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Eating Out - Carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plants are native to the boggy environment, where the soil is thin and lacks essential nutrients. To fulfil their needs, these plants trap and consume insects. They attract their prey through sweet-smelling nectar and bright colours and trap them inside in specialized leaves. After trapping the prey, they extract vital nutrients by breaking down the body through their digestive enzymes.

Carnivorous plants can be an excellent addition in your houseplant collection, as these insects eating plants are unique and beautiful and act as a repellent too. Apart from the appearance, they also grab attention with their surprising way of trapping insects! It is also a fun way to get children engaged in nature.

Carnivorous plants catch insects in different ways. Below are some examples of how different plants have different trapping mechanisms:

  • Venus Fly Traps – Venus flytrap is one of the most popular indoor carnivorous plants. With its unique insect catching toothed leaves, it looks so cool and mysterious that you’d love having it in your home. It primarily eats ants and flies, but you can feed it other insects as well.
  • Pitcher Plants – Pitcher plant comes in different shades of purple, yellow and, pink, which makes it an attractive carnivorous houseplant. The plant’s leaves have an upward tabular trap with a cavity filled with digestive liquid (nectar) that lures the prey.
  • Sundew Plants – Sundew plant, as its name suggests, has hairy stems, adorned in drops of sticky substance that looks like morning dew. These drops are digestive enzymes that entice and dissolve its prey.
  • Monkey cups – Also known as thetropical pitcher plant, it looks perfect in hanging baskets due to its cup-shaped dangling pockets that hang from its tendrils. This plant uses these dangling pockets to catch and dissolve the insects for nutrition.

Most carnivorous plants are easy to grow and many species will be dormant during the winter. They really do not need much attention during the colder months and will re-appear in spring. Here are some care tips for your carnivorous plants:

  • Feeding a couple of smaller insects in a month is enough for a young plant.
  • Keep the soil damp all year round using stored rainwater, or reverse osmosis or deionized water.
  • Plant them in a low nutrient planting mixture like peat moss.
  • Place the plant near a window that receives filtered sunlight.
  • Avoid using any type of fertilizer at all, as it will kill the plant.
  • You can keep carnivorous plants in an aquarium to provide warmth and humidity.

Our free online workshops will resume again on 14 January 2022. Watch these pages for the links.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to contact your friendly Garden Guru – Sue Both at: sueb@gardenhop.co.za