Sarracenia spp.

copyright Kindra Clineff from The New Terrarium

So you’re stumped. Your dad isn’t a golf kinda’ guy. He’s had it up to his neck in ties and he’s got polo shirts up the Wazoo. What to give him for Father’s Day? I’ve got it! Why not bestow a terrarium filled with carnivorous plants on your favorite role model? Wouldn’t that be the perfect accoutrement for a Man Cave? (assuming that the den in question gets some sun) Or how about gracing his office cubicle with a bug catcher in a bottle?

I just did a Terrarium Workshop at Broken Arrow Nursery (www.brokenarrownursery.com) and the carnivores were the Superstars of the event. The Sarracenias (pitcher plants) were particularly popular. And that gave me the Father’s Day idea. I mean = Show me a Dad who doesn’t love anything that dispatches a bug and I’ll point to a Pop who lives in the Arctic Zone. And who isn’t seduced by a sarracenia? Not only am I amazed at how easy they are to grow, but they’re just the right degree of gross for me. You gotta’ warm to a plant with a gaping lid leading into a long tube filled with a slimy slurry that drowns bugs. And when you’ve got little carnivorous cuties with names like ‘Love Bug’ — it doesn’t get any better than that. You can grow them in a pot set in a tray of water, it’s true. But give them an open-mouthed glass jar (so they can hunt, of course) and they’re happy as clams. The glass jar is the sort of package that might endear you to coworkers at the office.

copyright Kindra Clineff from The New Terrarium


Close runner up to the pitcher plants on the favorite meter would be sundews. They’re ultra-easy to grow and their eating habits are deliciously gross. Sundews capture their prey (bugs) with sticky little tentacles that sparkle like jewels with bug lure. When dinner buzzles close by, they greet it in a bear hug. The meal gets wrapped up in the tentacles and lovingly squeezed to death. Yummy.

copyright Kindra Clineff from The New Terrarium

All of these carnivores are native to bogs. So a mucky soil is their domain of choice. I don’t bother with distilled water, and they do just fine with the well water that comes from the tap. (Anybody have experience — negative or positive — with treated town water?) They dote on high humidity — which a terrarium delivers (even an open-mouthed terrarium tends to be more humid than your average environment). And they need bright light, but direct sun streaming through a closed terrarium will bake the poor little predator.

copyright by Kindra Clineff from The New Terrarium

A little more challenging to host is the Venus fly trap, but you can do it in an ultra-humid closed terrarium. And I’ve got to say, there’s nothing like the jaws of a fly trap to keep everyone transfixed while dad is busy elsewhere obsessing over the grill. Warning: Don’t sneak off with some of the hamburger to feed Venus, though. She doesn’t need meat. The arm of a Venus fly trap will brown and die back after it’s caught dinner. And she doesn’t really need meat to survive. Anyway, as we all know = Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. That in itself is a trap. Happy Father’s Day!

You’ll find out more about carnivorous plants in The New Terrarium (Clarkson Potter). And I’ll try and put up some Carnivorous Plant Terrarium instructions up on www.terrariumwise.com for Father’s Day.

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20 Responses to Sarracenia spp.

  1. Lisa from PA says:

    The picture plants are just awesome. Great gift ideas for people who leave their doors and windows open too often in the summer and allow all the yummy flies and other bugs into the house. A living fly swatter! Gruesome and cool at the same time.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Ain’t nature a hoot, Lisa? I mean, they’re so grossly diabolical. Until I got Einstein (my new kitten) the doors were thrown open (no screens) all the time. It was sorta fun really living with nature and all its buzzes. But I’m trying to keep the kitten from being caught in a bigger trap = the coyote’s mouth.

  2. Lisa from PA says:

    Einstein? How cute is that? Coyote? Not so cute!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Yep, he’s the Mad Purrrrfessor. Life would be so different if there weren’t coyotes lurking around. I could tell you stories…but I want you to be able to sleep tonight.

  3. Lisa from PA says:

    Just a note regarding our previous postings about white stuff on our nine barks. A friend of mine was in my garden yesterday and said (without any prompting) “Oohh…you’ve got powdery mildew on your nine barks!” I trust her diagnosing abilities- she can identify more plants than are in my garden. So I will just prune off the white mess after the blooms are finished. Hard to see the blooms as they’re covered in a “Mt Saint Helen’s” type of off-white dusting. Now that I know they are susceptible, I’ll spray a preventative next year in early spring. Thanks for bringing the matter to your post. As usual, I thought I was the only one with the problem. Lisa

  4. Lisa from PA says:

    Tovah~ Where are you? We miss your postings! :)

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Lisa and everyone = The good news is that I finished and delivered my book last week. That explains the brief absence (race to the finish line). So sorry to everyone. But then this blog got hit by a major SPAM attack (I got 258 junk comments in 6 hours). So I just got a new SPAM blocker in place and I’m ready to roll again. Please forgive me. I’ll be back up and blogging by tomorrow. Thank you all for your patience. I miss you all also.

