What Are Carnivorous Plants?
Carnivorous plants, or flesh eating plants, are natures natural insecticide. Although they are not quite the monsters that science fiction portrays carnivorous plants are finely tuned killing machines. Each variety of these insect eating plants has very specialized ways of trapping a particular insect group, and some even target slightly bigger prey. They feed off the nutrients from the trapped prey to supplement the traditionally poor soil that they grow in.
Why Choose A Carnivorous Plant?
One of the main reasons I chose to grow these plants is because anything that eats insects is in my book a great thing. Not only does make for a more pleasant living environment when it is insect free, it is actually quite entertaining watching the plants eat flies and insects. My children have been keeping a track of all the flies eaten and checking on the plants is one of the first things they do when they get home from school.
So you have entertainment value, and you have cost effectiveness. Compared to the cost of insecticides and fly spray the insect eating plants soon pay for themselves. They require very little attention to grow. Carnivorous plants do not require fertilizer, and in fact applying fertilizer will probably kill them. They do like water, as the majority of them (certainly the ones native to New Zealand) are swamp plants.
The third reason to choose a carnivorous plant is health related. Natural pyrethrin or not, the fact you have to cover goldfish bowls and remove other pets from any room being fly sprayed suggests chemical methods of insect control are detrimental to good health. There are even some reports of people and animals contracting neuro-muscular degenerative diseases from contact with pyrethrin (which attacks the nervous system).
Caring For Carnivorous Plants
The soil conditions are the most crucial aspect of carnivorous plant care. They like an acidic soil and Peat or Sphagnum moss are an ideal soil base. If the moss is rotten or smells then the plant needs re-potting.
Water is the next most essential element to keeping your plant healthy. During the summer months the plant must not be allowed to dry out, and sitting the pot in a water bath is a good way to ensure ample moisture. Do not soak the pot too deep in water (about 1cm is ideal for most small pots) as this will rot the soil. In winter apply just enough water to keep the soil damp.
Sunlight and plenty of it keeps your carnivorous plant looking healthy. They like ample amounts of sun, and a lot of sappy growth is an indicator of insufficient sunlight.
That is all that is required to grow healthy carnivorous plants. Do NOT fertilize the plant as this will burn their roots and kill them.
Climate conditions for growing carnivorous plants: as already stated they like plenty of sunlight. However, this does not mean that they are not a hardy winter plant. In the winter the plants will go into dormancy and can handle a frosty out-door environment.
Allowing your plants do to die back in the winter will ensure a healthy growth in the spring. Artificially promoting growth over the winter months will eventually weaken and potentially kill the plant. The Pitcher plant stems may be cut back at this time of year.
For more detailed information on carnivorous plant care you can download this free PDF brochure from a Christchurch carnivorous plant supplier