Carnivorous Plant Care Guides

The following information is intended as a general guide for the cultivation and propagation of carnivorous plants.

 

Cephalotus – Albany Pitcher Plant 

Cultivation:

A varied range of compost mixes work well for different people, but we use a mix of two part by volume of peat to one part perlite. Watering should be done using the tray system with plants standing in a few centimetres of rainwater. During Winter dormancy, plants should be kept just damp. Cephalotus grow well in either full sun or bright shade. Plants grown in full sun have brighter coloured pitchers, whereas plants grown in bright shade tend to have larger pitchers. During Winter these plants require a minimum temperature of 5˚C and must be kept frost free.

Propagation:

Seed: Seed should be sown as soon as possible after harvesting, and sprinkled on the surface of suitable compost. A fine covering of sieved compost should be added to cover the seeds. Place the newly sown seeds in a warm humid environment. Germination should take place in around four to six weeks, and seedlings can be potted on the following Spring. Seedlings take 4-5 years to reach maturity.

Division: Large, mature plants can be divided to produce new plants. This is best done in early Spring to allow the new plants the entire growing season to get established. Remove the soil from the plant and cut the new plants from the fleshy roots of the parent plant. Pot the new plants up in suitable compost for Cephalotus.

Leaf Cuttings: This is best done in Spring or Early Summer, and both carnivorous and non-carnivorous leaves can be used. When removing the leaves, ensure that the entire white base of the stalk is taken. The leaf should be placed in a pot of suitable compost ensuring the white part of the stalk is buried. Usually, new growth will not be seen until the following Spring.

 

Darlingtonia – The Cobra Lilly 

Cultivation:

Darlingtonia is fairly easy to grow as long as a few simple rules are followed.  In their natural habitat, Darlingtonia grow in deep bogs with a high Sphagnum content, and their roots are kept cool by the flowing water.  We use a compost mix using equal parts by volume of Sphagnum moss peat and perlite. Plants should be watered with rainwater using the tray method. NEVER use tap water. On hot days, we also flush our plants with cold rainwater

Propagation:

Seed: Growing from seed is an easy but slow method of propagation. Fresh seed can be sown on the surface of suitable compost for Darlingtonia.  Once germinated, the seedlings can be left to grow together for one season. They can then be planted individually the following Spring. Plants can take five years or more to reach maturity.

Division: Mature plants often form underground runners which will eventually appear on the surface of the soil to form new plants. These plantlets can be cut away in late Spring or early Summer and potted up. Place the newly potted plants out of direct sunlight for a couple of weeks to allow their new roots to fully establish. Large mature plants can be removed from their pots in late Spring and divided into new plants.

Runners: In addition to division, the long stolons can be used to produce new plants. Remove the plant from its pot, and  cut the stolons into suitable lengths. Fill a pot with finely chopped sphagnum moss, and lay the cut stolons on the surface. Small plants will form along the stolon, which can then be removed and potted up into a suitable potting mixture, once the plants are big enough.

 

Dionaea Muscipula – The Venus Fly Trap 

Cultivation:

The Venus Fly Trap can be grown in a variety of different compost mixes including Sphagnum moss, moss peat, peat and sand or peat and perlite mixes. We use a mixture of 3 parts by volume Sphagnum moss peat to one part perlite. Venus Fly Traps should be grown in full sun all through the year. This helps to create a stronger plant with deeper colouration of the traps. During the growing season, water using the tray system using rainwater. An alternative to rainwater is reverse osmosis water or distilled water. NEVER use tap water, as this will kill the plant. During Winter, the plant will enter a state of dormancy, and as such watering should be reduced to the point where the plant is kept just damp.

Propagation:

Seed: Fresh seed collected can be sown straight away, or kept in the fridge and sown the following Spring. Seed should be sown in a suitable compost for Venus Fly Traps, and kept in a warm and humid environment with plenty of light. Once germination has occurred, the young plants can be potted individually to avoid overcrowding.

