Cook's Carnivorous Plants

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea Muscipula)

  Venus flytrap plants lure, capture and digest insects.  If the prey attracted by the sweet odor touches the trigger hairs, the trap snaps shut, catching its victim.  After digesting its meal, it opens in a few days, ready for another victim.

GROWING INSTRUCTIONS:  Make sure the soil is kept moist during the growing season, from May through October.  Do not keep these plants setting in water unless they are in direct sunlight, they have a tendency to rot if set in water in dimmer light.  Use distilled soft well water or rainwater.  Fly traps like warm humid conditions with summer temperatures between 70-100 degrees.  During the winter months keep soil just damp and put in a cool area, such as a dark garage, winter temperatures should be between 35-50 degrees. You will want to spray your plant with a fungicide if they are going to observe dormancy in your garage, outside it is unneeded.  If you have the plants in a bog outside they will withstand a cooler winter, but if the temperature is going to drop below 30 degrees for an extended period of time cover them with some pine needles for protection.    Transplanting should be done in the spring before vigorous growth.  Plant in a mix of 70% peat moss and 30% perlite or pumice.  The main pests for these plants are aphids, which cause the leaves to curl.  To remove these pests dip pot into a bucket of water and gently wash them off the leaves or just put pot into a bucket of water, out of the direct sun, with the plant submerged for about a week. These plants do not need to be fed for survival.  The insect acts as a natural fertilizer. Do not feed hamburger, it will kill the plant do to its fat content. Also, do not try to feed it your finger.  Live insects only.


Cobra Lily           (Darlingtonia Californica)

The genus/species Darlingtonia, commonly known as the cobra plant/lily or the California pitcher plant, is a part of the same family as Sarracenia, but is native only to parts of the Pacific Northwest. It gets its name from the curved, hooded traps and their appendages, which hang downward in the shaped of a forked tongue. The plant employs a passive pitcher to capture its prey. Unlike its American pitcher plant cousins, the pitcher of a cobra plant has downward pointing hairs inside, thus once an insect enters it only goes one way. And, if you follow the pitcher from the bottom of the plant, the traps twist to face 180 degrees from the stalk's original direction.


Climate: Darlingtonia grows naturally in the cold bogs along the west coast from Southern Washington to high altitudes of northern California. Therefore, the most important thing to remember is that the roots of a Darlingtonia must be kept cool these plants have cool water moving lightly over their roots. Air temperatures have a good range, the cobra lily taking anything from just below freezing to high summer temperatures of about 85F in the shade. In warmer climates it is highly suggested to lay ice cubes on the soil or water with refrigerated water, if the roots temperature rises above 70F the plant will not survive. Also there needs to be a fluctuation of day to night temperatures during the summer, days can be 85F but nights or soil temperature needs to be 50F or below. This might mean the difference between life and death for your cobra.


Soil: The cobra lily's soil mixture is based almost entirely upon its need to keep its roots cool. A good airy mixture that easily allows water to circulate is the best suggestion, such as:

                      - 1 part sphagnum peat moss to 1 part perlite and/or sand

                        -It is a good idea to lace the top of the pot with live sphagnum moss to help retain water and also works as a heat dissipater.


Dormancy: As with most other carnivores, the dormancy period of winter is essential. Keep the plant above freezing, about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Trap growth will stop and some of the plant will die back. This, of course, is normal.


Watering: Growing usually in cold, running water, the California pitcher plant does best when watered with very clean and very cold water. One of the most successful methods is putting the pot in a cooler filled with cool water, basically using the tray method of watering and assuring cold roots at the same time. Make sure only to use soft acidic water, such as purified water or collected rain water. Refrigerated water is also a good thing to consider when watering the cobra.


Feeding: As with most carnivorous plants, Darlingtonia can basically capture all the food it needs to survive. Do not fertilize this plant. It is not necessary and will likely kill the plant. If you think the plant is lacking nutrients, a cricket or fly or wasp, etc., down the trap every now and then is ok.


Propagation: The cobra plant is very adept for sexual reproduction. When the plant flowers in spring, you can induce it yourself. Asexual reproduction is possible through the removal of the stolons from the rhizome during the spring.




