Carnivorous plants supplement their diets by eating insects and small animals. They started and evolved this peculiar behavior to add more nutrients to their diet. Most of the plants grow in boggy conditions in poor soil, so they need an extra meal once in a while.
They lure their prey with scent, color, and nectar and can be found growing in most regions of the world. They mostly eat small insects, but larger plants such as Nepenthes can eat small amphibians and rodents.
Some are tropical, and others can grow in temperate regions. There are a few different ways that they catch and eat their prey:
-- Pitfall traps: These are usually tall, cylinder- or tube-shaped leaves that an insect would fall down into a pool of digestive enzymes. Often, the inside of the leaf is smooth or has hairs facing downward to keep the prey in the bottom of the leaf.
-- Sticky traps: These have a sticky adhesive surface that the insects will land or crawl onto and get stuck.
-- Snap traps: These work like a jaw and close on the unsuspecting prey.
Carnivorous plants featured on today's show:
These are large growing tropical vining plants from Southeast Asia with large cups that should be kept filled with water. The water traps insects that are digested by the plant.
These hardy, native plants grow outside at a pond's edge or in a bog, and they make good cut flowers.
Venus Fly traps
These are good house plants, but they do need a dormant period. Put plants in a plastic bag and keep in the fridge for a few months. This triggers their hairs to close.
They have nice flowers and sticky leaves that small insects get caught on to later be digested.
These plants can be found throughout the world in boggy conditions. Small insects get stuck on the sticky leaves and are digested.
Caring for carnivorous plants
Depending on which particular species, caring for these plants is pretty easy. Some of the hardy types can be grown inside the house as well as out. It's best to try to mimic their natural growing conditions.
Since they normally grow in bog-like conditions, they do want to be wet all the time -- an over-waterer's delight. Keep the pot they are growing in sitting on a saucer or tray and keep it filled with water. Only use mineral-free water, rain water, or distilled water. Use a low-nutrient soil of sand and peat and no fertilizers.
Choose a bright, sunny location with as much light as possible. Hardy types need a rest period of a few months. Let the foliage die back in fall and keep the plant a little dryer and in a dark, cool location such as a basement or even the fridge. They should never be allowed to freeze. Outside, plant in a boggy or wet area of the garden in full sun and don't fertilize.
Special thanks to Dennis Schrader, of Landcraft Environments Ltd., for sharing this information on carnivorous plants, and for giving everyone in the studio audience a copy of his book, "Extraordinary Leaves." Special thanks to Gardman USA Inc., for providing us with the hanging baskets used on set.