How to Take Care of Carnivorous Plants

Plants can be great additions to homes. Many of them purify the air, look amazing, and provide an opportunity for one to have a relaxed, loving, and patient hobby. It really is true that a person who loves plants and flowers cannot be a bad person. One of the more modern trends in the home-garden world is getting carnivorous plants. They are unusual, intriguing, and fun. They are some of the most interesting creatures on Earth, so it is no wonder more, and more people want to take care of them. In this article, we will write down a step-by-step guide to taking care of your carnivorous plant to help you give your leafy pet a great life!

How to Take Care of Carnivorous Plants
How to Take Care of Carnivorous Plants

The Soil

Both physically, biologically, and symbolically, the foundation of taking care of or growing a carnivorous plant is to be found in the soil. Generally speaking, many people accidentally kill their plants because they aren’t informed on the types of soil different plants grow in. This is one of the most crucial parts of taking care of any plant since it is where the plant gets its nutrients from, and where it will live its entire life. 

When looking at the soil needed to grow a specific plant or type of plant, one should look at the origin and the natural habitat of the plant. The nutrient-poor soils to which the carnivorous plants have adapted are often rich in peat and sand and are not like traditional flower soil. This type of low-nutrient soil can be substituted with a mixture of sphagnum peat moss and horticultural sand. Check the label or the tag on the peat for sphagnum moss, since this is the only type that will work properly, and other types will increase the chance of your plant dying or becoming sick. 

The sand you are using should be clean, and some of the better options you can choose from are playbox sand and horticultural sand. Avoid products that are labeled “contractor’s sand”, since these contain a lot of materials that might be harmful or just unhealthy to your plants, such as fine dust, silt, or unnecessary minerals.

Never use beach-sand or limestone-based sand, since their higher salt content might (and probably will) harm the plants. It isn’t all that important to get the ratio perfectly right. Aim for having equal parts of peat and sand, and that should work well for a majority of carnivorous plants. Venus flytraps, one of the more common household carnivorous plants in homes, prefer a bit more sand, whereas tropical pitcher plants prefer significantly higher amounts of peat. 

Making Sure There Is Enough Light

It doesn’t come as a surprise that generally speaking, carnivorous plants grow best in sunny conditions.  Many do well in partial sun as well, but you should be aiming for as much sunlight as possible. A windowsill which is facing North or an open and bright segment of your garden will be a great place to put these plants.

Nutrient-poor, overly moist bogs, and other types of loose and wet grounds provide some of the worst conditions for most carnivorous plants.  Those that do manage to survive in these areas are usually stunted or short in height. As a result of this, the most common and fruitful carnivorous plant habitat tends to be open and very sunny, since the constant heat and light from the Sun helps evaporate the excess water from the ground and dry it out somewhat so that carnivorous plants can thrive. 

Full sun can bring out the red pigmentation of most carnivorous plants, which is one of the main aesthetic reasons people get these types of plants. It would be a shame not to see the full colors of such creatures, and it is also unhealthy for them, so make sure you provide enough light. These plants also do well under artificial light with a timer set at somewhere around 12-14 hours.  Fluorescent tubes designed for plant growth work better than plain bulbs, but that is the case with almost all plants, not only the carnivorous ones. 

Getting the Water Right

One of the most important parts of growing plants and keeping them alive (just like with most living beings) is adjusting the type of water they consume and the amount as well. So, without further ado, let’s jump into it!

When it comes to carnivorous plants, they need plenty of water to grow healthily. Keep the soil damp or almost soggy at all times, and check on it regularly to make sure that it doesn’t dry out. These plants are used to living in warmer climates, where there is a lot of humidity in the air, so even if you cannot artificially recreate this sort of an atmosphere, do make sure that they get their water requirements from the soil. 

You can take the pots your plants are in and place them in a tray that is always half-filled with water. This way, even if the soil is becoming dry, there is water for it to soak up and then for the plant to consume. Replicating the soggy environment of carnivorous plants will require quite a lot of care, so make sure you take a look often. 

Also, the type of water you use really matters. The humidity in the air is mineral-free water. When you buy distilled water, you buy water that has been boiled and evaporated, and then let to condense again. This way, the minerals are taken out of the water, leaving you with a pure H2O liquid. You can also use the water from your dryer, as it is distilled. 

The less clean version of this is demineralized water, where the water is not boiled but is cleaned of minerals and salts. This isn’t as clean as distilled water, where with a couple of other procedures, all the minerals are removed from the water as well as 99.9% of organic material, leaving absolutely pure H2O. If you can’t get distilled water, demineralized water will do just as fine. As long as you are using mineral-free water or at least one with reduced mineral content, you should be fine. 

One of the ways you can make water for your carnivorous plants at home is by collecting rainwater. Keep a bucket under the downspout of your gutter or some other place where you can easily collect rainwater. You can also collect the water from the condensation pipe of your air-conditioning system or heat pump, which is basically distilled water. Reverse-osmosis water is also good for carnivorous plants. 

Carnivorous plants don’t grow well in nutrient-rich soil, since they are used to damp, low-nutrient soils. If you give your plant water from your tap, the minerals in there can harm or even kill your plants, since they build up toxicity over time as a result of the unusually large amount of minerals. This process is also called “over-fertilizing” or “burning out” your plants. 

In an emergency scenario, you can use tap water for a short period of time, however, you should aim at keeping these times as short as possible. Do not use tap water for more than a couple of days at an absolute maximum, but preferably not at all. 

