The Fascinating World of Terrarium Carnivorous Plants

Do you remember the cult classic movie “Little Shop of Horrors”? It was my first introduction to carnivorous plants. I was fascinated by the enormous alien-like talking plant, and little did I know that real-life carnivorous plants are even cooler! These unique plants don’t rely on soil or sunlight for nutrients. Instead, they derive their necessary sustenance by digesting protein-rich insects. Growing carnivorous plants can provide you with a free and natural pest control service. In this article, I will share my knowledge on how to create a terrarium for carnivorous plants. Let’s dive in!

Carnivorous Plant Terrariums

Step 1: Choose a Carnivorous Plant Species

Throughout the years, natural selection has led to the development of various species of carnivorous plants. Before setting up your terrarium, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some of these intriguing species.

Venus Flytrap

venus flytrap carnivorous terrarium plants

Undoubtedly, the Venus flytrap is the most famous carnivorous plant. Its hinged leaves patiently flare, waiting for unsuspecting insects to land. Once triggered by movement, the leaves swiftly contract, trapping their prey. These leaves remain closed for about a week, during which the plant bathes the insect in digestive enzymes. Interestingly, this viscous plant is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Venus flytraps thrive in wet soil and prefer sunny windows for lush growth.

Pitcher Plant

pitcher plant carnivorous terrarium plants

At first glance, the pitcher plant may appear peaceful like any other flowering plant. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll discover its deadly nature. With long tube-like leaves that offer enticing nectar, insects are lured to fall inside. Once inside, they succumb to the plant’s strong digestive secretions. Pitcher plants require larger terrariums and present a challenge for beginners due to the need to maintain humidity and ventilation.

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Butterwort

Pinguicula Poldinii Butterwort for terrariums

For those seeking a more subtle option, butterworts are ideal. These plants have multiple small leaves that secrete a sticky mucous. When an insect becomes trapped, deadly enzymes dissolve its body layer by layer. Butterworts are perfect for shallow terrariums and require maintained humidity.

Sundews

sundew carnivorous terrarium plants

Imagine a Venus flytrap having a baby with a butterwort – that’s a sundew! The leaves of these unique plants are adorned with hair-like tentacles that release sticky nectar. When an insect lands on these leaves, it becomes stuck, waiting for the digestive enzymes to break it down. Some sundew species even wrap their tentacles around their prey.

Step 2: Pick an Enclosure

Most carnivorous plants thrive in humid conditions, so it’s best to choose a glass container with a lid. The size of the enclosure depends on the number of plants you want to cultivate. Beginners can start with small bowls until they gain more experience and understand the needs of carnivorous plants.

Step 3: Lay the Foundation

For the first layer of the terrarium, choose a material that can absorb and maintain moisture. Sand and cork are excellent options. If you opt for sand, ensure it is terrarium-friendly and free from toxic impurities typically found in home center sand.

Step 4: Layer the Rest of the Growing Medium

Carnivorous plants have evolved to thrive in harsh habitats with poor soil conditions. Therefore, nutrient-rich potting soil should be avoided when preparing the growing medium. Instead, choose moss as the ultimate choice for your terrarium setup.

Why Moss?

Unlike typical plants, moss doesn’t rely on roots and internal vessels to distribute water and nutrients. Instead, it slowly absorbs water through its extensive network of tiny leaves. This mechanism helps maintain high humidity, which is essential for carnivorous plants.

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For the first layer above the foundation, use sphagnum moss, known for its exceptional water retention. The final layer should consist of a 1:1 mixture of peat moss and perlite. This combination enhances drainage and aeration, creating a suitable medium for most carnivorous plants. Avoid compressing the layers, as this may compromise their qualities. Ensure they fully cover the plants’ roots by spreading them evenly throughout the terrarium.

Step 5: Place Your Plants

While carnivorous plants are known for their voracious appetite, they require delicate handling. Avoid touching the leaves and roots as much as possible when preparing them for your terrarium. Gently remove some soil surrounding the roots to expose them to the prepared medium. Dig a small hole in the medium, deep enough to accommodate about two-thirds of the plant’s original soil. Cover the remaining third with another layer of sphagnum moss to add visual appeal.

Technically, this marks the end of the tutorial, and your plants should be ready to feast on insects! However, an important aspect to consider is watering.

Carnivorous Plant Watering: Tap Water Is Lethal!

All carnivorous plants share one crucial preference – they detest nutrient-rich water. This preference stems from their evolutionary history in arid environments, relying mainly on rainwater with low mineral content. Therefore, tap, bottled, and even filtered water should be avoided. Instead, opt for distilled or demineralized water obtained through distillers or reverse osmosis systems. Another option is collecting natural rainwater with pots placed in your backyard, which works well even in areas with low rainfall.

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How to Water Your Carnivorous Plants

The watering process is straightforward. Using a spray bottle, gently sprinkle your terrarium twice a week. Increase the frequency to three times per week if you reside in a dry environment. Remember not to waterlog the medium.

Carnivorous Plant Feeding

Carnivorous plants are self-sufficient when it comes to their diet. By placing them outdoors for a few hours each week, they can catch their own prey. Once they capture their meal, you can return them to their indoor terrarium for digestion. However, if the insect population in your area is insufficient, you may need to hand-feed your plants with dead insects or bloodworms. Avoid overwhelming your plants by feeding them only one insect at a time.

Help! My Carnivorous Plants Are Dying

If you find your carnivorous plants slowly shriveling, don’t fret. This is a natural occurrence and doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. Most carnivorous plants go into dormancy during winter, adapting to harsh conditions just as many animals go into hibernation. During this period, simply move your plant to a cold, shaded place and reduce watering to once every two weeks. When spring arrives, your plant will bounce back to life and resume its predatory tendencies.

Concluding Carnivorous Terrarium Plants

Creating a terrarium for carnivorous plants doesn’t require rocket science. Remember to start with a layer of sand or cork, followed by sphagnum moss, a moss/perlite mixture, and a final layer of sphagnum moss. Don’t wait any longer – start feeding that Venus flytrap before it takes its mighty wrath out on you!

For more information and inspiration, visit the Ames Farm Center and explore their wide array of carnivorous plants.