Beginners Guide to Carnivorous Plants
Do you want to grow carnivorous plants? Don’t worry! It doesn’t need to be hard.
The majority of carnivorous plants are quite adaptable. If you can provide the conditions described below, they will be happy in your care.
Table of Contents
- Understanding Climate
- Light Levels
- All About Water
- Ensuring Airflow
- Choosing the Correct Media
Carnivorous plants grow on every continent except Antarctica. The first step to caring for a plant is understanding its native habitat.
Broadly, carnivorous plants grow in two types of environments:
- In a tropical environment a plant grows year round. Tropical environments are close to the equator and generally hot and humid. An example of tropical environment is Hawaii.
- In a temperate environment plants grow seasonally. Temperate environments are warm during the summer but cold during winter, which is when plants go dormant. An example of temperate environment is Upstate New York.
Below is a table that summarizes the conditions required for each carnivorous plant genus.
Each species evolved to thrive in highly specific temperature ranges. Not getting the correct climate is one of the most common mistakes when starting to grow carnivorous plants.
|Climate||Day Temperature Range||Night Temperature Range|
Note: Lowland, intermediate, and highland refers to the elevation a plant is found in a tropical climate.
We recommend beginners start growing in the intermediate range.
Whether you’re a budding beginner or a skilled enthusiast, getting the right light levels are critical to growing happy, healthy carnivorous plants.
|Light Type||Required Duration||Common Ways to Achieve|
|Direct Light||~8 Hours||Growing outdoors|
Under grow lights
|Indirect Light||~8 Hours||East, west, or south-facing window|
Direct light filtered through shade cloth
|Shade||~8 Hours||North-facing window|
Outdoors with no direct sun exposre
What to dive deeper into lighting? Head over to our facility page to check out our lighting setup.
All About Water
Carnivorous plants tend to come from environments where water and moisture are abundant, but every genus has its own particular requirements. Learn about the different aspects of watering carnivorous plants below!
Plants that require high water should never have a dry pot. How often they need to be watered depends on the size of the plant relevant to the pot, but the media should always be damp.
Plants that require moderate water can have their media dry out occasionally, but should be damp most of the time.
The best way to ensure correct humidity levels is to get a humidistat. If your humidity level is too low or high, you may need to get a humidifier or dehumidifier, respectively.
|Humidity Requirement||Acceptable Humidity Level|
Some carnivorous plants evolved in acidic ecosystems such as a bog, while others evolved in tropical rainforests. Regardless of the exact ecosystem, the one unifying factor is high moisture content. In cultivation, how plants get watered is a key component to their health.
|Bottom Water||Place the pot in a tray of standing water. This water should be replaced every 3-4 days.|
|Top Water||Spray water on the plant as if it were getting rained on.|
As a general rule, carnivorous plants prefer rainwater, distilled, or reverse osmosis water. Water collected through other means, such as tap, generally has salts that will kill the plant.
One thing that all carnivorous plants need is good airflow. Proper circulation minimizes the risk of fungal and algal growth, which can negatively impact your plant’s health.
Unless you’re growing outdoors or in a well circulated house, we often recommend running a fan to ensure your plants stay happy and health.
Choosing the Correct Media
Many carnivorous plants eat insects because they evolved in waterlogged soils with extremely limited nutrients. While many types of media can be used to grow carnivorous plants, here is what we use in our greenhouse.
Potted Nepenthes most commonly use sphagnum moss mixes. This soil has a low ph (5.3-5.8) and high porosity, creating an optimal media for most carnivorous plants. The perlite content allows water to freely flow through the pot while the sphagnum moss retains enough moisture for plants to thrive.
Coconut coir is a great medium for carnivorous and tropical plants. It also has a smaller ecological footprint than sphagnum moss mixes. It provides the right conditions for plant health with a lower risk of a waterlogged pot.
This media is very porous with a low PH (5.3-5.5). These conditions are achieved via a combination of sand, peat moss, and perlite. This is an optimal soil for most Drosera, Cephalotus, Heliamphora, Dionea, and Darlingtonia.
Ultramafic media promotes healthy root development and growth for Nepenthes from select regions of Borneo and the Philippines (ex. villosa, clipeata, peltata, argentii etc.). The media contains low amounts of calcium and nitrogen, yet high amounts of magnesium, nickel, chromium, and other heavy metals.
We grow our Pinguicula in vermiculite only.
Interested in learning more?
Check out these additional resources!