If the idea of carnivorous plants makes you immediately think of the blood-thirsty man-eater in Little Shop of Horrors, don’t worry, you will not be considered their prey! Real carnivorous plants (such as the Venus flytrap) dine only on insects—though the speed at which they can snap shut on an insect is amazing. Here are three common types of carnivorous plants that are fun to grow as houseplants.
Whether you’re looking for a fun houseplant or an unusual gift, discover the world of carnivorous plants. Yes, they eat those pesky little bugs! No, they don’t eat people or pets, though some larger tropical ones may be able to catch a wayward mouse, frog, or lizard. Instead of feeding on nutrients in the soil, these plants have evolved to get their nutrients from whatever they can catch. The methods of entrapment vary by species of plant. Here are a few of the common ones
Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)
The most famous of the carnivorous plants is the Venus Flytrap. It’s a “snap trap.” Unlike Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, these ground-hugging plants are quite small—only a few inches across with pairs of one inch long, trap-like, hinged leaves. Insects are lured into the trap by its sweet nectar and inadvertently brush against the trigger hairs. Nothing happens after the first touch but the trap snaps shut the second time the hairs are touched. Fine teeth along the edge of the leaves keep the victim locked in place. As the captured bug struggles, the trap closes even tighter. The plant then exudes a digestive enzyme to dissolve its victim so it can absorb its nutrients. After successfully sucking up 3 or 4 bugs the leaves will die off and new traps will grow.
The trumpet pitcher Sarracena leucophylla
The trumpet pitcher Sarracena leucophylla is a North American native. Very pretty, they could pass for orchids or calla lilies with contrasting colored veins on the leaves and cap-like lids hovering over the opening of the pitcher. They grow to be 1 to 2 feet tall and produce shiny maroon flowers in the spring. They need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight a day to keep them from becoming floppy. Like the Venus flytrap it prefers wet feet so keep the pot in a saucer of water during the spring and summer growing season. Give it a cool drier treatment during its winter dormancy. There are many hybrids of these interesting plants for sale.
Cape sundew (Drosera Capensis)
The Cape sundew (Drosera capensis) from South Africa is one you are likely to find for sale as a houseplant. Like the other carnivorous plants they like it bright and wet but do not undergo a period of winter dormancy. It blossoms in late spring to early summer.
Nepenthes Bloody Mary
Nepenthes are tropical pitcher plants native to parts of South East Asia, India, Madagascar and Australia. Most are vines, but some remain compact in habit. The name "Monkey Cups" comes from monkeys occasionally drinking the fluid in the pitchers.
The pitcher is actually a swelling of the mid-vein in the leaf. Insects are attracted to this because of nectar secretions and coloration. The slippery rim (peristome) and inner walls of the pitcher encourage insects to fall into the digestive fluid at the bottom of the trap. Nutrients are absorbed from this "soup."
Carnivorous plants can be an excellent addition in your houseplant collection, as these insects eating plants are unique and beautiful and act as a repellant too. Apart from the appearance, they also grab attention with their surprising way of trapping insects!
Make sure to check out Belle’s Greenhouse Carnivorous collection. They are all less than $20.00