How To Feed Carnivorous Plants

/How To Feed Carnivorous Plants

How To Feed Carnivorous Plants

Whether your carnivorous plants are indoors or you happen to live in a relatively bug free area (lucky!), you may have decided it’s necessary to begin supplying them with some alternate food sources. However, effectively feeding a carnivorous plant varies depending on what kind it is, so let’s take a look at how to feed some of the more common types to prevent them from missing out on important nutrients.

 

Butterworts (Pinguicula)

Butterworts do a pretty good job of catching food on their own. If they seem to be having trouble though, sprinkle some fish food or bloodworms on a sticky leaf or two every 2-3 weeks. Try to keep food away from the sensitive crown though to minimize bacteria and mold growth.

Some Butterworts will enter a state of dormancy during certain times of the year. They will stop producing sticky leaves and the plant will usually shrink in size. There’s no need to feed Butterworts during this time.

Pinguicula with Food

Butterwort with fish flake food

Dormant Pinguicula gypsicola

Dormant Butterwort

 

Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes, Sarracenia, & Cephalotus)

Pitcher Plants are probably the easiest carnivorous plants to feed. During their active growing season, drop bugs, fish food, or fertilizer pellets in a few of the pitchers every 2-3 weeks. If the pitchers are dry, squirt water in them with a pipette or eyedropper after feeding, otherwise they won’t be able to absorb the nutrients. If you move plants after the pitchers are full, do so carefully. Partially digested food from a spilled pitcher smells atrocious.

Feeding Pitcher Plant with Pipette

Adding water to a young Sarracenia pitcher

 

Sundews (Drosera)

Like Butterworts, Sundews do a pretty good job of catching food on their own. If they seem to be struggling though, feed a few dewy leaves dry fish food or bloodworms every 2-3 weeks. If you’re in a hurry, store the food in an old spice shaker and give it a few shakes over the plant occasionally. Just be careful not to pour too much out or get food near the crown of the plant.

Bloodworms

Mmm Bloodworms

If you’d like a more targeted approach, use a pair of pointed tweezers to stick food on the tentacles. After feeding, most sundews curl their leaves around prey within about 20 minutes. If a sundew doesn’t have dew on its tentacles, this could be a sign that it’s stressed. Only feed it after the dew returns.

Feeding Sundew with Tweezers

Tweezer feeding D. capensis a bloodworm

Sundew Curled Around Food

Leaf curl after about 20 minutes

 

Venus Flytraps (Dionaea)

Venus Flytraps are some of the most fun carnivorous plants to feed! Using tweezers, gently brush a bug, damp fish food, or bloodworms against the trigger hairs inside one of the traps. The trap will snap shut after a couple of strokes, getting a mouthful of food. The amount of food you give each trap depends on its size. Generally, the size of the food should be about 1/4 of the size of the trap.

Feeding Venus Flytrap with Tweezers

Tweezer feeding a Venus Flytrap fish flakes

For food that isn’t fed live, gently massage the trap after it has snapped shut. This mimics a bug moving inside and stimulates the trap to seal more tightly and produce extra digestive enzymes. Learn more about this amazing process here. Feed a few traps every 2-3 weeks during the plant’s active growing season.

Massaging Venus Flytrap

Massaging a trap to stimulate digestion

 

So Now What?

This guide gave a brief overview of how to feed carnivorous plants but if you haven’t done so already, check out our article: What to Feed Carnivorous Plants. It covers a variety of suitable food sources and alternatives to bugs. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave questions and comments below, we’d like to hear from you!

 

6 Comments

  1. bob November 24, 2019 at 9:11 am - Reply

    my drosera has started turning black on the tips do you know why?

    • curiousplant November 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Bob, blackening leaf tips can be caused by a number of things, including low humidity, lack of water, excess heat, aging leaves, or dormancy (depending on the species). I’d be happy to try and give you a more specific answer if you can provide more information about your conditions and the type of plant. Thanks!

  2. Jill October 5, 2019 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I’ve been wondering what type of pitcher plant I have.How do i tell? Mine are small and look like they have red veins they also have red tips.

    • curiousplant October 7, 2019 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Hi Jill, from your description it sounds like you have a type of Sarracenia but as far as what kind, it would be hard to say without seeing a photo of it. If you’d like to get in touch via our contact page and send a picture, we’d be happy to take a look. Thanks!

  3. Heather P October 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Hi there! I feel my pitcher plan beta fish food (4-10 pellets) approx every 3 months. The pellets seem to mostly dissolve into a brown liquid that sits at the bottom of the pitcher. I recently fed the plant, adding new pellets into the pitchers containing the old pellet remains. Now white mold-looking stuff has developed in the pitchers. Have you seen this before? I’m tempted to cut those pitchers off if it’s bad for the plant, but perhaps it’s good?

    • curiousplant October 31, 2018 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Heather, it sounds like your pitchers are doing a good job of breaking down the fish food pellets, lots of nutrients for the plant! A little mold inside won’t hurt anything but if you find it starts to cause premature rot in the pitcher walls then it may be helpful to trim them off and use a little less fish food next time so they don’t become overwhelmed. Thank you for your questions!

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