For a truly organic way to deter bugs in their relentless pursuit of creating havoc in any garden, why not try out some pitcher plants or butterworts? The carnivorous plants will become fat and sassy, but the bugs will die. Though carnivorous plants are set in their ways, they’re generally easy to grow once you’ve got their likes and dislikes figured out. Just don’t go to the nearest retailer and come home with a Venus Flytrap. They’re amazing plants, but you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. I would know because I keep buying them, despite the fact they never last very long. Keep on reading for some great carnivorous plants that are fun to grow, and less likely to get killed off themselves.
The sad truth about Venus Flytraps is that they are native to the Green Swamp in North Carolina and nowhere else in the world. Flytraps are popular but very finicky. They’re pretty much the high school “mean girl” of the plant world: beautiful, dangerous, and high maintenance. Like most mean girls, they also have an aversion to anything that could be considered fattening, so hamburger is definitely off the menu. They live off the juices of their victims. After all, bugs are leaner and more highly digestible. I’m not kidding when I say don’t feed the flytraps, because it could kill them.
The same is true when it comes to fertilizer and any carnivorous plant. The most microscopic bit of Miracle Grow in their potting soil will cause them to croak. Even potting soils that are not marked as having fertilizer in them might, which can result in massive carnage. As a result, it is always a good idea to purchase soil for these plants from reputable online companies in spite of the fact that the shipping prices may cause heart failure.
Carnivorous plants also don’t drink tap water. They like their beverages straight from the sky or distilled. To meet their beverage requirements, rainwater can be caught in clean containers and applied as needed. If it hasn’t rained recently, you can always purchase gallon jugs of distilled water at nearby stores. Putting your carnivorous plants in deep, water filled saucers is a great way of keeping them hydrated, even during the warmest months.
So if not Venus Flytraps, what then?
You should definitely try pitcher plants, because they’re great for beginners and fun for everyone else. The ones in the pictures are roughly about three years old. Many species are native to the Southeastern United States and Gulf Coast areas. As a result, they can be left outside all winter without coming to grief. Sarracenia purpurea, the fat purplish green type, are a good choice for Northern gardeners because they’re more resistant to cold. The paler variety depicted is a Sarracenia alata and it can be left outside all winter in the South.
In the spring or fall, you should trim off the dead pitchers before the plants start growing new ones. This makes them look much tidier and also prevents rot or disease from taking hold. Pitcher plants are more tolerant of low water conditions than any other carnivorous plant, but even they need to be kept damp at all times.
Butterworts are somewhat harder to grow than pitcher plants. They do not live long after flowering and about two years is average otherwise. Therefore, it is best to pinch off any flowers that sprout. I couldn’t bring myself to do so and mine died. Some species of butterwort are native to North America and these require less care than tropical varieties, so you should definitely look for these types when making a purchase.
Sundews are an intermediate level plant. What typically kills them is cold weather, because many of the commonly sold varieties are native to Australia. However, dew thread sundews are native to the southern United States and Gulf Coast areas and they don’t have to be brought in in the winter. Again, the key to being successful with these plants is not letting them flower and keeping them well hydrated.
A good way to find out what carnivorous plants will work well for your current growing conditions is by using the plant finder online at Sarracenia Northwest. They are also an excellent company to buy plants and supplies from because they deliver a good quality product. My youngest pitcher, a ‘Scarlet Belle’, came from them several years ago as did the potting soil for a number of the other plants. They were also voted among the top sellers for carnivorous plants in 2014 by Dave’s Garden Watchdog website. Thanks to Sarracennia Northwest and the International Carnivorous Plant Society’s FAQ pages for some of the details in this article.
Have you successfully grown carnivorous plants in your yard? What did or did not work for your growing conditions? Let us know all about it in the comment section.