Everything you need to know about carnivorous houseplants
Nepenthes alata are large fly trap plants, native to the(del) Asia. These climbing plants typically take on the form of a vine, with various fly traps hanging from the vine – uniquely beautiful! The great thing about these plants is that they are very low maintenance and easy to care for.
Here at Moffatts, we appreciate the beauty of these plants and will do all we can to help them thrive. The most important thing is that we do not give them any fertiliser, as this will burn them. Instead, their sole method of feeding is through catching flies, which they trap and digest.
If you look at the detail in one of these plants, you will realise that it is pure art – the fly traps can get up to 35cm long and are covered in nectar-secreting glands.
Similar to the Nepenthes, and actually frequently confused for the same thing is the Sarracenia purpurea. This plant is commonly known as a ‘pitcher plant’, or ‘monkey cup’ due to the unique cup-shaped hanging leaves. These grow right up from the base of the plant.
Native to North America, the pitcher plants have a unique trap that they use to capture prey. They have slippery, waxy interiors resulting in anything falling inside finding it almost impossible to escape. The pitchers are 10-30cm tall.
What is the difference between Nepenthes alata and Sarracenia purpurea?
Aside from their physical differences, a big difference with these 2 plants is the temperature requirements. For instance, the Nepenthes is a true tropical plant that needs temperatures of 18C or higher. On the other hand, the Sarracenia can handle temperatures as low as -5C.
Another difference is that the Sarracenia likes the light to get at it’s best, whereas the Nepenthes cannot handle direct sunlight.
History of carnivorous plants
It is believed that these plants have evolved over hundreds of years as a response to stresses in their environment. For instance, they were originally found in bogs and swamps, with soil that lacked minerals such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Therefore, they had to adapt and find their nutrition elsewhere – namely, the dissolved bodies of their prey. What a wonderful example of evolution!
Caring for your own carnivorous house plants
Captivated by the unique beauty and survival-method of these plants? Interested in getting your own so that you can continue to be amazed and learn more? We don’t blame you! But before you go ahead and grab one, here are some top plant-care tips:
- Don’t feed your plant insects that you have killed yourself or found lying around the house. You may think this is a good idea as this is what they live off, but it could actually cause them a lot of harm! As explained above, these plants have adapted over hundreds of years to their method of survival, and will be quite fine catching their own prey when they need it.
- Provide the right environment. This includes the level of light, humidity, temperature and moisture in the room that you decide to home your plant. Depending on the variety of carnivorous plant you have gone for, this may vary. But, you can check the plant tag for the relevant instructions.
- Water consistently – Keep the soil moist at all times. Once the top layer feels dry, it is time to water again. Water thoroughly until it comes out of the drainage, and empty excess water out of the saucer. Mist daily or a few times a week. The pitchers should always have some water in them to prevent the ends turning brown and crispy.
- Refrain from touching the plant – no matter how tempted you may be! These carnivorous plants use a lot of energy when they detect something has fallen into their trap. Therefore, you can imagine how unhappy they will be once they realise there is no prey to eat. An unhappy plant could become very stressed and unhealthy, making it susceptible to bugs, diseases or even death.
- Do not fertilise the plant. This may burn the plant, or even kill it! If you think your carnivorous plant needs fertiliser, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we can give you some tips on what to do!
Moffatts Flower Company now has selected Sarracenia purpurea (pitcher plants) available and will have Nepenthes alata ready early next year! If you are interested in buying a pitcher plant, please contact us.