In the carnivorous plant realm, the Venus flytrap has the most notoriety, but would you believe there are 600 total species of these plants? They are literally found all over the world, including America, Asia, Australia and Europe, and they elicit much fascination wherever they are.
Table of contents
- About Carnivorous Plants
- Necessary Ingredients for Carnivorous Plant Soil
- Making Your Own Soil for Your Carnivorous Plants
- The Recipe
- Pots and Containers
- Time to Repot?
- Why Grow Carnivorous Plants?
About Carnivorous Plants
Carnivorous plants are the scavengers of the plant world, thriving in the worst soil and environments while consuming insects such as flies, ants, gnats, bees, and even small mammals and reptiles. They can be found in damp areas, including swamps and bogs, pine tree land, as well as forests and rocky land. Some are even seen growing in melting snow.
How do they catch their prey? The trapping devices are masterfully designed and include the following:
These plants have the simplest design, which features a receptacle containing digestive juices into which the insect falls. They are attracted by a sweet nectar and slide into the receptacle.
The most notable example of this type of trap is the Venus flytrap. These types of plants catch their prey when the insect triggers small hairs in a flower that sends an electrical impulse that causes the sharp leaf blades to close on and capture the victim.
Dew-like, sticky droplets on these plants attract and capture their victims so they cannot escape.
Suited mostly for the tiniest insects, these plants have “bladders” that catch and digest their prey.
These plants grow in very wet areas and contain a narrow entrance into a tunnel that only enables prey to travel one way – down into the digestive chamber.
Necessary Ingredients for Carnivorous Plant Soil
Although the environment and land where these plants grow in the wild varies considerably, there are certain soil essentials if you want to grow your own carnivorous plants.
Sphagnum Peat Moss
Peat moss is a compilation of dead, organic materials that have taken years to decompose into a rich, inexpensive soil element. It is acidic, an important feature for carnivorous plants, and does a good job of retaining moisture and nutrients necessary to support these plants.
This gritty mixture of crushed quartz, granite, and sandstone has particles of varying sizes which accommodates air pockets that serve to drain excess water and prevent the growth of damaging fungus, both very important to support carnivorous plants. Many gardeners use this to break down heavy soil mixtures.
Some people call this the magical ingredient for robust soil mixes as they absorb water effectively. They are very small balls made from heated volcanic glass. This soil is used in numerous soil mixes because of its qualities of drainage and aeration and is excellent for carnivorous plants because of these qualities.
Making Your Own Soil for Your Carnivorous Plants
So, you’ve decided to take on the interesting task of growing your own carnivorous plants. Because these plants require careful compilation of soil and design of the environment, you need to be thorough in your preparations.
It is true that carnivorous plants grow in the worst possible soils, lacking the usual nutrients found in regular garden soils. Healthy soils contain the following nutrients:
However, the typical condition of soil where carnivorous plants grow contains few of these nutrients. This is where the insects and small mammals and reptiles come in – the digestion of these creatures by the plants supplies the nutrients they need that are lacking in the soil. So, they do best in acidic, boggy soils that should be peat-based.
To “cook up” your own soil, you will need:
- Measuring cup
- Distilled water
- Sphagnum peat moss (organic)
- Plant pots
- Wear protective gloves whenever handling soil.
- Break up any clumps in the peat.
- Wet, don’t soak the peat.
- Mix the peat and sand in a 1 to 1 ratio by volume
- Dump 1 cup of the peat into the bucket and add 1 cup of distilled water.
- Depending on the consistency of this mixture, add more peat.
- Use the spatula to mix up the peat until it is damp.
- Add 1 cup sand (dry) to the peat and mix.
- Test the pH of the soil mixture, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/test-soil-ph-ph-test-strips-39951.html , which should be 5 – 5.5
- Put plain sphagnum in the bottom of the pot you are going to use for your plants.
- Fill the pot with the soil you have made.
- Top off the mixture with pine bark, pine straw, or quartz gravel.
Pots and Containers
The best type of pot for carnivorous plants is plastic or glazed ceramic, especially those with small holes in the bottom, so the pot can be watered from the bottom up. Terra cotta pots dry out soil quickly because they are so porous, so you want to avoid them.
The number 1 fact about carnivorous plants is that they come from boggy places and therefore need their soil to always be damp. As mentioned above, bottom-up watering is the ideal way to water them. Also, they need to be watered with only distilled or rainwater. Don’t water them with tap or bottled water because of the unwanted introduction of minerals and damaging contents.
Regular fertilization, as you do with regular house and outdoor plants, is not healthy for your carnivorous plants. These commercial fertilizers may contain chemicals that are harmful for your plant. Generally, the prey serves to provide the nutrients needed by the plant, but if insects are not available in sufficient amounts, then you will need to fertilize your plant once a month. Purchase an organic fertilizer and dilute it: ¼ strength per gallon of water.
Time to Repot?
The timeline rule of thumb for repotting carnivorous plants is every 2 years. The process for repotting must be done with careful detail. Follow these steps.
- Rinse the pot(s) you plan to use, inside and out, with clean, clear water.
- Pat dry the pots using either a clean cloth or paper towel.
- Using the recipe discussed previously, mix the ingredients evenly.
- Soak the fresh plant soil with distilled water.
- Put the new soil mixture in the pot and transfer your plant, using great care.
Why Grow Carnivorous Plants?
Now that you know all about how to prepare carnivorous plant soil, the next question is, why should you grow them? Here are a few reasons:
- Interesting: they are interesting because of their different trapping mechanisms, colors, and leaf structure.
- Greater good: You’ll be doing a great preservation service because many varieties of carnivorous plants are at risk.
- Outdoors: grown outdoors, their sweet-smelling flowers and nectar attracts wildlife.
- Many carnivorous plants do very well indoors.
- Low maintenance: Unlike other plant varieties, the carnivores require little care, and can even feed themselves!
Remember that Carnivorous plants are great and easy to have in your home, but they do need different care than other plants.