Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Keeping carnivores for gardeners

Every so often a gardening feature looks at some slightly unusual plants, such as an exotic flower from a far-flung location. These can be very beautiful and, in some cases, may be able to thrive outdoors, depending on the climate of where you live.

The UK Daily Telegraph has just published a series of images and captions about one of the most fascinating kinds of organism; carnivorous plants. Ranging from the snap-jawed Venus fly trap to the sticky sundew, these plants have one thing in common – they exist in nutrient-poor soil. What they cannot get from the ground they get from devouring invertebrates and, on occasion, other small creatures like frogs or even birds and fish.

Some plants are suited to temperate climates, such as the sundew, while the Venus flytrap is native to North and South Carolina and various pitcher plants – which have no moving parts but attract flies with their sweet scent and catch them with their slippery funnels leading into watery pools – usually come from warmer countries.

As a result, many plants can only be grown and kept in greenhouses or inside the house if you live further north. This is particularly true of the Venus flytrap.

Raising a carnivorous plant from a seed is not hard. For a Venus flytrap, for example, the key is to note the plants flower in the spring, so no stratification is needed. The most important thing is to note they like to be kept in warm, light and damp conditions. So lots of direct sun is good news and the sphagnum moss should be kept nice and moist.

In addition to this, only natural water should be used, not that which comes from the tap. This is because the plants thrive in more acidic soil and tapwater dilutes this.

Traps will often turn brown and die. It is wise to prune these quickly, to stop the rot setting in. Often this process comes after digestion and it is worth noting these plants should not be over-fed. Fascinating as it may be to see creatures being trapped and devoured, over-feeding can kill and giving them raw meat will certainly do so.