Bennett's Greenhouse

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants are some of the most bizarre and wondrous plants that you can have in your home. Carnivorous plants are plants that derive part of their nutrients (but not energy) from luring, capturing, and digesting animal life forms. Commonly these plants’ diets consist of insects and invertebrates making them commonly called insectivorous plants. Carnivorous plants naturally grow in bogs and swamps where nutrients are low, but sunlight and water are quite abundant. Most plants absorb nitrogen through the soil and their roots, but carnivorous plants absorb it through the prey that they catch. Some of the more common carnivorous plants found in our “little greenhouse of horrors†are Venus Flytraps (dionaea muscipula), Sundews (drosera capensis), and Pitcher Plants (sarracenia).

Venus Flytrap

The Venus Flytrap is probably one of the most popular carnivorous plants, and also one of the most readily available. They catch prey in clam-like traps that slam shut on the unwary passerby when tiny hairs on the inside of the clam shell are disturbed. Venus Flytraps grow to 6 inches in diameter, with traps measuring 1.5 inches at most. The growing season for these unique plants usually occurs whenever the temperature is above 50° F, providing they have sufficient sunlight and water; although you should never allow the plant to be exposed to temperatures below freezing, even when dormant.


The sundews (drosera capensis), so named because their glandular leaf hairs glisten like dew in the sun, the sundew relies on first trapping its prey with its sticky, glandular hairs before it slowly rolls up the edges of the leaf. It does not fold like the Venus fly trap, but it can effectively enclose small flies with the numerous hairs. These plants require no dormancy, but will die back in the colder months, then resume growth in the spring. Prolonged temperatures under 40°F can be potentially harmful to them.

Pitcher Plants

Its large leaves resemble tall pitchers partially filled with water. Flies easily become victims of the pitfall trap when they seek potential food inside. Once the fly enters the hollow leaf, it confronts a waxy surface leading to a pool of water. Although a fly can often escape the surface of water, the pitcher plant reduces its chances by supplying a wetting agent that wets the fly’s wings and prevents it from flying. Even if the fly succeeds in escaping the surface of the water, it is confronted by the steep sides of the leaf and, being unable to fly straight up like a helicopter, is forced to crash into the walls of the leaf. They will require a dormancy period of 3-5 months each year, with temperatures cold, but not freezing. They will not require as much light during dormancy, and should be kept slightly dryer as well.


Carnivorous plants should be kept in a small amount of standing water, such as in a dish, to prevent the soil from drying out. Keep in mind though, that the amount of water should be proportional to the amount of light the plant is getting. Plants that are kept too wet may rot. During the summer when kept outdoors, they can be kept very wet but indoors, they will require less water, but never let them dry out.
Carnivorous plants prefer full to slightly filtered sun, but watch for excessive heat. Keep domed or terrarium grown plants out of direct hot sun to avoid cooking them in their enclosure.

These plants require nutrient free soil that provides good drainage. Standard soil mixtures of 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite. Both of these can be found at Bennett’s.

As colder temperatures approach, many carnivorous plants will slow down growth and many of their leaves will turn black. This is perfectly normal. Even when dormant remember to keep plants in a small amount of standing water to prevent their soil from drying out. As long as the plant does not freeze, they can also stand brief dips in temperature 28°-32°F for up to 3-4 days. As plants mature, leaves may blacken during normal warm season growing conditions. These blackened parts may be trimmed off slightly below the black tissue, and you may expect new green growth in approximately 6 weeks.

Re-pot to a bigger container and replace soil whenever the plant has doubled its size, giving the roots room to grow. There is no specific time of year to re-pot.

We at Bennett’s are here every day to give “Helping Hand Hints†personally, one to one. Many gardening problems are very specific, and we couldn’t possibly cover all aspects in these pamphlets. Any time you have a specific problem or need help, feel free to call. It’s our job to help you be successful in your growing endeavors, and we thoroughly enjoy giving you a “helping hand.â€

3651 McCarty Lane
Lafayette, IN 47905

Phone: (765) 447-7636
[email protected]