How to Grow Carnivorous Plants from Seeds

How to Grow Carnivorous Plants from Seeds

If you have one carnivorous plant, and you want more, you may be thinking of planting seeds you collect from spent blooms. But you need to know that growing carnivorous plant from seeds isn’t like seeding other plants in your flower or vegetable garden.

First Rule of Growing Carnivorous Plants from Seeds

Many experts in cultivating carnivorous plants advise newbies to remember some version of this basic rule:

You can’t grow carnivorous plants the same way you grow petunias, and you can’t grow petunias the same way you grow carnivorous plants.

Gardening space - how to grow carnivorous plants from seeds
Gardening tool

Carnivorous plants, especially the carnivorous plants that grow in locations that get cold winters, require some technical skill to grow from seed. Many carnivorous plant enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of getting Venus flytraps, bladderworts, butterworts, corkscrew plants, and pitcher plants to maturity from seeds they buy or collect. Just getting some kinds of carnivorous plants to germinate requires gardening techniques you may not have even heard of unless you are already a master gardener.

In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about how to grow carnivorous plants from seed for the most common carnivorous plants in North America and Europe, starting with your shopping list.

Getting Your Tools and Materials Together

Set of spoons - how to grow carnivorous plants from seeds
Spoons for outdoor use

Related: Distilled Water for Carnivorous Plants

The most important tool for growing carnivorous plants from seed is an implement that most gardeners don’t have: It’s a planting spoon. If you can’t find a garden planting spoon, an ordinary teaspoon will do.

Many carnivorous plant gardeners like to place little tags on their seedlings so they can keep track of different species. The tags you can buy at the neighborhood garden shop won’t work. If you want to tag your plants, which really isn’t something you will do unless your growing several kinds of carnivorous plants, you will need 3/4 x 6 inch, stock number 2766 from National Band and Tag.

You will also need 3-1/4 inch (82 mm) wide planting pots designed to fit into a planting tray. You will place them on polypropylene weed cloth to keep soil from washing out of their drainage holes. And you will need seeds you have collected yourself or bought from a specialty store.

Where Growing Carnivorous Plants Gets Different: Stratification

Some carnivorous plants, especially Venus flytraps, trumpet pitcher plants, and California pitcher plants that grow in locations that get cold winters need to be exposed to cold before they can germinate. You can seed them in the fall and then place their pots in an unheated greenhouse (under a shade cloth, so they don’t overheat on sunny days), or you can “stratify” them in your refrigerator.

When you are stratifying carnivorous plants in the fridge, you don’t plant them in pots. You cut up about a cup (100 g) of sphagnum moss with scissors, soak it in water, and then take it out of the water and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Mix one kind of carnivorous plant seeds with the damp sphagnum moss and try to distribute them evenly. Then put the moss in carnivorous plant seeds in a plastic bag, seal, and mark so you can identify them later.

Leave the seeds in your refrigerator for four to eight weeks, Once they have had their requisite chilling time, they will be ready to plant.

Preparing Growing Medium for Carnivorous Plant Seeds

Once your seeds have been stratified, it is time to put them in planting pots for germination. You will down the weed barrier cloth in the bottom of the tray so soil won’t wash out of the pots. Next you will fill the pots with “soil.” But what kind of growing medium is right for carnivorous plants?

Different kinds of carnivorous plants need different kinds of potting mix. Here are the best for common carnivorous plants.

  • Corkscrew plants prefer pure sphagnum moss. It’s OK to have water standing in the bottom of their tray to keep the moss constantly moist (but don’t do this with other kinds of carnivorous plants).
  • Venus flytraps and bladderworts prefer a one to one mixture of sand and peat moss. Some varieties will like the mix a little sandier and some will like it a little peatier, but you will get a feel for this with experience.
  • Temperate-zone pitcher plants take a long time to germinate, and do best in chopped sphagnum moss. Chop the sphagnum moss before adding the seed.
  • Tropical pitcher plants are the only kind of commonly grown carnivorous plant that does best on the coconut fiber known as coir.

Make sure that your growing medium doesn’t have any added fertilizer. Fertilizer can kill carnivorous plants. Use the coarsest sand you can find, preferably blasting sand.

Moisten the growing medium you intend to use for your carnivorous plants. Now you are ready to plant your seeds.

Related: Are Carnivorous Plants Dangerous to Humans?

Planting Carnivorous Plant Seeds

Potted plant - how to grow carnivorous plants from seeds
Pot with growing plant

Now it’s time to fill each pot with your growing medium, leaving about 1/8 of an inch (3 mm) of space at the top of the pot so the growing medium can swell when it is watered. Smooth and pack the growing medium with your planting spoon.

Place a tag in the pot so you will know what you have planted and when you planted it.

Now, scatter 10 or 20 seeds across the surface of the growing medium, and gently mist the growing medium so the seeds sink just beneath the surface. Then add a final 1/8-inch (3 mm) layer of moist chopped sphagnum moss to each pot to cover the seeds.

Your next step is probably something you never do with any other kind of plant.

Creating a Super-Humid Environment for Your Carnivorous Plant Seeds

Put about an inch (25 mm) of water in the bottom of a 2-cup (500 ml) plastic bag. Place the pot you have just planted into the bag, and seal. Check back later to make sure the growing medium has absorbed the water. If water is standing in bottom of the bag after 12 hours, carefully take the planting pot out of the bag, dump out the water, put the planting pot back, and reseal.

Now you are ready to place your planting pots under a grow light and wait. And wait. And wait.

Success Will Eventually Come

Check your seeds every few weeks to make sure their growing medium has not dried out. Pitcher plants respond well to weekly misting. Some carnivorous plants like Venus flytraps may germinate in as little as three weeks, but others may take a year.

Live moss and mold may ruin your planting, but the problem will be limited to one pot at a time. Once you have little seedlings one-half inch (12 mm) tall, you can remove their planting pot out its plastic bag and put it back into the growing tray.

Growing carnivorous plants from seed takes a lot of patience. Even after a year, your seedlings may be less than an inch tall. It takes three years for some carnivorous plant to reach full size before you can display them in a lovely garden pot. But if you master the art of growing carnivorous plants from seed, you will join the ranks of a very small number of very skilled gardeners who can take care of carnivorous plants.

Share Your Seeds

Once your plants have matured and produced seeds themselves, you can donate seeds from your plants to the Carnivorous Plant Seed Bank of the International Carnivorous Plant Society.