Basics of Carnivorous Plant Care
Congratulations on your new plant! Please be sure to read all of the information below on how to care for your carnivore. Be aware that plants do not enjoy being packaged up, placed in a dark box and shipped. While we do everything we can to mitigate the stress from the journey; your plant may need a bit of time to recover from this process and to acclimate to its new home. You may see a few of the leaves turn brown or black and die, on sundews the dew will need a few days to regenerate and there will be little to no fluid in the pitcher plants. You can add a bit of distilled water to the pitchers to jump start the process if you like.
Carefully remove all of the packaging from your plants. Gently remove the plastic wrap and tape that was used to secure your plant during shipping. Remove the plastic cup from the top of the plant. Your plant may have New Zealand sphagnum around the base of the plant; carefully remove this. (PLEASE NOTE: Nepenthes do not need to have the sphagnum removed).
All carnivorous plants require very pure water with few dissolved salts. Reverse-osmosis, deionized, distilled & rain waters are best. The water vending machines at your local grocery store are also a good option. Beware; PUR & Brita filtered waters are not adequate. Locally; Santa Rosa city, Guerneville city, East Bay MUD, some municipal water & Sacramento area water that comes from the river may be used on carnivorous plants. Not sure how your water is? Bring or mail us a sample of your water to check it out. The chlorine in city water has no ill effect.
An outdoor carnivore requires no fertilizer, but MaxSea 16-16-16 should be used on indoor plants once a month during the growing season at ¼ tsp/gallon. Sprinkle the plants foliarly, lightly.
For further information please read “The Revised Savage Garden” by Peter D’Amato, co-owner and founder of California Carnivores. You can also call or email with your questions.
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea m.) The flytrap is a temperate plant that requires a chilly winter dormancy. In areas with mild winters, they should be grown outdoors year-round in part to full sun. They can take light frost to 20°F. Keep sitting in water all year. They may be grown on a very sunny windowsill spring-summer, but should be put outside from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, so they can go dormant. In areas with long, cold winters flytraps may be over wintered on windowsills in an unheated room or garage. Transplanting is best done in winter & flytraps should be potted in 1 part Canadian sphagnum peat moss to 1 part hort. sand or 4 parts peat to 1 part perlite. Cover the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot with a wad of domestic long fibered sphagnum moss so the mix doesn‘t run out. Flowers may be cut off in the spring for bigger & more numerous traps.
American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia) Care is the same as for the flytrap, see above. Cut back old brown pitchers.
Sundews (Drosera) Sundews require sunny conditions. Grows in the same potting mix as flytraps. The cape sundew & all the other sub-tropical sundews will grow year round indoors on windowsills, but can survive light frost outdoors. The tropical sundews are best grown in a terrarium or greenhouse with high humidity & bright lights. Temperate sundews are Dormant in winter. Winter growing sundews, such as hookeri & cistiflora will be dormant spring-fall.
Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes) Grow on sunny windowsills with at least three hours of direct sun, in greenhouses, or in a terrarium with fluorescent light (T-5 fluorescent fixtures are ideal). Set the photoperiod to 12 hours. High humidity is preferred. Highland Nepenthes like day temps in the 70’s-80’s & require a 10-20 degree drop in night temps. Lowland Nepenthes require constant temps in the 70’s- 80’s. Pot into a New Zealand sphagnum moss mix with perlite, orchid bark, & tree fern fiber. Do not sit the pots in water for long periods of time as they may rot. Keep soil moist between watering.
Butterworts (Pinguicula) Temperate Pings go dormant back to a tight bud & can survive cold winters. They can be grown outdoors in much of the United State. Subtropical Pings can be grown outdoors in areas with mild winters & can survive some frost. Grow Mexican butterworts on sunny windowsills, in greenhouses, or terrariums protected from frost. They form a rosette of dry succulent-looking leaves in the winter, during which they should be kept a little drier. All require partly sunny conditions. Plant temperate & subtropical pings in a flytrap mix & Mexican pings grow in our custom Pinguicula mix.
Bladderworts (Utricularia) Grow terrestrial bladderworts, like cape sundews. Tropical bladderworts may be grown like tropical pitcher plants.
Cobra Plants (Darlingtonia) Cobra plants can be difficult to grow. They may be grown outdoors in areas with mild winters & cool summers. They require partly sunny light, but may die if the soil heats up. Try them in large white ceramic pots shielded from sun. They sometimes do well with only morning sun or filtered all day. Pot into New Zealand sphagnum moss with a little perlite or pumice.
Dewy Pines (Drosophyllum) Dewy Pines arrive in a 4" peat pot nestled inside a plastic pot. Gently slide the peat pot out of the plastic pot. If it resists, you may carefully cut the plastic pot away with heavy kitchen shears or pruners. Plant the peat pot into an 8" clay pot. You may cut a few slits in the peat pot to allow the roots an immediate way out, but the pot will break down quickly regardless. Use a mix of equal parts perlite, pumice, washed horticultural sand and peat. They prefer a Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters and hot dry summers. They can survive light frosts down to 25 degrees at night. Young plants may sit in trays of water, but as they mature, less water is preferred, especially in the summer. In most of California, they may be grown outdoors year-round.
Australian Pitcher Plants (Cephalotus) These plants thrive bright greenhouses or in terrariums under fluorescent lights. They may also do well on very sunny windowsills. Water with distilled or rain water frequently, do not let the pots sit in water for long periods of time. Let the tray dry out in between watering but do not let the soil dry out too much. They like daytime temperatures in the 70’s-80’s with a 10-20 degree drop in night temps and can tolerate light frost.
Air Plants (Tillandsia) Air plants are not carnivorous but make great companion plants to our carnivores. Best grown indoors, year round. Grow in bright, filtered light. Thoroughly wet plant two to three times a week, do not let water collect in base of plant which could lead to rotting. Mist heavily in between watering. If the leaves begin to curl excessively your plant needs more water. Plants can be mounted to wood, shells, etc using a glue like e6000. They appreciate diluted MaxSea fertilizer sprayed on their leaves monthly.
Sun Pitchers (Heliamphora) They thrive in cool, well lit greenhouses or in terrariums under florescent light. They appreciate bright light but be careful not to overheat. They are temperature sensitive. Keep daytime temperatures no higher than 80 degrees. They like a 10-20 degree drop in night temps. Pot into a New Zealand sphagnum moss mix with perlite, orchid bark, & tree fern fiber. Do not sit the pots in water for long periods of time as they may rot. Keep soil moist between watering