Not everyone wants to be the ‘average’ gardener. Just keeping flowers, vegetables, or herbs in your backyard may seem boring, or even too mainstream. If you’ve been gardening for a while, and are more or less tired of the yearly grind, you could be looking for something new to try. Carnivorous plants are slowly becoming one of the biggest trends in modern gardening and for good reason. A full 25% of all carnivorous plants are classified as endangered species. Without proper conservation and protection, some of our world’s most fascinating plants could be lost to time. All the more reason to give it a go on your own!
Growing carnivorous plants is a lot less dangerous (and a lot more fun) than you might think. Once you have the basics under control, you can do almost anything you want!
In this guide, let’s cover the most important things you need to create a carnivorous outdoor garden:
- What carnivorous plants are
- Types of carnivorous plants by region
- How to create a carnivorous garden
- Shortlist of carnivorous plant diseases and pests
What Is A Carnivorous Plant?
If you aren’t familiar with these fascinating forms of vegetation, a carnivorous plant is a type of growth that consumes meat to survive. No, this doesn’t mean people and pets. In fact, the vast majority of carnivorous plants survive on insects like flies, ants, and beetles to get their protein intake for the day. These predatory flowering plants rely on a host of different attributes to attract insects to their location, including strong scents, nectar, and sprays.
Although the vast majority of carnivorous plants are predatory for feeding purposes, some use their traps to force insects to pollinate their flowers. Carnivorous plants never use their actual flowers for trapping and use specialized leaves, fluids, or non-blooming materials to ensnare unfortunate bugs.
Carnivorous plants do have the ability to eat more than just small bugs. The outdoor specimens in your garden could be caught eating:
- Small invertebrates
- Mice and rats
- Tiny crustaceans
- Edible vertebrates
Let’s take a look as some carnivorous plant varieties you might like to grow in your own backyard.
Carnivorous Plants You Can Grow (By Region)
No matter where you live in the US, there’s a carnivorous plant for you to grow. We’re going to break the most common species down by planting zones to make it a little easier to make the right choice. Not sure what your US zone is? Check out this helpful planting zone map.
Zones 1 – 6
- Common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)
- Purple pitcher plant (S. purpurea)
- Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia californica)
Zones 7 – 10
- Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula)
- Sundews (Drosera)
- Butterworts (Pinguicula)
Zones 11 – 13
- Bladderworts (Utricularia spp.)
- Brocchinia reducta
- Gorgon’s Dewstick (Roridula gorgonias)
If you have any questions about carnivorous plants near you, refer to your local greenhouse or MGA association. They genuinely want to help you make the best decision for your garden space.
How To Create A Carnivorous Garden
Unlike some other kinds of plants in the garden, carnivorous plants can be little divas. Fortunately, the plants require a similar kind of environment in which to grow:
- Bright, full, mostly direct sun
- High levels of humidity
- Moist or waterlogged environments
- Acidic soil to grow in
A great deal of carnivorous plants are picky at best and need some careful TLC to thrive. Follow these five steps to set up an outdoor garden plot for your hungry plants:
1. Build A Bog
Carnivorous plants love wet feet — and won’t thrive if they don’t have them!
You’ll need to purchase some plastic pond liner, as well as lots of soil, to construct the basics of a bog. Dig a hole that is at least 2 feet deep, and fill the hole with 30% sand and 70% peat moss. Remember to choose a site that gets at least 5 hours of full sunlight.
This step is probably the hardest and most time-intensive. Don’t be shy about asking for help!
2. Use Rainwater Only
Interestingly enough, carnivorous plants are very reactive to filtered water. Create rain barrels to catch and release water deposits, and melt any snow or ice in the yard to nourish your plants. They’ll love your rainwater!
3. Invest In Compost
Unlike many water-based or aquatic-type plants, nutrient-poor soils are a must-have for carnivorous plants. Compost provides a host of biodiverse life that edifies dirt and prevents erosion. You can use a compost mixture from the store, compost from a friend, or even some that you made yourself. Just beware: inadequately heated compost may give rise to pests and disease.
4. Avoid Fertilizers
Since they eat smaller bugs and vertebrates, carnivorous plants get all the nutrients they need from living things. Not only are fertilizers virtually useless to them, but they may even poison or harm the plant.
5. Deadhead Your Plants
Did you know that some carnivorous plants need deadheading? It’s true! Species like pitcher plants and Venus flytraps will go brown or black in late autumn. Use some scissors or a pair of pruners to remove these heads as quickly as possible.
Carnivorous Plant Diseases & Pests To Watch For
Like anything else in the garden, carnivorous plants can get sick. Identifying problems early on will help you defend against a downward spiral.
Bear in mind that prevention is always the best policy when it comes to carnivorous plants and their illnesses.
Just like that, you’re ready to start growing carnivorous plants on your own lawn! Just be sure to give them lots of attention, and these predatory beauties will remain a talking point of your garden for years to come.