Leaf Cuttings: Also known as “leaf pullings”, these are best done in Spring or early Summer. Remove a complete leaf ensuring as much of the white base of the af stalk is retained as possible. Push the leaf into suitable compost, making sure the white part of the stem is buried beneath the compost. Several leaf cuttings can be placed in one pot. Keep moist and place in a humid position with plenty of light. After roughly 6 to 8 weeks, small plantlets should have formed at the base of the old leaf. The pots can now be exposed to more direct sunlight. Once the plantlets have developed their own root system, they can be separated from the old leaf and potted up individually.

Division: Mature plants can be divided to produce several new plants. Remove the plant from it’s pot, and shake off the soil. New plants can be carefully teased away from the main plant. These should separate quite easily. These should be potted up individually and placed in a bright but shady position until signs of new growth can be seen. At this stage they can be moved into brighter sunlight.

Rhizome Scales: During the plants Winter dormancy, the base of the old leaves form ‘scales’ around the rhizome. These can be carefully removed and used as cuttings exactly the same as leaf cuttings.

Runners: In addition to division, the long stolons can be used to produce new plants. Remove the plant from it’s pot, and cut the stolons into suitable lengths and lay them on the surface of a pot filled with finely chopped Sphagnum moss. Small plants should be produced along the stolon, and when large enough to handle can be potted up individually.

 

Drosera – Sundew 

Cultivation:

We grow the more widely available Sundews in a compost mixture of two parts by volume Sphagnum moss peat to one part sand. However, some Sundews prefer a more sandy mix. Sundews thrive on full sunlight and grow best when given a minimum temperature of 8˚C. Watering should be via the tray system, with plants standing in a couple of centimetres of rainwater during the growing season. During Winter dormancy, some species require to be kept just damp, whilst others require completely dry conditions.

Propagation:

Seed: Most species of Drosera can easily be grown from seed. Spread the seed over the surface of suitable compost mixture and water using the tray system. Germination can occur as quickly as 2 to 3 weeks, but for some species germination may take months or years, and require special conditions. For detailed requirements for individual species we suggest you contact one of the many professional growers within the UK.

Leaf Cuttings: During the growing season, leaf cuttings can be taken to produce new plants in a relatively short period of time. For smaller species such as Drosera Rotundifolia or Drosera Spatulata, the whole leaf can be gently pulled away from the mature plant. It is important to keep as much of the white base of the leaf as possible. Gently push the removed lesf into the relevant compost, ensuring the white base part is buried. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and place in a bright shady area. Germination should be seen after 3 to 5 weeks. For the large growing species such as Drosera Binata, sections of leaves can be used. Place the cuttings tentacle side up on the compost surface and then gently push it  into the compost without covering it. Another leaf cutting method of propagating the more difficult to cultivate species is to float the leaves in some distilled water. If the water starts to turn green, replace it and replace the cuttings into the fresh water. This should continue to be done until roots have developed. Young plants produced by all three leaf cutting methods should only be transplanted once a root system has developed.

Root Cuttings: Species which grow from a large thickened tap-root can be increased by way of root cuttings. These should be taken in Spring or early Summer from healthy roots only. Sections of the roots can be cut into short lengths and placed vertically into a pot containing the relevant compost. Cut sections can also be placed across the surface of the compost and covered with a light dusting of compost. Germination should be seen in 1 or 2 months if kept in a warm, damp and bright environment. It is important to remember that when taking root cuttings you ensure there are still some roots remaining on the parent plant.

Gemmae: Gemmae are tiny buds formed around the base of pygmy Sundews during their winter dormancy period. These can be removed during the dormant period before the plants come back into active growth, and potted into the relevant compost mix. Gemmae should start to grow within a few weeks, with the new plants quickly reaching maturity.

 

Genlisea - The Corkscrew Plant  

Cultivation:

These plants are best grown in compost of equal parts by volume of peat & perlite. A minimum Winter temperature of 10˚C is required for all species. Water using the tray system with rainwater only. The plants should stand in a couple of centimetres of water all year round.

