Maybe regular houseplants aren’t fulfilling your inner caregiver needs but you’re not quite ready for a pet. Or maybe you just have a little bit of a dark side that needs to be indulged. Either way, a carnivorous houseplant might be just the thing.
Rather than subsisting on a “goop-friendly” diet of water and sunshine like normal houseplants, carnivorous house plants get the bulk of their nutrition from protein, aka bugs, and even some small frogs and mammals.
They’re kinda like pet snakes, except you never have to worry about them getting loose.
And your options go far beyond the Venus flytrap (though that’s definitely a good one!). Here are 5 relatively easy creature-eaters to keep at home, plus how to care for carnivorous plants indoors.
5 carnivorous houseplants for beginners
- Venus flytraps
- pitcher plants
But it’s also possible that keeping a carnivorous houseplant around might result in fewer rogue flies or bugs creeping around your space. In the wild, these plants use sweet smelling nectar, bright colors, and sticky little leaf hairs to lure in their next meal. They might do that in your home too!
On the other hand? You can still keep these living exterminators if you’re among the lucky few who never have to deal with bugs or pests. You just might have to give your plants a
sacrificial er, supplementary feed to keep them happy.
Ready to ditch your watering can and go for blood? (JK, you still gotta water them!) These five picks are sturdy and relatively low maintenance, as far as killer plants go.
It’s the classic most of us think of when we think of plant-like things that eat flesh, right? Venus flytraps have sensitive trigger hairs on their leaves that snap shut (in less than a second, yikes!) when an insect lands on them.
Once the bugger’s locked in, the plant gets to work digesting it with the help of special enzymes.
Venus flytraps are pretty easy to care for as long as you give them the habitat they need (think wet and humid). And if it doesn’t have much luck hunting in your home, you can feed it by dropping a bug, bloodworm, or even fish food onto its leaf with a pair of tweezers.
Here’s another low maintenance murderer that relies on a tempting nectar and sticky, flypaper-like substance on its leaves to catch its prey. Sundews especially like mosquitoes, and once one gets into that sticky situation, the plant’s coils close up around the critter and basically suffocate it. What a slayer!
Sundews like bright sun but can also handle some shade, as long as things stay moist and humid. You can give your sundew a snack every 2 or 3 weeks if it doesn’t seem to be meeting its kill quota. Also good to know: These guys can be vine-like as they grow, so make sure they have a little space to safely spread out.
Their tube-like pitchers are pretty to look at — and bugs love them too. Pitcher plants use bright colors and sweet-smelling nectar to lure insects into their execution pits, and once inside, there’s pretty much no escaping.
Despite the fact that pitcher plants like to administer slow, painful deaths, they don’t actually have huge appetites. One bug a month is pretty much all they need.
As for the growing conditions? Read up on the variety you’re thinking about getting before buying. Some pitcher plants are sunlight hogs, and if they don’t get what they need from your window, you might have to look into supplemental lighting to keep the beast happy.
They also like warmish temps, so don’t get one if you live somewhere cold and generally aim to keep your heating bill as low as possible.
You might spot these outside if you live in the southeastern U.S., which is home to some 80 varieties of these fleshy, flower-like plants.
Butterwort have a sticky resin on their outer leaves that’s A+ for catching and polishing off gnats — their preferred eats. But you’ll probably have to do some supplemental feeding unless you have tons of the bugs flying around.
Considering their native habitat, butterwort generally likes plenty of sunlight. And while a steady supply of water is a must, you also need to make sure they don’t get too wet. So yeah, a little more finicky than the others.
Bladderworts are literal undercover assassins. They feed on small organisms via traps that stay hidden under the soil — and can snap shut in less than a second. (So uh, don’t go poking around into the dirt.)
A bladderwort will show up on your doorstep pretty small and stay that way, with its mature leaves only reaching a few inches across. They thrive in shade too, so they’re sort of great for small apartments that don’t get the best light.
The key to raising a strong, healthy bug blotter is keeping its natural habitat in mind. Carnivorous plants are bog-dwellers, so they’re happiest in damp, kinda crappy soil that doesn’t deliver much in the way of nutrients. (Remember, they’re getting their vitamins from their prey!)
Plant pros often recommend keeping the pot in a tray with a little bit of water to help mimic the flora’s natural conditions.
Speaking of water and damp enviros, you’ll need to be particular about the water you use. Skip the stuff from the tap — it’s too rich in minerals for most carnivorous plants and can actually kill them. They’ll do better with distilled water or rainwater.
As for the actual food? These bloodhounds only really need one or two insects per month (and no fertilizer, ever). If your plant has a hard time getting that, you’ll want to give them an extra bite in the form of freeze-dried bloodworms, crickets, or even fish food.
But don’t overfeed them (more isn’t better!) and resist the urge to give them people food or leftovers. Even, like, a piece of a steak. These plants might have vicious tendencies, but on the inside, they’re still delicate flowers.