Whether your carnivorous plants are indoors or you live in an area where there are fewer bugs available, 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 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 succulent phase 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.
Butterwort with fish flake food
Butterwort in succulent phase
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 doesn’t smell the best.
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.
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.
Tweezer feeding D. capensis a bloodworm
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.
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.
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!