Propagation:

Seed: Sprinkle the seed onto a pot of damp compost, and give them warmth and humidity. However, an alternative to grow from seed is to sow them in small dish of distilled water, and once they have germinated one or two leaves they can be transplanted into suitable compost. Germination is usually 3 - 4 weeks, but may take longer.

Division: This is usually more reliable than growing from seed. Plants that have formed multiple crowns can be divided. Many plants will produce separate plants from their roots, which can be removed and potted.

Trap Cuttings: Separate well formed traps from the parent plant and placed on the soil surface, and covered with a thin layer of compost. New shoots should be seen in 6 to 8 weeks, which can then be potted individually.

Leaf Cuttings; These work best by removing a several leaves in a small clump. It's important that whole leaves are used, including their white stalk base. The leaves should be inserted into suitable compost ensuring the white base is buried. New growth should be seen in a few weeks.

Heliamphora – Sun Pitcher 

Cultivation:

We use a mix of equal parts by volume of Sphagnum peat moss and perlite. As with most carnivorous plants, water with rainwater using the tray system. Plants should also be watered from above with rainwater to allow the pitchers to fill up. These plants also require high humidity at all times. Regular misting will be necessary if the humidity levels in a glasshouse are not high enough. All Heliamphora will survive temperatures as low as  5˚C but we would advise a minimum Winter temperature of 10˚C.  Remarkably for carnivorous plants, Heliamphora can actually be fed with fertiliser. A ¼ strength foliar feed once or twice a week throughout the growing season can be beneficial.

Propagation:

Seed: Raising these plants from seed is a reliable but slow process. Newly sown seed should be kept in a warm and humid environment. Germination usually takes between 6 to 8 weeks, but can actually take months. Seedlings should be allowed to grow on for 1 year to allow time for them to establish a good root system, after which time they can be potted up individually.

Division: Large plants can be divided with great care as Heliamphora are very fragile plants. Remove the plant from its pot and shake of the soil. Select a section of the rhizome which have at least one good head of pitchers with a good amount of root growth. Cut the rhizome with a clean sharp knife, and pot up the new plants in suitable Heliamphora compost.

 

Nepenthes – Monkey Cup 

Cultivation:

The main requirements for successful cultivation are high humidity, correct temperature range, regular watering and bright indirect light. Highland species can be given a minimum temperature of 5˚C but must not become too hot during Summer months, with a preferred maximum temperature of 28˚C. Lowland species need a minimum temperature of 15˚C throughout the year. Composts must be open and free draining and can be mixes of Sphagnum Moss, perlite, orchid bark, coarse peat. More simple mixes of live or dead Sphagnum moss and perlite can also be used. Nepenthes do not need to stand in water, and so the plant needs to be kept moist throughout the year. Misting is also beneficial. Nepenthes do not have a Winter dormancy period so watering can continue all year round. As with Heliamphora, Nepenthes can in fact be fed with ¼ strength foliar feed once or twice a week.

Propagation:

Seed: Nepenthes seed has a short shelf life, and should therefore be sown fresh on the surface of moist Sphagnum moss, either dead or slow growing, and placed in the same environment as the parent plant. Germination typically takes between 6 to 8 weeks, with the seedlings benefiting from a regular spraying of dilute fertiliser until they are large enough to produce pitchers and catch prey for themselves.  Orchid fertiliser at ¼ of the manufacturers recommended strength works well. The seedlings should be allowed to grow on for 1 year to allow for a good root system before potting on.

Stem Cuttings: One of the easiest ways to propagate Monkey Cups is to take stem cuttings. This can be done at any time of the year, although Spring is the best time whilst the plants are actively growing. Stems need to be cut between leaf joints, with each cutting having a minimum of three leaves. Cuttings taken from the top of the stem which have the main growing point are likely to be most successful, although cuttings taken from lower down will also work. Dip the lower end of the cutting into hormone rooting powder and place into live Sphagnum. The cuttings will need to be kept huimid, and in bright shade. After 4 to 6 weeks they should have developed a root system, and they can therefore be potted into the relevant compost individually.

