Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants which have tube-shaped leaves known as pitfall traps—a mechanism that traps prey in a deep cavity filled with digestive fluid. Their sweet smell attracts their prey to the lip of the leaf, and traps them in its sticky residue. Our greenhouses have a selection of pitcher plants in small tabletop sizes, as well as hanging baskets.
Care of Pitcher Plants
The soil of your pitcher plant should be kept wet or at least damp all of the time. The simplest way to do this is to place your pots in a tray or saucer and keep water in it at all times. Pitcher plants can grown in soggy soil with the water level in the saucer as deep as 1/2 of the pot, refilling when it is nearly gone. Add water to the tray rather than watering the plant to avoid washing away any sticky residue from the pitchers leaves.
Mineral free water, such as rainwater or distilled water, should be used when watering your plants. Carnivorous plants grow in nutrient poor soils and the minerals from tap water can over fertilize and burn out the plants.
The nutrient poor soils that carnivorous plants have adapted to are often rich in peat and sand. You can duplicate this with a soil mixture of sphagnum peat moss and horticulture sand. be sure to check the peat label for sphagnum moss, as other types will not work as well. Your sand should be cleaned and washed, and you should avoid using “contractor’s sand” which will contain fine dust, silt, clay and other materials that may hurt your plant. One part peat to one part sand works well for most carnivorous plants.
As a general rule, carnivorous plants grow best in sunny conditions but may do well in partial sun. The nutrient poor and soggy bogs that grow these plants in nature provide bad conditions for most other plants, leaving the habitat open and sunny. Full sun brings out the red pigmentation of pitcher plants. They can be placed outdoors in warmer weather and will grow well in a bright, sunny spot indoors.
Carnivorous plants grow naturally in humid bogs and swamps; therefore your growing environment should reflect that. This can be accomplished by keeping plants watered and wet at all times. You may choose to use a humidifier placed near the plants to increase humidity. Another easy way to create a humid environment is with an open terrarium. Leave the terrarium open so that a draft of air can enter and you can experiment with the size of this opening so that the plants do not either dry out, bake, or become infested with fungus Do not seal your plants tightly in a closed container, as this will invite fungus and mildew growth.
Most carnivorous plants will do fine in normal room temperatures. Keep in mind that these plants are generally very tolerant of temperature, and it can be varied somewhat without harmful results.
Feeding and Fertilizing
As a general rule, do not feed or fertilize your pitcher plants. Grown under the conditions outlined, your plants will be able to collect enough insects on their own to do well. Pitcher plants only need an insect or two a month in order to flourish. Of course, it is fine to demonstrate the unqie trapping capabilities of these plants by using a fly, carefully placed with tweezers. Never use raw meat or cheese, as large pieces will kill the traps. Freeze-dried insects from a pet shop, or a culture of wingless fruit flies provide an excellent source of nutrition. However, do not over-do it – grow the plants in such a way that they have natural access to insect prey.