  5. Lisa from PA says:

    A new book? Then you are forgiven!! Looking forward to it~ Lisa

  6. Kristin says:

    Hi, Tovah. Read your book and just found your blog. I was wondering how the pitchers did long term indoors with less sunlight. Is it livable for them or do they just slowly peter out? Thanks!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Howdy Kristin, Welcome aboard! You know, one of my nursery friends claimed that Sarracenias need a dormancy period — but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. They do fine for me indoors as long as I keep their toes wet. I actually let mine wade in a pan of water and give them indirect light. Works for me.

      • Kristin says:

        Thanks so much! I’ve been dying to get one but can’t really pull off the whole bog garden thing outside. Out of curiosity, have yours ever flowered? Also, what kind of substrate are they planted in? Sorry for all the questions and thanks again!

        • Tovah Martin says:

          Kristin, this blog is about questions. So don’t hesitate to ask ‘em. I know what you mean about the bog trick. I just use a zinc tray with a lip and a 1/2 in of water underfoot. And I clean it out periodically — I might add. YES! Mine flowered indoors last spring = it was thrilling. In summer, the whole shebang goes outside and collects rainwater. Hope this helps. Anyone else have advice/experiences to share?

          • Kristin says:

            Well in that case… Do you put them in full sun when they go out for the summer? What sort of soil are you using? Peat moss? Do you have any issues with fungus gnats? My terrariums caught a major case of fungus gnats last year that I just couldn’t get rid of. Eventually, I put them out on the porch to dry out, only to have the squirrels dig them up. The whole thing was a bit of a nightmare.

            The flowering pitchers sounds amazing! I am definitely going to try this as soon as I can get a hold of some pitcher plants. Thanks for all the help!

          • Tovah Martin says:

            I do put mine out on a sunny porch in summer, but it’s sheltered, Kristin. Mine came potted in peat moss but I added a peaty potting soil when I put them in clay pots (I hate plastic). That said, the clay eventually deteriorates in constant water. Fungus gnats can be a problem when you have standing water. They didn’t trouble mine. If they’re bothering your terrarium (which I assume must be open), then the soil is probably too water-logged and you watered too much. As for squirrels, they’re beyond anyone’s control. No accounting for their shenanigans.

  7. Kristin says:

    I am a habitual overwaterer but I’m getting better. I just love all the plants so much. I’m like a child petting a cat too hard.

    You’ve got them in clay pots? All the things I read about carnivorous plants said to never put them in clay pots because they accumulate salts. This and using tap water? Perhaps carnivorous plants are tougher than the internet has been leading me to believe. Which is good news for me

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Overwatering can be the fatal error with a terrarium. I know a lot of other plants that would find that trait loveable, but a terrarium configuration is a hands-off sort of situation.

      Indeed, I do grow in clay. Why would salts be more apt to accumulate in clay? Seems as though plastic might be worse. AND another offense = I use tap water. We have well water here, but it’s notoriously hard. Of course, when the plants are outside, they get rain water. Plants aren’t as fussy as some experts infer, I’ve found. In fact, they tend to be really, really forgiving. Perhaps they want to live? Just a thought…

      • Kristin says:

        I’ve definitely gotten better with the watering. If i remember correctly, the whole gnat thing started with a selaginella in an open terrarium that kept drying out. I overcompensated, gnats ensued.

        I think the clay thing makes sense. The thing with clay is that it absorbs water and presumably any salt the water has dissolves in it. Every now and then, I’ll notice that some of my clay pots will form little salt rings along the top rim as they dry out. (I assume it’s salt. It’s definitely something mineral-y but I’m not tasting it to check.) I see it more often on the succulents since the pots get watered but then dry out pretty quickly. I’d assume that in the moister pots, the salt is still there in the clay, you just don’t see it because it stays in solution.

        • Tovah Martin says:

          Those gnats! Such opportunists! Actually, I’ve seen that “ring around the collar” on plastic pots also.

          • Kristin says:

            I know! You buy one overwatered grocery store orchid and suddenly it seems like the whole house is full of the darn things.

            Huh. Maybe it depends on the plastic?

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