PLEASE NOTE: The care information we have placed here is intended to give the reader a basic understanding of the care and maintenance of carnivorous plants (CPs as hobbyists like to call them), and an appreciation for how easy they are to care for. It is not a complete guide to the growing of carnivorous plants. Rather, we consider it a starting point to give you the basics. Once you have read this page, we suggest that you also read the page or pages that discuss the specific information for the type of plant(s) that you are interested in growing.
A NOTE ABOUT YOUR SPECIFIC GROWING CONDITIONS: With the availability of information on the Internet nowadays, it seems that everyone on social media is a self-proclaimed expert, and wants to freely share care instructions that they feel cover all aspects of carnivorous plant cultivation. However, two overarching topics that never seem to be taken into account are 1) what the NATURAL growing conditions are like for the specific type of plant; and 2) the wide variations in growing conditions throughout the country, and how your specific location can and will affect where and how you grow these wonderfully unique plants. See this USDA Growing Zones Map to start with.
When you think about it, it's very obvious that the growing conditions for someone down here in the Houston, Texas area (USDA Zone 9a where PetFlyTrap.com is located) will differ drastically from those of someone in upstate New York (Zone 3b), or the arid regions of Arizona (Zone 9/10), or northern Minnesota (Zone 2b), or Miami, Florida (Zone 10b)...you get the idea. This is one of the reasons that we do not print care instructions on the individual plant tags that come with your potted plants when you place an order with us...there is just too much variation in our customers' conditions! Always consider your specific growing conditions when deciding how and where to grow these beautiful plants, so you can be successful with them, and enjoy them as much as we do! Also, everyone's individual growing conditions will differ based on the conditions in the specific growing environment (indoors vs. outdoors, open air vs. enclosed terrarium, etc.). Your new plants will be much happier if you try to mimic their NATURAL growing conditions, rather than trying to 'bend them to your will'. We sometimes make the analogy that you need to be a steward for your plants, not the 'master' of their universe! If you feel overwhelmed or have questions, just ask! We are here for you, and are happy to help.
UNPACKING YOUR PLANTS: If you have received 'plant mail' from us, PLEASE READ THIS PARAGRAPH FIRST! We take great care in the packing of your plants, to ensure your plant arrives in the same condition in which it was shipped; so please e-mail us within 24 hours of arrival with photographs of your plants if you believe they have been damaged in transit. Please remember, though, that it is not unusual for a few leaves or traps to die back during shipment; so consider this before contacting us about a 'dead' plant. When unpacking your plants, please cut through the tape first and carefully remove the plastic dome. Then cut through the tape on the plastic wrap on top of the soil, and remove it from the soil. Cut the tape, do not just pull, as the plant could become dislodged from the soil if you are not careful at this point.
EXCEPTION!! Due to their fragile and very short roots, we package our butterworts (Pinguicula) a bit differently. We completely cover the plant with a bit of moistened Long Fiber Sphagnum (LFS) to hold the plant in place. Remove the plastic first, and then carefully remove the LFS from on top of the plant.
If any soil has been dislodged and is sitting on TOP of the growing point(s) or leaves of the plant, use a spray bottle filled with pure water (see Watering section) to spray the soil fragments off. Water them upon arrival using the Watering section as a guide. Also, remember that your new arrivals have been in a dark box in extremely high humidity conditions (stuck inside the plastic cup!) for several days; ACCLIMATING YOUR PLANTS IS NECESSARY FOR ALL PLANTS! We recommend using the cups as a temporary humidity dome, placing them back over the pot(s) once the packing materials have been removed. Gradually remove the cup from over the pot over the course of a week or more. The same holds true for lighting: start in lower-light conditions, and gradually increase the intensity of the lighting over several days or more until they are being grown in the conditions in which you are planning to grow them. Also, DO NOT FEED your plant(s) for at least a week after arrival, and preferably for several weeks...see the Food section below for more details about this.
WATERING: All carnivorous plants require pure water of some sort, such as distilled, reverse osmosis (RO), or rain water. Bottled water and spring water from the grocery store are not recommended, as these both contain salts and minerals to make them taste better to us humans. We also do not recommend using unglazed terracotta (clay) pots, as these can leach salts and minerals into the soil as well. Plastic pots are ideal. Humidity and watering frequency varies by plant variety, but the key requirements are to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and do not use tap water or your plant will die over the course of time. Treated tap water contains chemicals and dissolved solids which build up in the soil and will certainly affect the health of your carnivorous plant. Also, never let your plants dry out; place them in a tray or a pot with a saucer and add ¼ to ½ inch of water to the saucer. Allow the water in the saucer to be absorbed by the soil before you add more water to the saucer, so that moisture can be kept in the soil but the roots have a chance to 'breathe' in between waterings. The soil around the base of the plant should be damp to the touch. The only exception to this rule is for Nepenthes; they should not be left in standing water or their roots may begin to rot. Remember: Do NOT let the soil dry out. You are better off using tap water if absolutely necessary, rather than letting your plants get too thirsty!
A NOTE ABOUT WATERING TERRARIA: Special care should be taken when watering plants that are kept inside an enclosure. Since the enclosure reduces the air flow inside (they should drastically reduce the air flow, but still allow some air exchange), this increases the humidity of the air - good for carnivores! But this also means that the evaporation is reduced...meaning drastically reduced waterings! You still wanted to keep the soil moist at all times; but you should never have water pooling at the bottom of the terrarium! for smaller enclosures, you can try tilting the entire terrarium to one side; if you have water pooling at the bottom end, that's too much water! Use a paper towel or similar item to soak up the excess water, until there is no longer any water standing at the bottom of the enclosure.
