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 ( 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 for Father’s Day.

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