Carnivorous plants take their place at the table
by Drucilla James
With sunny days still with us, it’s a joy to eat with windows and doors wide open or even better to dine in the garden – as long as we don’t have to fight off the troublesome insects that being in the open can bring. A centrepiece of insect-eating plants can achieve a modicum of revenge and create a conversation starter, although their eating habits are no way to behave at the table.
Things you’ll need
- A selection of carnivorous plants. We used Sarracenia, Nepenthes (pitcher plant) and Dionaea muscipula (venus flytrap)
- A container with holes in the base
- A tray for the container to rest in leaving space around it for watering.
- Sphagnum moss peat.
- Horticultural sand or perlite.
Step by step
- Prepare the container making sure there are some holes in the base to allow water to be taken up; it is better to water the plants from the bottom as watering from the top washes the sticky mucilage off sundews and butterworts, if you decide to use them, and gives flytraps false stimuli causing them to close.
- Prepare the “soil” consisting of a mixture of approximately 60% sphagnum moss peat and 40% horticultural sand or perlite. Do not use builders’ sand as it contains silt, clay dust and too many minerals. Plants need nutrient free soil that has good drainage and aeration but can retain moisture
- Spray the surface of the sphagnum moss peat mixture to get it wet, then pot up the plants into your chosen container to form the table centre piece.
- Carnivorous plants grow naturally in open sunny habitats so most of them thrive outdoors so place your arrangement to benefit from sunny conditions in full sunlight.
Dos and don’ts
- Carnivorous plants grow naturally in bog habitats and these conditions need to be duplicated by keeping the plants wet at all times. Ensure the “soil” does not dry out by leaving the container always in a tray of water 1cm deep whilst not allowing the crown of the plant to be under water
- Always use mineral-free water such as rain water or distilled water; avoid bottled water as it contains too many minerals.
- These plants do not need to be fed as they will capture the food they need. A diet of one or two insects a month will give all the nutrients required.
- To see the different mechanisms they use to trap their food give a fly, once a month, using a pair of tweezers.
- Avoid over- handling, this stresses the plants making them more likely to die.
- Cut off any flowers that appear as flowering can weaken them and lead to premature death.
- As winter arrives, with lower temperatures and shorter days, the plants will slow down and stop growing altogether; the traps will stop working and leaf edges will turn brown. Still keep the container in standing water to avoid it drying out. The plants need to be dormant for 4 to 5 months during this period. If temperatures fall very low (- 5C or below) then protection is needed with plants being covered/mulched or moved to a shed or garage.
- As soon as the temperature rises to about 1C/3C plants can be uncovered or returned to the outside. In early spring as growth starts cut off the old leaves and any flower stalks that appear.
Insect –eating we are told is going to be a more significant part of our diet in the future – but for the time being you may wish to leave this diet to the carnivorous plants.
Some other carnivorous plant arrangements to try: