at a minimum.

Climate:Warm-temperate plants, Darlingtonia need warm summers and chilly winters. They prefer cool evenings during the summer time. Tolerant of light frost and brief freezes.

Sun Pitchers(Heliamphora Sp.)

Soil: Use a mix comprised of mostly NZ long-fibered sphagnum moss with some pumice or lava rock mixed in. Basically the mix should be airy and the rock ingredients will help keep the mix open and cool. They may be grown in live sphagnum also, but take care that it doesn't overwhelm the Heliamphora.

Containers: Best in light-colored, preferably white, plastic or glazed ceramic pots. Single plants grow well in six- to eight-inch pots. The bigger the pot the better really, as their mass will resist warming.

Watering: Use the tray method, keeping the soil damp to wet year round. Keep the soil cool by watering with cold water, (refrigerated water is quite helpful on warm summer days).

Light: Heliamphora like bright light. They may be grown with less light, but they will remain much greener. In a terrarium, high powered fluorescent light should be used.

Climate:With the exception of the lowland form of H. heterodoxa, all Heliamphora come form high plateaus called the Tepuis in Venezuela. It is cool and misty all year, so they require bright light, without ever heating up. Even cooler nights are ideal. This makes Heliamphora very challenging to grow. They may be grown on cool sunny windowsills sometimes, but the best plants are grown in climate controlled greenhouses or terrariums where day temps remain in the 70's and night time temps in the 40's to 50's. With these guys heat is the enemy.

Australian Pitcher Plants (Cephalotus follicularis)

Soil: Cephalotus thrive in a mix if two parts sand and / or perlite to one part peat.

Containers: Plastic containers are best, but they also do well in terra-cotta or glazed clay. Always use drained containers; shallow un-drained containers will rot their roots.

Watering: Use the tray method. Cephalotus dislikes long periods of being waterlogged, so it is best to allow the water in the tray to evaporate before adding more.

Light: Full to part sun. They can be grown in terrariums under bright fluorescent light.

Climate: Cephalotus does best with moderately warm summers and cool to chilly winters. The plants may die in long periods of very hot weather, and they enjoy cool summer nights. They are tolerant of brief, light frost down to twenty-two degrees, but may be killed in lower temperatures. They are best grown in cool highland greenhouse or terrariums. They can be grown outdoors year-round in extremely coastal Central-Southern California.

Dewy Pines (Drosophyllum lusitanicum)

Soil: Unlike most carnivores, Dewy Pines need to be kept a little on the dry side. As such they require a special mix. We use a mix composed of equal parts perlite, pumice, peat moss, course vermiculite, and sand.

Containers: Plant your dewy pine into a large terra-cotta clay pot. It should be at least 12" in diameter. We ship our dewy pines in 4" round peat pot nestled into a protective plastic pot. When you receive it, remove all the packing material including the NZ sphagnum moss we use to hold its loose soil in place during shipping. Gently slide the peat pot out of the plastic pot it was shipped in, if it resists, you may cut away the plastic pot with heavy kitchen shears or pruners. Once liberated, you may put a few slits in the sides of the peat pot. This will help the roots find their way out, but is not absolutely necessary because the pot will quickly break down once planted. This allows you to transplant your little dewy pine without disturbing their sensitive roots.

Watering: Use the tray method to water young plants. For the first 6-8 months they should be kept damp at all times. As they approach maturity, they should no longer sit in water for long periods of time. In the Spring and Summer, large plants should be allowed to dry slightly before you water again. Do not allow them to dry out so much that wilting occurs, but the soil can get surprisingly dry before this happens. Wilting will damage roots and set the plant back. Flowering plants should be kept even a bit drier.

Light:Full hot sun is best even on the hottest ,driest days.

Climate:Dewy Pines are Mediterranean natives. They can be grown easily outdoors year-round in California and the Southwest or anywhere else with hot dry summers and rainy winters. They even can take light frost and brief freezes. They should be brought in or protected during long freezes below 25 degrees. Ours plants take night time temps of 25 degrees without damage, as long as it warms back up during the day.

Bladderworts (Utricularia sp.)

Soil:
Aquatic species: One cup of peat well-mixed into each gallon of water. Tropical: A good mix is equal parts fine orchid bark, NZ long-fibered sphagnum , peat and perlite.
Terrestrial Species: Use a mix of two parts peat to one part sand or perlite.

Containers: Plastic containers with drainage holes work best for terrestrial and epiphytic species. Most terrestrials also do well in un-drained containers. If you wish to view the bladders on terrestrials grow them in glass containers with removable black plastic sheeting of construction paper wrapped along the outside of the glass below the soil level.

Watering: Use the tray method for terrestrials and tropicals, keeping the soil wet.

Light: Full to part sun. Most bladderworts prefer a shady nook in the outside bog garden.

Climate: There are 226 species of Bladderworts and they grow virtually worldwide, thus they come from varied climates. Our tropical species do best in warm greenhouses and terrariums. The other little terrestrials make wonderful, miniature, flowering ground covers in the spaces around your other carnivores.

Please consult "The Savage Garden" by Peter D'Amato for specific species requirements.

Rainbow Plants (Byblis sp.)

Soil: Rainbow Plants thrive in a mix if two parts sand and one part peat. You can also add an additional part of perlite, lava rock, pumice. Do not substitute the sand for perlite in this case.

Containers: Plastic containers are best, but they also do well in terra-cotta or glazed clay. Always use drained containers; shallow un-drained containers will rot their roots.

Watering: Use the tray method. Keep the soil damp but not permanently waterlogged.

Light: Full to part sun.

Climate: The rainbow plant does best best in tropical climates, but its annual nature allows you to grow it during any span of several months of warm weather. Also, they are great little terrarium plants. Dry summer dormancy is not necessary in cultivation.

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