Nepenthes, or the tropical pitcher plant, are once again a passive trap plant, whose traps resemble the shape of an urn or pitcher. The genus is divided into two main groups, highland and lowland Nepenthes. It is home to some of the carnivorous plants' biggest pitchers, and the oldest of Nepenthes plants have been known to have eaten small birds. These are some of the most sought after plants in cultivation and are perhaps some of the most deadly.  These plants can grow to be all different sizes and even the pitchers take on different shapes. For a better look at the diverse looking species, check out the photos page.


Climate-Highland: Grows in mildly humid to semi-arid climates, with temperatures best in the range of 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit

                      Lowland: Usually more in tropical zones, the lowland Nepenthes best takes 55-80 degrees Fahrenheit and a considerably higher humidity.


Soil: All tropical pitcher plants have a tendency to grow in rather course soils, so to reproduce the natural conditions:

                      - 2 parts fir bark to 2 parts perlite to 1 part course peat

                      - Pure sphagnum

                      - 3 parts fir bark to 1 parts perlite to 1 part sand to 1 part peat


Watering: The tray method is not very good for this plant, as it does not take well to standing in water. Water it just enough to keep the soil moist, especially during the summer. Nepenthes is one of the most tolerant of impure water, but purified or rain water is still the best for the plant, as is with most other carnivores.


Feeding: A light foliar feeding of strength 1/8 to 1/4 once a month during the winter months will benefit the plant, but an insect into the trap, especially crickets will be even better. Dead insects depending on the size of the trap will fare it well.


  Propagation: The most efficient way to propagate nepenthes is to take a cutting of one of its nodes, (the part on the stem near the base of a leaf), count 3 nodes and then cut. When taking the cutting, be sure to cut diagonally. Remove any traps or flower spikes connected to the nodes, and then place the cutting in water to which a grow solution has been added. When the cutting is ready to pot, use a very course, airy soil, and give it a lot of humidity, maybe even use a terrarium. We are using Olivia’s rooting gel and New Zealand sphagnum with good success.



Sarracenia                    (Pitcher plant)

Commonly known as the American Pitcher Plant, is considered to be one of the most overlooked species in the world of carnivorous plants. In reality though, plants of this genus are generally among the easiest and most pleasing to grow.

                      Botanists debate upon how many base species of Sarracenia there are, because this plant has over time produced a massive number of hybrids. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that there are 8 to 11 species, with 8 confirmed. The eight best known plants are native to North America, growing confined to the Southeastern portion of the U.S., with one species ranging into Canada.

                      Sarracenia takes its prey using a passive trap, meaning it does not shut to keep the catch in. The plant gets its common name from the traps themselves, which resemble the shape of an urn or pitcher.


Climate: Since the Pitcher Plant naturally grows in the South eastern states, wet, warm, and humid climate, they are great candidates for indoors growing, such as in a terrarium or on a windowsill. They like a lot of light, and the more they get during the principle growing season the brighter and more colorful the foliage will be. If you grow Sarracenia in a greenhouse, however, partial shade will be necessary, since Sarracenia can comfortably take temperatures up to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can withstand high temperatures, but severe overheating (as in a greenhouse) will kill the plant.

                      If you choose to grow outdoors, put the plant in full sun, and make sure it doesn't get too cold at night (Pitcher Plants can only tolerate an infrequent light frost). Sarracenia flava has been known to take temperatures down to 10F, however that isn’t reccomended.  Also the purpurea purpurea and the purpurea purpurea heterophylla both can take low temperatures do to their native habitat.


Soil: Sarracenia’s grow best in a mix soil, generally one with the principle ingredient being sphagnum peat. Some recommended recipes include:

2 parts peat to 1 part perlite or pumice to 1 part sand

                      If you choose to repot your plant, make sure only to do it during the beginning of the growing season, early spring. A Pitcher plant transplanted out of season will almost certainly die, unless kept in the shade for at least a week and gradually brought back out into full sun.


Dormancy: Sarracenia have a mild need for a dormancy period, but it is still an important factor in the plant's overall health. On average, 3 months at just under 45 degrees Fahrenheit will suit the plant best. If kept this way, the leaves will remain throughout the dormancy period and growing will be much easier in the spring. If kept at higher temperatures during the rest, the plants health may decline and flowering will be sporadic at best. 


