Growing Guides


1. Sunlight

Many of these plants are inhabitants of open boggy areas, and have little or no shade cover from surrounding vegetation.

They are therefore adapted to survive high light levels, and as a rule 5-6 hours of direct sun is required for healthy growth-especially the larger growing plants.

2. Water

Bogs and marshes are obviously very wet places, and also suffer from a lack of nutrients as the abundance of water leeches the minerals required for healthy growth away.

Therefore carnivorous plants have evolved to derive these minerals from the animals they consume. In cultivation these plants still require a lot of water. This has to be rainwater (although distilled or de-ionised water is fine).

Water softeners and filters should never be used and bottled water should also be avoided. Stand your plants in 1-2 inches of water during the growing season (approximately March-October), and keep them barely damp during the winter dormant season.

If you are away in the summer you can increase the level of water to the soil surface-remember, being bog plants these are one group of plants you cannot overwater!

3. Winter Rest

This should be cold! We keep many temperate species-Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plant's (Sarracenia pecies), the Cobra Lily (Darlingtonia californica), some Butterwort's (Pinguicula species), some Bladderwort's Utricularia species), and some Sundew's (Drosera species) in unheated greenhouses which have been as low as -9 degrees celcius with no problems.

Some of these plants are completely hardy in the UK climate and can be kept outside in tubs, bog gardens, or pots.

The dormant period must be respected and if they are indoors your plants should be moved to a suitable position with a lower temperature.This could be a greenhouse, cold conservatory, porch, or shed or garage window.

As they are not actively growing, a high light level is not necessary during this time and the compost should be kept barely damp. When growth resumes in the spring move the plants back to their summer position.


Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia species)

Compost:  Moss peat and lime free horticultural sand or moss peat and perlite to a ratio of 1:1.

Water:  Rain or distilled/deionised water only. Stand in about 2-3 inches of water during the growing season (approximately March-November), and keep only damp over the dormant winter months when the growth dies back.

Light:  Full direct sun.

Temperature: During the summer months when the plants are in growth they can tolerate extremely high temperatures, making them ideal for situations such as conservatories, greenhouses, sunny south facing windowsills (for lower growing species) and outside.

During the winter there is a dormant period, and at this time most of the species die back to the rhizome to protect themselves from the winter cold. All species are cold tolerant and indeed some (SS. flava, oreophila, purpurea subsp. purpurea, and their hybrids) are completely hardy in the UK climate, although we have grown all of the species outside with no losses which suggests that their tolerance is much more than previously thought. Those that are not considered fully not hardy are still capable of withstanding very low temperatures, and actually require this cold rest period. Ours are grown under glass, but unheated where the temperature falls virtually to that on the outside. The lowest temperature I have recorded was minus 10 degrees celcius at the end of 2000.

The ideal place for these plants is therefore a sunny aspect for the growing season and a cold position for the winter dormacy, either outside or under cover in a greenhouse or by a garage window.

The Cobra Lily - Darlingtonia californica

Compost:  While this plant will grow perfectly happily in equal parts of moss peat and perlite/lime free horticultural sand, it grows at it's best in pure sphagnum moss.

Water:  Rain or distilled/deionised water only. Stand in about 2-3 inches of water during the growing season (approximately March- November), and keep only damp over the dormant winter months when the growth ceases.

Light:  Full sun to semi shade. In slightly shaded situations the pitchers will be taller than if they are grown in full sun.

Temperature:  Being a hardy species, this plant is ideally suited to the British climate. It is ideal for growing outdoors or in greenhouses and conservatories. During the summer it can tolerate a high temperature but it dislikes warm roots. Indeed we lost several hundred plants after they over heated.

A way to avoid this is to grow the plant in a deep container which covers the pot. During the winter the plant can tolerate very low temperatures and indeed, in the wild is often covered in snow.

The ideal place for these plants is therefore a sunny aspect for the growing season and a cold position for the winter dormacy, either outside or under cover in a greenhouse or by a garage window


The Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)

Compost: Moss peat and lime free horticultural sand in a ratio of 1:1, or plain moss peat.

Water: Rain or distilled/deionised water only. Stand in about an inch of water during the growing season approximately March-November), and keep only damp over the ormant winter months when the growth dies back.

Light: Full direct sun.

Temperature: Being a temperate plant, the UK climate is good for this plant. However, in winter when the plant goes through a dormant period it should be protected from the elements by placing in a cold greenhouse, porch, or shed/garage window. As the plant is not in active growth, full sunlight is not as essential.

If grown on a sunny windowsill, this dormant period must be respected and the plant should be moved somewhere cold in the autumn (November time), until growth resumes in early spring.

Flowers appear in the spring, and should be removed when they are seen as they weaken the plant.


The Bladderwort's (Utricularia species)

As mentioned above the Bladderwort's are for cultivational purposes divided in to three groups, and each group has different requirements. The majority of plants grown in cultivation are either terrestrial or epiphytic, and it is these which are generally easier to maintain.

Terrestrial Species: All of the plants listed below will thrive on a sunny windowsill or greenhouse/conservatory with bright light. They require a very high water level which can be as high as the soil surface during the summer months, and at about half way up the container during the winter. Only use rain or distilled water.

High temperatures are not a problem in the summer and a winter minimum of 10 degrees celcius will keep them happy. They should be grown in a 50:50 mix of moss peat and horticultural lime-free sand.

They quickly spread through a pot and some species do not flower until they appear rather cramped.

Epiphytic Species:
The epiphytic species are native to Central and South America. They include some of the most spectacular members of the genus, many with flowers which resemble orchids. In cultivation they generally enjoy a bright position, shaded from direct sunlight in the greenhouse or on a windowsill.

They like a high humidity which will be achieved by keeping the compost wet. They do not like to be as wet as the terrestrial species, and indeed should be kept in about 1 inch of rain or distilled water during the growing season, and just damp over winter when many species partially or completely lose their leaves. ,br>
A good substrate for these plants is straight sphagnum moss, and by growing the plant in a pond basket or similar, a good degree of air movement will exist around the roots. The leaves will also grow through the sides of the container-a situation which seems to suit these plants well.


The Sundews (Drosera species)

Many species are easy to grow in either a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill, and while some are more exacting, the majority of species are extremely simple to cultivate.


The Portuguese Dewy Pine (Drosophyllum lusitanicum)

This plant has an unfair reputation for being difficult to maintain for any length of time, but its cultivation is actually simple. Because of the large stature of the plant and its dislike of unnecessary movement, it is best grown from seed and a full grown, flowering plant can be raised in one year.

There are different methods of cultivation, but the one I find the most successful is the germinate the seeds in those peat-pots one can find in the garden centre. They should be sown in a compost of equal parts moss peat and lime free horticultural sand, and buried to a depth of 5 millimetres. It is an idea to sow one plant to a pot to avoid any disturbance which would occur when pricking out seedlings.

The seeds should be kept wet until they have produced their third or forth leaf, and then transplanted-complete in their peat pots-in to large 20 centimetre clay pots. Block the hole in the base of the pot with a couple of pieces of crock. The peat pots can be buried up to their rims in the same compost as above. The roots of the plant will then grow through the peat pot and in to the larger clay pot.

Position the plant in full direct sun and water from above with rain or distilled water. The compost should be allowed to dry somewhat between waterings, and in the winter months the time between waterings can be many weeks. However, do not allow your plants to dessicate.

It is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and can survive 2 degrees celcius (36 degrees fahrenheit).