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.


Related To:

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.

Shop This Look

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.

Next Up

Learn How to Plant and Grow Spider Lily

These old-fashioned favorites bring gorgeous blooms when other flowers have faded, popping up like magic in late summer.

Caring for Anthurium

Give your home a touch of the tropics with the exotic blooms of anthurium. Caring for anthurium isn’t difficult, and the rewards are flowers that linger for weeks.

Growing Passionflower Vine

Add exotic flair to your garden with the intricate blooms of Passiflora, the passionflower vine. This heat-loving vine is a cinch to grow.

How to Plant, Grow and Care for Hyacinth Flowers

Sweet-smelling hyacinths are a symbol of spring. Learn how to grow these iconic flowers.

How to Grow and Care for Bougainvillea

Nothing adds drama like a briliantly colored bougainvillea vine climbing up a wall or over an arbor. Here's how to plant and grow this tropical favorite.

How to Care for a Snake Plant

If you tend to kill plants with neglect, then the tough-as-nails snake plant is the right choice for you. Get care tips including how often to water snake plant and how to repot snake plant.

How to Grow Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum brings color and fragrance to your early spring garden. Easy to grow from seed, alyssum is a low-growing plant that carpets the ground with tiny white or lavender flowers.

How to Grow Alocasia

Commonly known as elephant's ear, this family of big-leafed tropical plants can be grown outdoors as a dramatic specimen plant or indoors as a houseplant.

How to Grow Gladiolus Flowers

Plant easy-to-grow gladioli in spring and watch them burst into beautiful summertime blooms.

How to Choose, Plant and Grow Flowering Shrubs

Flowering shrubs, like azalaea, hydrangea, camellia and more, provide multi-season color and interest. Learn how to add them to your garden or landscape with this expert advice.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.