Taking Care of Humidity

This step is closely related to the previous one, but it is important enough to deserve its own section. As mentioned before, most carnivorous plants are used to damp, soggy, mineral-deprived conditions. These bogs and swampy areas are also very humid, much more humid than the interior of any household or the air in most gardens. You should try to provide a humid environment for these plants if you want them to thrive optimally. 

One of the best ways to humidify the air for indoor carnivorous plants (which are placed right next to windows facing North for enough light, as mentioned earlier) is to place an air humidifier right next to the plants. This way, both you and your plants can enjoy the positive effects of a more humid environment. The reason it is important to place these devices right next to the plants is to ensure a higher percentage of humidity in the air in the immediate vicinity of the plants. This is a way you can provide an optimal atmosphere for your plants indoors without having to live in a sauna. 

Another way for you to increase humidity for your indoor carnivorous plant is to plant it inside an open terrarium. You can buy terrariums that don’t have their opening on the top, but rather somewhere on the side. This will allow the moisture that is evaporating from the damp soil to be trapped inside of the terrarium (not completely, but well enough), creating a more humid environment inside of the terrarium than what is in your home. This can also be a very stylish solution, so if you have the means, go for it!

If you plan on keeping your meat-eating friend outdoors, there are also a couple of different solutions. One of them is to keep them at somewhat of a distance from the other plants and keep the ground around the carnivorous plant very damp, almost like a swamp. Also, make sure that the soil you plant it in is in line with the criteria already mentioned in this article since the typical garden soil will probably be too firm and too dry for carnivorous plants. 

Another way to create a humid environment for these plants is to keep them in a greenhouse of some sort in your garden. This requires a lot of space and a lot of investment, so it is only an option for a small percentage of people, however, it might be one of the best ones. 

This is because you can build a greenhouse out of glass or some other, completely transparent material, which will allow the plants to receive just the right amount of sunlight, also while keeping a lot of water vapor inside the structure, providing a humid atmosphere for plants which require it.

 You can adjust the humidity in these greenhouses in many ways, like keeping a bunch of open water tanks in different spots around the place, or just keeping the soil of all the plants in there constantly damp, which will also cause the air to become highly humid due to the constantly evaporating water. 

If there is no way you can create a humid environment for your meat-eaters, make sure that you at least follow the other steps and rules needed to keep these plants healthy. Keep the soil really wet at all times so it resembles a swamp or a bog, keep the plant near the windows so it gets a lot of sunlight, and give it mineral-free water. Low humidity will probably cause the plant to be somewhat less healthy than it could be optimal, might stunt its growth, or the development of colorful pigments in the plant, but it won’t kill it or damage it too much. 

Important Tip

Do not ever place these plants in a completely sealed environment, since they can become infected with fungus if they aren’t left to breathe. Whether it is a greenhouse or a terrarium you are keeping them in, make sure you experiment a bit with the balance of fresh air and humidity and try to keep the optimal balance. 

If your plant seems to droop a bit or not look as lively when you close it in your greenhouse or place it in your terrarium, you should consider opening an extra window in the terrarium, getting more fresh air into the terrarium by placing it somewhere else or adjusting the size of the opening (if possible), or perhaps by reducing the amount of water you put in the soil by a bit. 

On the other hand, if you see the soil becoming baked or dry, and the plant turning a paler, somewhat brownish color even, make sure to increase the humidity in the plant’s immediate environment. 

Becoming Informed About Feeding

One of the primary reasons many people get themselves a carnivorous plant is because they are attracted by its unusual activity of feeding on actual meat. Carnivorous means meat-eating, which is why these plants are also called meat-eater plants. They feed on a bunch of different types of insects like flies, mosquitos, spiders, or ants. 

Generally, one would think that these plants eat about a mosquito or fly every couple of days since the process of closing down on the prey seems fast (which it is, compared to a plant), and also this topic is rarely talked about. 

In reality, the average meat-eating plant eats about 2 flies in a whole month. Insects are very nutrient-dense compared to the amount of “food” plants can produce with photosynthesis, so there is no need for these plants to eat insects more often. 

Carnivorous plants also produce their own food via photosynthesis, just like any other plant. For less-seasoned plant owners, photosynthesis is a process in which plants produce glucose (basically, sugar) from water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and a couple of nutrients. The nutrients are vital for the plant’s general functioning, not photosynthesis. 

Though carnivorous plants could survive on photosynthesis alone, in order for them to fully thrive and show their true colors (literally and figuratively speaking), they need to be fed insects once in a while. You can go to your local herbarium- or plant-specialized shop, and you will find that most of them sell frozen flies or other insects for this very purpose. You can keep these in your freezer and feed your meat-eater in regular intervals. 

An important aspect of feeding these plants is the way you should feed them. Try, as best as you can, to avoid touching the plants when feeding them. The reason for this is that you will most likely feed these plants with tweezers (which you should sterilize and clean after each use and keep separately for this purpose out of hygiene reasons), and the metal or wood tweezers can easily damage the plants. 

Fun Fact

Contrary to popular belief (or popular fear, that is), carnivorous plants cannot harm humans. Yes, some larger species can consume rodents and frogs, or other animals of that size, but there are no species of carnivorous plants that can tear off a part of a human or harm a human in any way. Some plants might have certain toxins or acids they use to kill their prey that might cause some minor skin irritation, but aside from that, there is no way a meat-eating plant can ever hurt a human, or any animal larger than small rodents or frogs at best. 

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