 

Pinguicula - Butterwort 

Cultivation:

We grow ours in a mix of equal parts by volume of Sphagnum peat, sand, perlite and vermiculite.  Some species prefer an acidic soil and require a compost mix of three parts by volume Sphagnum pet to one part sand.

The temperate Butterworts need watering with rainwater using the tray method, with the pots standing in a few centimetres of water. During the winter dormancy period the soil should be kept just moist.  Most temperate species are hardy in the UK, and can therefore be grown outdoors.  Otherwise, a cool greenhouse is fine.

The Mexican species grow in rocky, free draining soil, so your compost mix will need to reflect this. We use a mix of two parts by volume of perlite and one part each of Sphagnum peat, sand and vermiculite. Most Mexican species grow best in bright shade in a greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 8˚C. The majority of Mexican species need to be kept damp throughout their growing period, and kept just moist over winter.  We stand ours in trays with capillary matting in the bottom, and ensure the matting is kept wet at all times. We never actually let the plants stand in water. A good watering guide is the tighter the winter rosette, then the less water is will need over winter.

The south-eastern USA species can be grown in live Sphagnum moss in a sunny position in the greenhouse. Watering should be via the tray method using rainwater during the summer, with the soil being kept just moist over winter. It should be noted that Pinguicula Primuliflora and Pinguicula Planifolia need higher water levels throughout the growing season, and even occasional flooding.

Propagation:

Seed: All Pinguicula species are fairly easy to raise from seed. For temperate species, seed is best to be sown in the autumn, with the compost being kept damp and cold over winter to ensure good germination in spring. For the species remaining in growth over winter, seed should be sown soon after collection, although they should not be subjected to cold. Seedlings should be allowed to grow on for one year after germination before being potted up individually. This is to allow for the development of a good root system.

Leaf Cuttings: Mexican Butterworts are easily propagated from leaf cuttings. You can remove leaves from the plant for propagation anytime during the growing period. During spring, when carnivorous growth re-starts, the majority of the small winter leaves may be removed without harming the plant. It is important to retain as much of the white base area of the leaf as possible. Push the leaf into the relevant compost mix, making sure the white area is buried. You should see signs of germination after 6 to 8 weeks. Another method of leaf cuttings is to place the leaf on the surface of some damp Sphagnum moss or vermiculite, and seal it in a clear plastic container. Put the box in bright shade and small plantlets should form at the base of the leaf. As soon as roots are visible, pot the plantlets up individually. This method is useful to produce large numbers of plants.

Gemmae: Temperate species form winter resting buds called gemmae or hibernacula. These can be detached and potted individually in spring before growth re-starts. The production of gemmae makes propagation of these species easy.

 

Sarracenia  – The Trumpet Pitcher 

Cultivation:

Trumpet Pitchers are amongst the easiest carnivorous plants to grow. We use a compost mix of three parts by volume of Sphagnum moss peat to one part perlite. In summer, Trumpet Pitchers should be watered using the tray system with rainwater. DO NOT use tap water as this will kill the plant.  The water should be several centimetres deep. During Winter dormancy, the water level should be reduced so that the plant remains just damp. Sarracenia should be grown in full sun all year. The majority of Sarracenia are capable of surviving temperatures down to -10˚C during their Winter Dormancy.

Propagation:

Seed: Fresh seed can be sown in compost suitable for Sarracenia immediately. To trigger germination, the seed needs a period of cold stratification, and as such can be placed in a fridge for  a period of around six weeks. After this time, the pots can be taken out and placed in normal growing conditions in a sunny position.  Plants can take upto 5 years to reach maturity when grown from seed. If you harvest seed from your plants, but don’t sow them straight away, the seed can again be stored in a fridge in a sealed envelope. When ready to sow, take them out and sow them in suitable compost and place in normal growing conditions.

