Friday, July 11, 2014

Exotic Plants in the Garden

I felt like showing off and talking about some of the more exotics plants in my garden.  And by exotic, I mean carnivorous!

Welcome to the jungle!
In this photo, you can see pitcher plants, Venus flytraps, a sundew, and some flowering utricularia (aka bladderworts).

Before we started collecting carnivorous plants, I knew nothing about them.  I thought they were all tropical, and were indoor-only or terrarium plants.  It turns out that is completely wrong!  (North American carnivorous plants don't require a terrarium.)

Venus flytrap (or VFT)

While there are tropical carnivorous plants (like certain kinds of pitcher plants and sundews), carnivorous plants grow naturally in many places in North America.  For example, Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) are native to North Carolina (cool fact -- a 60-mile radius in North Carolina is the only place in the world they grow naturally).  You can find sundews (Drosera) in bogs all over the world, and 4 of the 194 species are native to Michigan (where I live).  North American pitcher plants (genus Sarracenia), can be found in the south-eastern U.S. all the way up to, and throughout, most of Canada.

Sarracenia purpurea

The natural habitat for North American carnivorous plants is a bog, so they have different soil and water needs than most other garden plants.  The soil needs to be acidic, nutrient-poor, and the water needs to be devoid of minerals.  We use a mixture of sphagnum peat moss and perlite in the pots for the carnivorous plants, and we only water them with distilled water when it hasn't rained enough.  The soil should stay quite wet, so we have them in self-watering pots that have reservoirs. 

Sarracenia flava

North American carnivorous plants have dormant periods, and require cold weather to enter them.  Our plants live in their pots outside in the spring, summer, and fall, and we take them inside the unheated garage in the winter.  The cold usually is not a problem for these plants (they need it!), it's the possibility of the soil drying out in the harsh winter wind that would kill or damage them.  It's easier to check the soil to see if it is moist if they are in the garage.  If we lived in a slightly warmer zone (we're in USDA zone 6a/5b), we could just leave them out and let them get snowed on.

Update 2015: This past winter, we kept our carnivorous plant collection in our root cellar where the temperature only got down to around 40°F.  This is still cold enough to induce dormancy, but a little easier on the more delicate Venus flytraps.

VFT "Red Dragon"

Carnivorous plants do not require "feeding."  They are just plants.  They need light for photosynthesis and water for their cells.  The bugs they eat are essentially fertilizer.  

Sarracenia x 'Judith Hindle'

Sarracenia x excellens (which is a leucophylla crossed with a minor)

Sarracenia flava var. ornata

Drosera intermedia

VFT 'Jaws'

Our one little Pinguicula grandiflora

We have our carnivorous plants in pots in birdcages in order to keep the squirrels and birds out of them. Last year, we lost a few plants because the squirrels kept digging them up so they could plant their acorns in the pots.  

Group photo!

If you want to grow your own carnivorous plants, I suggest doing some homework on them first.  A couple of good places to shop (and learn) are Sarracenia Northwest (, Plant Delights Nursery (, (, and California Carnivores (

We loooove our carnivorous plants!!!

1 comment:

  1. Cool, right? I thought they were tropical. Ahh knowledge.