Carnivorous Plants VHT107

Learn to identify and grow Carnivorous Plants

  • Understand their fascinating biology, including how they capture and digest small animals
  • A course for horticulturists, biologists, environmentalists, and both amateur and professional collectors.



Lesson 1. Introduction to carnivorous plants

  • Recognising differences around the world
  • Plant names
  • Monocotyledons and dicotyledons
  • Plant families
  • Classification of carnivorous plants
  • Review of plant families that carnivorous plants belong to
  • Types of trapping mechanisms
  • Resources and networking
  • Using a botanical key
  • Glossary

Lesson 2. Culture

  • Introduction
  • Planting
  • Soils
  • Plant nutrition
  • Watering
  • Plant health
  • Compost making

Lesson 3. Propagation and Container Growing.

  • Propagating carnivorous plants
  • Collecting from the wild
  • Methods of propagation
  • Tissue culture

Lesson 4. Pitchers and Sundews

  • Nepenthes
  • Drosera

Lesson 5. Other Important Types of Carnivorous Plants

  • e.g. Bladderworts

Lesson 6. Lesser Grown Varieties of Carnivorous Plants

Lesson 7. Australian Droseras

Lesson 8. Growing and Using Carnivorous Plants

  • in containers
  • in the ground
  • as indoor plants.

Lesson 9. Special Assignment
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify different carnivorous plants.
  • Describe the cultural requirements for a range of different carnivorous plants
  • Propagate a range of different carnivorous plants
  • Discuss the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of both Sundews and Pitcher plants.
  • Discuss the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of both Bladderworts and at least one other genus of Carnivorous plant.
  • Describe the identifying characteristics and cultural requirements of several species of less commonly cultivated carnivorous plants.
  • Describe the identification and culture of Australian Droseras in depth.
  • Determine and describe appropriate ways of cultivating and displaying cultured carnivorous plants.
  • Describe one group of carnivorous plants in depth.


There is a great deal of diversity among carnivorous plants; coming from a range of different plant genera and families; and each species having slightly if not greatly different requirements to the next.  The following general comments will be relevant to most species; but not all. To understand more subtle and specific differences, you need to undertake either this course or a similar level of study.

Water Needs

For most carnivorous plants, you should keep the soil or potting media moist to wet at all times, but never soggy and never dry. There are exceptions though. Some types of carnivorous plants grow in water floating on ponds or streams; and others grow in situations where conditions can become quite dry for part of the year.

Many pitcher plants will grow in soggy soil with water covering the bottom half of a pot they are growing in; but for most potted carnivores that are standing in a tray of water, the water level should be no more than a quarter of the depth of the pot. It can be allowed to drop beyond this until it almost disappears; but should then be brought back to one quarter depth before it all goes.

Water is best added to a tray, pond or bath rather than being applied on top of the plant. Watering the top of a plant can dilute or wash away mucilage that catches insects on a Drosera, or nectar that attracts animals to the top of a pitcher plant.

Only ever use clean water. Water contaminated with nutrients, salt, disease organisms or of the wrong pH; can change the growing environment and have an adverse effect on the plants. Rainwater, filtered water or distilled water is often used with carnivorous plants to minimise such risks.

Soils and Nutrition

Carnivorous plants are commonly adapted to derive most of their nutritional requirements from the animals they catch and eat; and they frequently do not have a capacity to cope with nutrient rich soils in the way other plants do. Even the mild fertilisers that keep other plants healthy can have a detrimental, and sometimes disastrous, effect when applied to carnivores.

Many carnivores are adapted to growing in swamps or boggy conditions where there may be a high level of organic matter; but because that organic matter is saturated, it decomposes and releases nutrients very slowly into the soil. You can reproduce similar conditions with a mixture of peat moss and washed sand. 

The sand needs to be horticultural sand, propagating sand or perhaps washed granitic sand. Never use beach sand, which can be salt contaminated. Contractor’s sand can contain dust which is not good either. Do not use anything that has an alkaline pH, such as limestone based sand.

Be careful of the type of peat used. Read the label to ensure it does not contain contaminants. One part peat to one part sand may work for many carnivores, but you will need to experiment and alter the ratio according to what you are growing. See information on the different types elsewhere in the book.

Feed plants with an additional insect or two each month, beyond what they catch. This can help many to grow bigger and healthier. Be careful not to over feed them.

Plants grown indoors may be protected from harmful insects; but will also have less opportunity to catch insects naturally. If this is the case you may need to feed them a few more insects. It is healthier to grow plants in a place and way that they have access to natural prey. Always observe the following:

  • Never feed carnivorous plants with raw meat or cheese. 
  • Large pieces of organic matter are detrimental to plants.
  • It is better to not feed carnivorous plants with fertilisers of any type.
  • Some growers will occasionally feed plants with a very weak fertiliser; only 10% of what might be recommended for other plants, or even weaker.

Note: Micronutrient deficiencies can occasionally be a problem with some carnivores; and this is sometimes dealt with by introducing a thin layer of clay at the bottom of a pond or tray that pots are standing in.


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