Division: This is best done in early Spring when the new pitchers are starting to emerge. This is because at this stage the root growth will be at it’s maximum, giving the plant the best chance of recovery. Remove the plant from it’s pot and shake off the soil. The rhizome should have branched at least once, and in large plants maybe several times. Remove the rhizome behind the growing point, using a clean and sharp knife.  Ensure you leave enough root for the new plant to develop, and the parent plant to recover. Several new plants can be produced this way. If you have a piece of bare rhizome, this can be buried approximately half it’s depth in suitable compost. After around 2 months, new buds should have started to develop along it’s length. These canm either be left to produce a new multi-crowned plant, or removed to produce individual new plants as detailed above.

 

Utricularia – Bladderwort 

Cultivation:

Low growing terrestrial species need a compost mix of two parts by volume peat and one part sand. Watering should be by the tray system with rainwater, with plants standing in water all year round. Most of the small species grow best in bright shade to full sun.

The larger growing tropical species grow better in a more open compost mix containing live or dried Sphagnum moss, peat, orchid bark and perlite in equal proportions. Watering requirement vary depending on species but our general rule is damp rather than soaking wet compost. Some terrestrial species enter a dormant period during winter and as such the compost should be kept just moist. The larger tropical species grow best in bright shade or partial sun.

Alot of the aquatic species can be difficult to grow and a re best suited to a large aquarium or low nutrient acidic pond.  Temperate aquatic species grow best outdoors where they will get the chance to enter a dormant period over winter. Tropical aquatic species are best grown in a greenhouse. Some of the aquatic species may need an aquarium heater to keep the water warm over winter.

To prepare water for the aquatic species you can add a few handfuls of Sphagnum peat which has been boiled in 2 litres of water and left to infuse for a few days. This concentrate should then be drained from the peat, and mixed with rainwater and left for a further 2 to 3 weeks. During this period the yellowish brown  coloured water will slowly become clear, at which point the Bladderworts can be added. To minimise the chance of algae growing in the water, add floating plants such as duckweed. This will help reduce light penetration and nutrient levels. Adding water fleas will provide the plants with prey, and help reduce algal growth. Oxygenating plants are also an essential part of any aquatic set-up.

Propagation:

Seed: With terrestrial species the seed needs to be sprinkled on the surface of the compost, and kept in the same conditions as the parent plant. An alternative method is to sprinkle the seed onto distilled water in a small container. The seeds should germinate if kept in a bright shady position. The plantlets can be transferred to individual pots once they are large enough to handle.

Seed from the aquatic species can be sown into water and allowed to grow on as the parent plants do.

The most difficult species to raise from seed tend to be the tropical species.

Division: Simply divide an existing clump of plants and pot into suitable compost. Aquatic species can be increased by pulling or cutting off lengths 10cm or so long. You must ensure that each piece has at least one growing point.

 

Basic Guide To Watering Carnivorous Plants 

Carnivorous plants are found all over the world and in many varied habitats, but the following is a general guide for the majority of those most commonly grown in the UK. On the whole, they are bog plants and like wet compost but there are some exceptions such as Monkey Cups, some Butterworts, Bladderworts and Sundews and for these we recommend you check with the care guides.

As a general rule, if you can keep the compost very damp to slightly wet you will be giving your plant the ideal combination of water and oxygen.
The depth of the water will depend on the time of year, the type of plant and size of pot. When a plant is in full growth during the spring/summer you can more safely give it a larger depth of water as it will be used rapidly and not stagnate in the pot. As the water level goes down, oxygen will be pulled into the compost. At this time you can bring the water level up to a maximum of halfway up the pot but allow the water to be used before watering again.

During the autumn and winter allow your pots to get a little drier between watering - just damp is fine.  You can check the water in the pot by feeling the compost and the weight of the pot. Add enough water to be drawn up but don't leave too much standing water.

 

 

 

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