Skip to main content

Add these unique carnivorous plants to your garden

sundew in a garden

Green plants use their leaves to make plant sugar from water, air, and sunlight via photosynthesis. To grow and reproduce, however, they need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients that most plants take up from the soil. But what if the soil can’t provide these essential elements? Carnivorous plants harvest them in a different way, so they can thrive in lean soil.

Venus flytraps, sundews, pitcher plants, and other carnivorous plants capture insects in a variety of ways. They attract their prey with different colors and scents and capture them with sticky residues, movable foliage, slippery hairs, or water traps. Then they produce enzymes to extract and assimilate the vital nutrients. These plants are amazing in design, unusual in their beauty, and coveted by gardeners. And—you can grow them in your garden without much difficulty.

How to grow carnivorous plants

Most carnivorous plants originate in boggy locations. They grow best in moist, acidic soil that’s rich in organic matter but poor in nutrients. They prefer high humidity, bright indirect sunlight, and consistently moist (but not flooded) soil. To grow carnivores in your garden, you’ll need to recreate these conditions and choose cultivars that are hardy in your growing zone.


Providing the right soil is one of the more challenging elements of growing carnivorous plants at home. Regular potting soil holds too much nutrient content. Fertilizers can damage the root system. Live sphagnum moss or dried, long-fiber sphagnum moss make an excellent planting medium for carnivorous plants. Alternatively, mix 3 parts peat moss to 1 part clean, coarse sand.


Bright indirect sunlight is ideal for most carnivorous plants. Some grow best with direct sunlight. Indoors, supplemental light from fluorescent or LED grow lights is essential.


Each carnivorous plant species has its own temperature preferences. Some need a distinct cool or cold dormant period.


High humidity is necessary for nearly all carnivorous plants. Outdoors, a bog garden will provide plenty of humidity in humid climates. Indoors, a terrarium is ideal.


Avoid using tap water for carnivorous plants. Instead, capture rainwater or snowmelt, or use distilled water. During the growing season, keep the growing medium moist to wet. In winter, just moist is fine.


When insects are present and during dormancy, don’t feed carnivorous plants. Indoors, or when insects aren’t present, use quarter-strength organic fertilizer as a foliar spray to provide supplemental plant food. Never attempt to feed your plants meat, as they can’t digest it.

The best carnivorous plants for your garden

butterwort plant in a garden

Butterwort, Pinguicula spp.

Butterworts are small herbaceous plants with flat leaves that are known for their distinctly buttery feel. They grow in many parts of the world, from subarctic Asia to North and South America. The leaves are covered in tiny, sticky hairs that capture gnats, fruit flies, springtails, and other small prey. Butterworts produce beautiful, long-lasting flowers in the spring.

Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia spp.

Pitcher plants grow in boggy areas of eastern North America from Texas, along the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic seaboard. They use extrafloral nectaries on the lip of the colorful pitchers to attract insects, which then slip into the throat of the pitcher. Showy flowers grow in early spring, ahead of the first pitchers, so pollinators are safe from becoming prey. The hardiest species is S. purpurea, which is found in the Great Lakes region and southeastern Canada. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own care requirements.

Sundew, Drosera spp.

Sundews grow on every continent except Antarctica, with most species preferring mild or tropical climates. They have slender leaves covered in sticky red tentacles. A sweetly scented trigger mechanism attracts prey to the tentacles which close up and digest the insect. More than 90 percent of species are native to Australia, South America, and Africa.

Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula

Venus flytraps are native to a small area of the coastal plain in North Carolina and South Carolina. They grow leaves shaped like clamshells, ringed with fine teeth. When a bug lands on the trigger in the center of the leaf, the clamshell closes to trap the prey inside.

Create a bog garden for your carnivorous plant collection

venus flytrap in a garden

Gardening is more fun when you have a diverse selection of plants. Whether you grow them indoors in a terrarium or outside in a bog garden, the key is to choose companion plants that will thrive in the same moist, humid, lean soil as our carnivorous plants. One solution is to mix and match several carnivores. Other suitable companions include:

  • Grass Pink Orchid, Calopogon spp.
  • Ladies’ Tresses Orchid, Spiranthes odorata
  • Plymouth Gentian, Sabatia kennedyana
  • Rose Pogonia Orchid, Pogonia ophioglossoides

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
How to plant garlic: A versatile vegetable with a ton of uses
A guide to planting garlic and using it in many different ways
Three garlic bulbs with some garlic cloves next to them

Garlic, with its distinctive flavor and aroma, is a versatile vegetable that adds depth and complexity to a wide range of delicious meals. But did you know that garlic is not only a culinary delight but also offers numerous health benefits and has various household uses? Let's explore how to plant garlic, the many culinary and health benefits it offers, as well as its household and medicinal uses.
How to plant garlic to ensure a plentiful harvest
Before you can use and enjoy those flavorful bulbs, you need to first understand how to properly plant them. Follow these steps to ensure a successful garlic harvest!
Selecting the right garlic variety
When it comes to choosing the right garlic variety, you have several options to consider:

For example, softneck garlic varieties, such as "Silverskin" and "Artichoke," are commonly found in grocery stores and have a milder flavor. Hardneck garlic varieties, on the other hand, including "Rocambole" and "Porcelain," offer a stronger taste and are better suited for colder climates.

Read more
If you’re in need of a durable flowering shrub, then consider growing pittosporum! Here’s your care guide
How to plant and take care of pittosporum
Pittosporum shrub with variegated leaves and white flowers

Shrubs can offer many benefits to your garden. Whether you’re growing them as an ornamental addition for their beautiful flowers or looking to grow a privacy hedge, shrubs provide a wide array of options. If your garden is in need of a durable shrub with beautiful flowers, then pittosporum, also called cheesewood, is a great place to start.

Commonly found throughout Asia, Australia, and some parts of Africa, pittosporum is becoming more popular in American gardens. This simple care guide can help you successfully add it to your garden as well!
Planting pittosporum
If you’re planting your pittosporum from seed, you should plant it in the fall. However, older plants see better success when transplanted in the spring. Regardless of when you’re planting it, you should plant pittosporum in full sun to partial shade. Some varieties of cheesewood can even tolerate full shade, so don’t despair if you have a heavily shaded garden.

Read more
Stargazer lilies are excellent warm-weather flowers – how to grow them for stunning blooms all summer long
Indoor and outdoor care for stargazer lilies
A cluster of stargazer lily flowers

Of the many popular flowers found in summer flower gardens, lilies are perhaps one of the most versatile. There is a range of colors, patterns, and even shapes available, so you're sure to find a lily that fits your garden. One popular lily variety is the stargazer lily, which has large, striking flowers. The petals of its blooms are pink with white edges and darker pink spots along the center of the petals. These stunning flowers are excellent centerpieces in summer gardens as well as indoor spaces. Here’s how to grow your own.
Indoor care
Stargazer lilies, like other lily varieties, can grow indoors with proper care. Indoor care for stargazer lilies begins with choosing the correct container. It needs to be deep and have sufficient drainage holes. Avoid shallow pots or those without drainage holes, such as ceramic pots. Likewise, you must use well-draining soil to avoid overwatering. Stargazer lilies enjoy moist soil, but they don’t tolerate standing water. Soil that is rich in organic matter is ideal.

Place your stargazer lily in your sunniest window, or where it can get light from a grow light if you don’t have access to a good window. Water your stargazer lily one to two times per week so the soil stays moist but not soggy. In the spring, freshen up the soil with a slow-release fertilizer to keep your lily healthy and blooming.

Read more