What You Should Know About Carnivorous Plants

Matt Soper owns the biggest retail carnivorous plant nursery in Europe and has grown bloodthirsty beauties for 40 years. Here’s what he’s learned. 

Where do carnivorous plants come from?

MS: All over the world. They’re not related. What they have in common is that they gain nourishment from insects and rodents.

What’s the Number One misconception about them?

MS: They’re all tropical and they all come from the jungle.

Garden or greenhouse?

MS: Carnivorous plants grow faster outside because extremes suit them. They catch more flies and put out more flowers.

Are they competitive?

MS: They’re not ‘thugs’ like bamboo! Other plants can easily push carnivorous plants out the way. They’ve adapted to low-nutrition areas where few other plants can thrive.

How often do you feed them?

MS: We don’t. We let them catch things for themselves. The exception is Nepenthes (tropical pitcher plants): they get a liquid fertiliser feed once every two weeks. If you give them too much, they don’t bother producing traps. You can overfeed them.

Tell us an interesting fact about the Venus fly trap.

MS: They sense movement and won’t eat dead flies. Touch their trigger hairs once, they won’t close. Do it twice, and they will.

If you’re a novice, where do you start?

MS: Cape sundew is the easiest one to grow. It’s from South Africa, stands in rainwater and it’s very good at catching little insects. The leaves curl around flies.

If you’re green-fingered?

MS: Sarracenia. They’re not that difficult if you keep them nice and wet, and lots of sun.

Final thought?

MS: Plants are very, very clever. Often, I ask myself, am I using the plants or are they using me? Humans are doing less and less, but plants are already there! They use us to spread them around the world and for pollination.

Find out what life is like for a full-time cultivator of meat-eating plants.