Carnivorous plants are plants that consume insects or micro-organisms. There are several hundred species of carnivorous plants, although most are relatively rare and grow in small geographical areas. Most grow in nutrient-poor soils and evolved carnivorous mechanisms to compensate for a lack of nutrients available in their growing medium. Many are difficult to grow at home because of the challenges of re-creating their natural habitat, but Venus flytraps, pitcher plants and sundews are all interesting carnivorous plants to buy and grow.
Venus Flytrap (Dioneae muscipula) is the carnivorous plant most commonly cultivated for home purchase. There are now several dozen cultivars of Venus flytrap, with various sized, shaped and colored leaf-end traps, and a home collection of these can be quite impressive and unusual. Buy your Venus flytrap from a reputable dealer to ensure that it has not been inappropriately harvested from the wild. Most ordinary cultivars are quite inexpensive, but rare variations may be sold for upwards of $100. Recreate the flytrap's native bog habitat by planting in a mix of wet peat moss and pebbles. Do not fertilize it or feed it hamburger, and make sure it gets at least four hours of sun each day. The Venus flytrap does require a period of winter dormancy, so place it in a cool (just above freezing) garage or sheltered porch for six to eight weeks mid-winter, then slowly bring it back to temperature in a cool area of the house before setting it back in full sun again.
Pitcher plants (Sarracenieae spp. and Nepenthaceae nepenthes) are carnivorous plants which trap insects into a sack containing a sticky liquid. There are numerous native North American varieties (Sarraceneae sarracenia var.) to select from for home purchase. Like Venus flytraps, pitcher plants are indigenous to bog areas. The University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension recommends a mix of two parts sphagnum peat and one part coarse sand as a growing medium, and advises watering with rainwater or well water to avoid chemicals that might damage carnivorous plants.
Sundews (Drosera spp.) entice insects to land on their hundreds of sticky little stalked glands that cover the leaf surface, giving them an exotic furry appearance. A drop of mucilage sparkles at the tip of each gland stalk like morning dew, giving rise to their name. When you buy a sundew, determine whether it is a variety from a temperate region; if so, like the Venus flytrap it will require a period of winter dormancy. If you purchase a tropical variety of sundew, keep it warm and moist by growing it in a terrarium with a perforated sheet of plexiglass laid over the top.