Q. Are there carnivorous plants that I can grow at home?
Many species of carnivorous plants can be grown in the home but they are somewhat more difficult to grow than most house plants as you will need to duplicate the extreme conditions that these plants grow under in the wild and this is not easy. The two most important parameters to consider are light and humidity.
Most carnivorous plants grow in full sun in their natural habitat, so you need to locate your indoor plants close to a sunny east or south-facing window. West-facing windows may get too hot in the afternoon and north-facing windows should be avoided. If you are using a terrarium then it should be located a foot or so back from the window so that the interior does not get too hot. Carnivorous plants can also be grown under lights. At least two T5 (40 watt) fluorescent bulbs should be used.
The air in most private houses is too dry for carnivorous plants to grow well so you will need some way of increasing the humidity around your plants. One way to do this is place the plant pot in a saucer or tray containing pebbles and a layer of water. The water should be topped up continuously.Misting the plants is also helpful. Terraria are ideal for growing carnivorous plants as the atmosphere can be kept continuously humid. Nevertheless, the top of the terrarium should be left open or partially covered to allow for air circulation.
The soil requirement for carnivorous plants depends partly on the species but, in general, a mixture of one part sphagnum moss and one part sand will work. The soil should be kept moist but not soggy.
Food and Fertilizer
Many experts recommend that you should not fertilize carnivorous plants at all. If you decide to use fertilizer then use a soluble fertilizer diluted to one fifth the standard strength as a foliar spray. A big question is - do you have to feed the plants with insects? The simplest answer is that your plants will be healthier and grow better if they are fed fresh food. Either you can catch your own insects or you can buy insects from a pet store (usually sold for feeding reptiles and amphibians). Feed them once a month, from spring to fall.
If you are using a terrarium then leaving the plants in their pots rather than growing them in a layer of soil at the bottom of the terrarium is recommended. Not only is this simpler but it allows the soil conditions to be varied for the different plants.
Temperate species carnivorous plants need a dormancy in the winter. This means less light if you are using artificial lights. Also, they prefer cooler temperates for a period of about three months in the winter. They can be moved to a north-facing window or, even better, to a window in a basement or garage.
Commonly grown carnivorous plants
Sundew (Drosera spp.). These have rounded, sticky "dew drops"..
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). Have leaves shaped like a clam-shell. These close quickly when an insect lands on them.
Hardy pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.). They have long necks covered by a hood.
Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.). These are the most dramatic of all the carnivorous plants. They have large pitchers which hang down from the plant. They need plenty of room and best grown in greenhouses and converatories.
There are numerous other species That can be grown at home and ordered from specialized nurseries. Many of them are listed in this book (which also has useful information on their culture):
P.D'Amato. The Savage Garden. Cultivating Carnivorous Plants.Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA 1998.
Further information can be obtained from the International Carnivorous Venus flytrap Plant Society: http://www.carnivorousplants.org/.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information