Meet the Carnivorous Plants

Take a closer look at the butterworts, sundews, cobra lilies, pitcher plants and Venus flytraps that derive nutrients by trapping and consuming insects.


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Carnivorous plants get most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming their food, typically insects and other arthropods. There are several types of carnivorous plants, including butterworts, sundews, cobra lilies, pitcher plants and Venus flytraps.



Sundew (Drosera) has sticky hair-like structures that ensnare insects. The sticky tips resemble tiny water droplets like dew drops. Sundews grow best in acidic, boggy soils and bright light.

Carnivorous Native Pitcher Plant

Pitcher plants, sun dews, Venus flytraps...there are some very interesting "meat-eating" plants which, given the right conditions, can become a fascinating gardening hobby.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Carnivorous Plants on a Sunny Windowsill

A mixture of peat moss and either sand or perlite will help these plants stay moist but not wet. They require full sun and humidity to thrive.

Venus Flytrap

Like other carnivorous plants, Venus flytrap typically slows growth before going  dormant in the fall and winter, but perk back up in the spring—just like in nature. Protect them from hard freezes.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Venus Flytrap

The two lobes of the snap-trap shut in an eyeblink, then slowly tighten around their prey. Because individual traps get worn out after just a few feedings, feed only every few weeks.


The "Alice" sundew (Drosera aliciae) is one of the easiest to grow. More sun, more red color.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Cape Sundew

Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis) is one of the easiest sundews to grow, as long as it gets sun and humidity.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing


Sundews come in many shapes and forms. Feed every few weeks with a combination of small insects and finely-crushed fish food pellets or flakes mixed with a little rain water.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Threadleaf Sundew (Drosera filiformis)

Threatleaf Sundew has long, thin tendrils covered with sticky glands that entrap and curl around prey.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher plants (Serracenia) are native to North America, and grow in full sun in wet, nutrient-poor soils. They have separate flower stems and elongated specialized leaves which trap insects that fall and slip into digestive juices.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Pitcher Plant in Container

This wild pitcher plant (Serracenia) grows so well in a container, it has won a blue ribbon at the Mississippi State Fair flower show—not far from where it naturally roams wild throughout the moist Gulf Coast wetlands.

Photo By: Photo by Felder Rushing

Potful of Carnivorous Plants

Most carnivorous plants grow best in a mixture peat moss and either sharp sand or perlite. They also need hours of direct sun, regular moisture and humidity.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Carnivorous Plant Box

A moderate size box with clear sides and top makes a great container for growing a collection of carnivorous plants

Tropical Pitcher Plant

Tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthese) are often too large for home gardeners, but thrive in bright, humid conditions and an occasional spider, fly, roach or cricket in one of its hanging cups filled with digestive juices.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing


To help tropical pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants feed better, try refrigerating crickets, bloodworms (available at pet stores), spiders or flies to slow them down a bit.

Photo By: Image provided by Felder Rushing

Butterwort (Pinguicula) has sticky leaves that trap small insects. Its glistening leaves attract unsuspecting, water-thirsty insects that land on the sticky leaves and get stuck where they're slowly digested by the plant. Butterworts grow best in wet, boggy soils and partial shade.



The pitcher plant (Sarracenia) produces flower-like modified leaves that capture the insects for feeding; each "pitcher" is tubular in shape with a flat cap hovering over the top rim. The flowers of the plant can be attractive but aren't quite as showy as the brightly colored pitchers. There are hybrids with a variety of sizes and colors of pitchers. Most pitcher plants flower first, before the pitcher appears, although some varieties bear both flowers and pitchers at the same time. Sarracenia is native to North America.

When a Sarracenia trap reaches full size and is open, bugs start coming to the sweet nectar that's secreted around the rim of the pitcher. The insect enters the pitcher and sucks on the nectar, going deeper into the trap. Most insects cannot fly straight up, and there are copious backward-pointing hairs and a very slick surface inside the pitcher. This creates a one-way, dead-end trip for the insect.

Sarracenia are high-light plants. Grow them outdoors in full sun to partial shade. If you live in a colder climate and overwinter them indoors, provide high-intensity fluorescent lights. In addition, Sarracenia are adapted to flooded savannah regions. They like wet feet, so make sure they're well-watered. When growing them in pots, let them sit in water-filled trays so they'll remain wet all the time.



The Cobra lily (Darlingtonia) has modified leaves similar to the pitcher plant, except each leaf has a curled tip that resembles the head of a cobra. Cousins to the pitcher plant, cobra lilies are quite challenging to grow in cultivation, because they prefer acidic, boggy soils and bright light. Avoid watering plants with tap water since they prefer natural mountain springs in their native habitats.



The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is perhaps the most well-known of the carnivorous plants. Its trap consists of two flaps connected together at a "hinge," with hairs covering the rim of each flap. These hairs are touch sensitive and cause the trap to close rapidly and tightly at any disturbance. An insect that is drawn to the trap's sugary secretions accidentally touches the hairs, and the trap closes tightly around it. The insect is unable to get out of the trap.

Venus flytraps can also be quite challenging to grow in cultivation due to their specific requirements: They prefer acidic, boggy soils and bright light. They also need to go through a winter dormancy period to maintain vigor year after year. Avoid watering plants with tap water since they prefer natural rainfall and therefore don't handle the salts in tap water very well.

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