I've been growing a wide variety of carnivorous plants for over 2 decades. I got my first Venus flytrap at age 10 and now have an entire greenhouse full of carnivores.
Whether you’ve just returned from the garden centre with your first Venus flytrap, or are simply looking for an easy-to-grow carnivorous plant as a unusual gift, you’re in the right place.
On this page I’ve included answers to common questions, descriptions of the main ’types’ of carnivorous plants, simple growing instructions for popular species, tips for water & dormancy, links to essential resources, and my top recommendations for specialist nurseries. Read on!
The Venus Flytrap: Without a doubt the most famous carnivorous plant, the Venus flytrap is - for many growers - a gateway drug! The speed at which a healthy plant will snap shut on an insect is amazing the first time you witness it. There is only one species - Dionaea muscipula - but dozens of weird and wonderful varieties are available.
The Sundews: There are almost 200 species of Sundew (Drosera). They vary enormously in size, shape, and growing requirements, and can be found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. Most are covered with tentacles which have brightly-coloured, glue-covered tips. These tentacles can move, helping the Sundew to quickly suffocate and digest insects which have become stuck.
The Butterworts: You can find Butterworts (Pinguicula) throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest concentration being found in Mexico and Central America. There are around 100 species in all. Their leaves normally appear green and glossy, growing in a ground-hugging rosette. They are also known as flypaper traps, on account of the sticky leaves they use to catch gnats and fruit flies.
The Pitcher Plants: Pitcher plants typically feature leaves shaped like tubes or vases. Insects slip on the pitcher rim and fall into the digestive enzymes below. There are actually five different kinds (or ‘genera’) of pitcher plant - their common and scientific names are listed below.
North American Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia) - 8 species
Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes) - 170+ species
West Australian Pitcher Plants (Cephalotus) - 1 species
The Sun Pitchers (Heliamphora) - 20+ species
The Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia) - 1 species
In garden centers, you’re most likely to encounter the first two: Sarracenia and Nepenthes. For care advice, keep reading!
The Bladderworts: With over 200 species, the Bladderworts (Utricularia) are another hugely diverse genus of canivorous plant. Found almost everywhere on Earth, Bladderworts capture prey using bladder-like organs on their roots, which are submerged underwater. Tiny organisms (such as water fleas) are sucked into the bladders in less than a hundredth of a second, where they are digested. Bladderworts are particularly popular for their flowers, which can be as colourful and as beautiful as those of orchids.
This list is far from exhaustive! There are dozens of other carnivorous and semi-carnivorous plant species out there, but you’re less likely to encounter them as a beginner. They include the Waterwheel plant (Aldrovanda), the Rainbow plant (Byblis), the Corkscrew plant (Genlisea), and the Dewy Pine (Drosophyllum).
2. Which carnivorous plants are good for beginners?
For first-time growers, I recommend the following species:
Drosera capensis, the Cape sundew: one of the prettiest and most entertaining sundews, this species is also one of the most adaptable. A great fly catcher and a perfect plant for new growers. Buy Now.
Dionaea muscipula, the Venus flytrap: The most famous of them all! Not necessarily the easiest on this list, but certainly awe-inspiring and rewarding to grow. Buy Now.
Sarracenia ‘Maroon’, a Trumpet pitcher plant: This cultivar - and indeed most hybrids involving S. purpurea - is one of the most tolerant of all North American pitcher plants. Grown in good light, this plant’s colour is magnificent! Buy Now.
Nepenthes ‘Gaya’, a Tropical pitcher plant, also known as a ‘monkey jar’: This cultivar is technically N. khasiana x (ventricosa x maxima), and in my experience it’s one of the most vigorous Nepenthes you can buy. It has attractive red and yellow speckled pitchers, and is a particularly good candidate for a houseplant. Buy Now.
For UK growers, all of these plants - and many more - are available from South West Carnivorous Plants. They offer a huge range of Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, sundews, and growing supplies.
For US readers, all of these beginners plants can be ordered from California Carnivores. They offer a huge range of flytraps, pitcher plants, and sundews available for delivery throughout the United States.
You can also get 10% off your order with the code tomscarnivores.