Feeding:Sarracenia are very attractive plants to insects, and can naturally catch enough prey on it's own. It is not necessary to feed these plants, nor is it to fertilize them. They have also adapted a weak amount of photosynthesis, to make up for what nutrients they don't receive in the insects. In the wild these plants can devour thousands of insects in its life time.



SUNDEW    (Drosera)    & Stylidium debile   

Drosera is an amazing plant. It is known as the fly paper trap because it's leaves act as such. Less talked about then Dionaea, Sarrencia and most certainly Nepenthes, it still has fascinating characteristics that truly makes them worthy to be called carnivorous. The plant's tentacles are covered with what looks like hairs but these structures actually produce the sticky substance that catches their prey. At the very end of every single of these structures is a drop of water mixed with the sticky substance. These amazingly delicate looking plants are just covering up for their savageness. When an insect gets stuck in the "dew" the tentacle curl up to force the insect into the middle where it is digested and it's nutrients are absorbed into the plant.


Climate: Drosera is a hugely diverse genus. It's species may be found all over the world, in Africa, N. America, S. America, Australia, even the tropics. Humidity is generally a requirement for all species.


Tuberous: Tuberous species generally require summer time temperatures between seventy five and ninety degrees. Strong light is also required. It is recommended to have a 13-14 hour photo period a day. Winter temperatures can range anywhere between 30 and 50 degrees. High humidity is required to grow these plants.


Temperate: Summer time temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees are necessary. High humidity is also a must during the growing season as it decreases when it enters dormancy.


Tropical: Summer time temperatures should between 75 and 95 degrees with a high level of humidity. Wintertime temperatures should be between 60 degrees and 80. Intense light is required with more then a twelve hour photo period for winter and summer time.


Pygmy: In the summer time, temperatures between eighty and one hundred are required with drier conditions.


Dormancy: Dormancy is only required for a few groupings of Drosera and for varying amounts of time. See below for specific instructions for the groupings.


Tuberous: The tuberous plant goes dormant in the summer time so dry conditions are necessary. Keep temperatures high.


Temperate: Dormancy is required in the winter time for about 5 months. Humidity and moisture should be dramatically reduced during this time. Dormancy temperatures should be between 35 and 45 degrees.


Tropical: There is no dormancy requirements for tropical drosera.


Pygmy: It is characteristic of pygmy drosera to go dormant during the summer in hot temperatures but is not always necessary. This is simply a mechanism for surviving harsh conditions.


Feeding: Drosera may be fed insects based on it's size. Many growers prefer egg whites however because they do not remain on the tentacles of the plant. Don't over feed it though.


Watering: All drosera require lots of water so the tray method is the best to use. Remember to never use tap water as the chemicals will build up in the plant and kill it. Try to use rain water or desalinized store bought water.


Soil: Generally a drosera will prefer a two parts peat to one part silica sand mix. Like dionaea this can be varied. Pumice and perlite may also be work in soil mediums. Keep the medium of the plants very moist   but remember that setting them in water might encourage unwanted rot. As for other carnivores, the rules concerning fertilization apply here. Don't do it. Without a shadow of doubt, the plant will be killed. Make sure that the soil is damp.



Things to Remember:

-                  Like Dionaea, the flowers of S. African drosera will probably severely setback the plant's growth to the point that it could die. It is extremely advisable to cut the flowers off at the first sign of flowering.


-                  In cooler temperatures several plants have what's known as hibernacula which is when the plant dies down to it's roots and re grows when temperatures rise again. D. capensis serves as an excellent.



Ultricularia Growing Instructions


Utricularia is the genus name that describes the bladderworts. One of the most diverse and complex genus of plants on earth, it is broken into three major groups. The aquatics, the terrestrials and the epiphytic bladderworts are all bizarre and they all have something else in common. They prey on the lives of insects, (some very small) to survive making them carnivorous. The flowers of some of the utrics are so beautiful that they actually rival the flowers of some orchids.