SOIL: Almost all carnivorous plants grow best in acidic, nutrient deficient soil, which is the opposite of what most other plants want. We use two primary soil mixes: 1) our Standard Soil Mix, which contains Sphagnum peat, coarse-grade sand, and perlite; and 2) Long-fiber Sphagnum (sometimes with some Orchiata (pine bark) added). The Sphagnum provides an acidic soil, allowing the plant to remain strong and healthy; while other ingredients help to keep the soil from getting too densely packed, and provide for good soil drainage. If peat is used without a means of drainage, the roots of the plant may begin to rot. Replacement soil mixes or individual ingredients can be purchased from PetFlyTrap.com in the Supplies section. If you purchase your soil/ingredients from other sources, be certain that they do not have added chemicals, fertilizers or surfactants in them, as many name brands do. NEVER use potting soil or any nutrients of any kind in the soil: compost, fertilizers, anything that guarantees big beautiful plants. These plants get nutrients exclusively through their leaves and traps.
TAMPERING: Many carnivorous plants are a bit delicate. You should refrain from tampering with them, as you may affect the plant's ability to feed and it may ultimately die. The traps of a Venus Flytrap, for example, are designed to open and close a limited number of times (approximately 7-10, perhaps less in different conditions). 'Tickling' the trigger hairs on the inside of a Venus Flytrap trap with your finger or a toothpick will cause the trap to close; and while this will not kill the plant, it will cause the plant to expend energy without replacing it. This can potentially make them unable to snap shut when a bug actually finds its way to the flytrap's beckoning “mouth.” Sundews and Butterworts produce a sticky mucilage or “dew” on their surface that attracts bugs; touching the leaves will cause the “dew” to stick to you and not on the plant, and may actually damage the leaves' ability to produce more. Pitcher plants are very tolerant of probing hands and fingers.
HUMIDITY & AIR CIRCULATION: While some carnivorous plants can tolerate lower humidity if they are slowly acclimated to it, they all prefer higher humidity environments, and will stop producing pitchers/traps/dew (or may even die) if they are grown without enough humidity. Humidity supports the growth of pitchers on pitcher plants, traps on flytraps, and “dew” on Sundews and Butterworts. In addition to the humidity level, lower (but not stagnant) air circulation over the plant will aid in the production and maintenance of dew on the leaves. This climate is often achieved by placing the plant inside a plastic or glass dome with air holes to allow for air transfer. If a dome or cover is not available, frequent misting with pure water may assist in dew production. Keep in mind that direct outdoor sunlight while under any cover or container may result in the plant's death, due to high temperatures; these covers can act like a miniature microwave oven! While Sarracenia do not require high humidity, it does encourage healthy leaf growth.
FOOD: Carnivorous plants obtain few nutrients from the soil, relying on their trapping mechanisms to obtain nutrients. Bugs and other animals are a dietary supplement (like a vitamin pill) that help the plant to grow faster, but are not required in 'human' quantities for the health and survival of the plant. Keep in mind that they still absorb and store energy from the sun, just like other green plants; this is their 'food'! Contrary to myth, do not feed your plant hamburger or any other people/pet food; it will kill the plant. We do not recommend using fertilizer on your carnivorous plants' soil. We occasionally drop a pellet of Osmocote (timed-release fertilizer) in the pitchers of our various pitcher plants, but this is done sparingly. And above all, remember that if your plant is being grown in natural conditions, they will catch their own prey; give them a chance to do so! We have literally thousands of carnivorous plants in our nursery, and we are not running around with a bucket of flies to feed plants! They are on their own...just like they would be in the wild. Above all, do not feed new arrivals or newly potted plants, as they are stressed enough as it is. Give them a chance to adjust (up to several weeks) before you try feeding them, so they are used to their environment first. Remember, these are NOT animals...they don't need to eat all the time!
LIGHT: Almost all carnivorous plants enjoy 14 to 16 hours of bright filtered light, either from being outdoors, or if indoors from a nearby window or a soft white lamp of some sort. If growing the plants indoors, we typically recommend bulbs in the 5500K to 6500K color range, and placed 12 to 18 inches from the plant(s), depending on the instructions for your particular light system. The amount of light will determine plant coloration. As the light increases, color intensifies in pitcher plants and various species of flytraps. While carnivorous plants like sunlight, flytraps, sundews, Nepenthes and butterworts should avoid full sun if grown outdoors in the southern U.S.; the intensity of the light can burn the leaves and increase the soil temperature to unacceptable levels and kill new plant growth. Sarracenia are native southern U.S. plants, and take full sun in the wild; this makes them excellent plants for an outdoor container garden. Nepenthes are the most light sensitive of the carnivorous plants; while they can take bright indirect light it’s best to start in a low light environment and gradually increase the amount or intensity of the light to allow the plant to adjust to the environment. As with other carnivorous plants, the color of the pitchers will be affected by the light levels.
IMPORTANT MOTES TO REMEMBER:
1) It is not uncommon to receive a plant with a dead or dying pitcher or trap, as this is a normal occurrence in nature; simply trim off the dead plant matter (just the brown parts). The plants grow new leaves out from the center.
2) Remove all coverings using the unpacking instructions above
3) Water plant immediately upon receiving it, using the watering instructions above.
4) Pitcher plants (Nepenthes, Sarracenia, etc.) pitchers will usually lose all of their fluid during shipment, and should immediately be filled with a small amount of distilled water in the bottom to prevent them from withering.
5) Keep in mind that YOUR CONDITIONS WILL DIFFER GREATLY DEPENDING ON YOUR GROWING ENVIRONMENT AND WHERE YOU LIVE!
Of course, please feel free to contact us via e-mail at [email protected] or 281-433-3290 if you have any specific questions. We're happy to help you figure out what works best for you!