Carnivorous plants

Carnivorous plants, with their amazing ability to trap and digest prey, are an endless source of fascination. They are becoming increasingly available to buy, so it’s easy to fill your home and garden with these intriguing, beautiful and diverse plants.


Carnivorous plants  have a range of different mechanisms for catching prey, from tall trumpet-like pitchers, to rounded cups and traps that snap shut, to glistening sticky leaves. Many also produce attractive flowers.


Most come from boggy habitats, so need damp or wet conditions and special low-nutrient compost. Some, including species of Sarracenia, Pinguicula and Drosera, are hardy and happy grown outdoors all year in a sunny spot, while others, like the cobra lily Darlingtonia californica, need to overwinter in frost free conditions. Those that come from tropical forests, like Nepenthes, need warm, humid, partly shady conditions and should be grown indoors all year round. They all prefer to be watered with rainwater and many like to sit in a saucer containing 2.5-5cm of water during the growing season. During the winter, they prefer the compost to be kept damp rather than wet.


Carnivorous plants don’t like drying out during the growing season, and can be scorched by direct sun in summer when grown under glass. Most need good light levels and won’t thrive in shade, however tropical jungle species prefer a partially shaded position. They will die if planted in soil or normal potting compost, or given any kind of fertiliser. The chemicals in tap water, particularly in hard water areas, can be toxic to them and so should not be used.

Did you know?

Carnivorous plants don’t just catch tiny insects – some species of the tropical vine Nepethes are known to trap frogs, birds, mice, rats and other small mammals in their large fluid-filled pitchers.

Growing guide

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