Climate: The climate for the bladderworts vary depending on the species. There are species that would do well in climates ranging from temperate climates, all the way to tropical climates.. Temperatures also range. Respect plants that are tropical with tropical temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F and temperate plants with a range of about 50 to 70 degrees. Most aquatic species will do well in multiple climate ranges, such as U. gibba. Most bladderworts prefer wetter, bog like conditions, as do many other carnivores. Utricularia generally require mostly sunny conditions and for this reason, some species make very good windowsill plants.


Watering: Aquatic bladderworts require large amounts of water to essentially float free in, but require large amounts of carbon dioxide to be really healthy. The terrestrials do well with de-ionized (also known as distilled) water utilizing the tray system, in which pots are set in about an inch of standing water. The soil will remain wet permanently. The epiphytic species can also grow well using the tray method, but you should water over head to create an artificial water table.



Dormancy: Dormancy must be observed for the temperate species of Utricularia as well as a few epiphytic species. Light and water can be dramatically reduced during dormancy but is necessary for a few months at the very least. The aquatic species generally will not go dormant unless the water they are in freezes.


Soil:  Aquatic species require what is known as a slurry where you mix one cup of peat to every gallon of water that you are using. Many other non carnivores also do well in this mix. Larger aquatics require huge amounts of water. One species can grow quite comfortably in a one hundred gallon container! Remember the high carbon dioxide requirements when growing aquatic bladderworts. Terrestrial species do well in a peat and sand mix while the epiphytic prefer a perlite, peat and sand mixture.


Propagation: Propagation for the bladderworts has a reputation for being extremely easy to accomplish. All that you have to do is remove a part of the plant and put it on new medium. Aquatic species are similar in that you only had to separate them. Leaf cuttings can also be performed without a reasonable challenge. If it is seed you desire, pollination is certainly an option.




Cephalotus  Albany Pitcher Plant


Cephalotus is an extremely popular plant for cultivation and for collectors around the world. The Western Australian Pitcher Plant, also known as the Albany Pitcher Plant is not difficult to grow either. There is only one species in this genus so the information contained here is uniform for all cephalotus. The plant has two sets of leaves. The first sprout in springtime and are only there to photosynthesize. They do not have the ability to collect insects. The second set of leaves will sprout in early to mid summer. They will expand slowly into traps that are about thimble sized.


Climate: Cephalotus may grow in a range of temperatures, but of course it has it’s own preference. Summer time temperatures should vary between 70 to 85 degrees. (Too warm of temperatures might result in an early demise) They will tolerate lower temperatures into the 30s for a short amount of time. Generally the more sun and the higher humidity will produce more colorful traps. For this reason, cephalotus is an excellent candidate for the terrarium and window sills. 


Soil: A mix of three parts peat to one part sand should sufficient but many growers have had success with pure peat. If your pitcher plant is not doing well, consider changing the soil recipe. (always be careful with the roots as they are extremely sensitive. Mishandled, you will kill the plant. Collectors have used soil recipes that rely more heavily on sand. If that is desired, try a two thirds sand/1 third peat recipe. Perlite may also be substituted for the sand.


Watering: Like other carnivorous plants, it is not recommended to use tap water because of excessive mineral buildup. Distilled water should be used with no minerals if you are buying it, but perhaps the easiest
way to water cephalotus is to collect rainwater (should your climate permit this) Cephalotus do not grow well in soil that is too water logged so you should either water overhead (in the wild they grow where there is moving water) or use the tray method. If using the tray method, it is important to avoid water log conditions by allowing it to completely evaporate before re watering.


Feeding: Your cephalotus will happily eat ants, and spiders but would have much easier time digesting smaller insects.


Dormancy: Thankfully there is no dormancy period for cephalotus to worry about and you may enjoy
them for the entire year.


Propagation: By seed, cephalotus is a very slow plant to propagate. To sow the seed, spread it over a medium, recommended to be pure peat. Keep the humidity and light levels high and growth should be noticeable within several weeks. By far the easiest way however is to use a cutting. Take a leave cutting from the plant making sure that the rhizome is clearly visible. From here, new growth will sprout. Cover the rhizome with pure peat and expose it to lots of light and high humidity and you should be able to see new growth in two to four weeks. This is not guaranteed to work however, as rot can be a huge problem.

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