Carnivorous Plant Seeds

Overview

Carnivorous plants supplement their lean growing conditions with nutrients from insects and other tiny animals. They come from many different families and may grow in warm, arid places or cool bogs. Some germinate fairly easily under their preferred conditions and some need fire or other special treatment to sprout. The key is duplicating, as much as possible, their normal habitat.

Types

One of the most popular carnivorous plants--the Venus flytrap, Dionaea muscipula-- is not too difficult to start from seed, but is very slow growing. Sundews, in the genus Drosera, generally germinate readily, but those from cold climates need a winter chilling. Pitcher plants, of the genera Sarracenia and Darlingtonia, are from temperate areas of North America and also need a spell of cool weather to germinate.

Considerations

Know the genus and species of your plant and what kind of environment it lives in naturally. You'll have the best luck with seed germination if you can closely approximate those conditions. Darlingtonia seeds, for instance, need to be sown in pure sphagnum moss to imitate the acid bogs they grow in. Others prefer a peat and sand mix. Seeds need high humidity, which may be maintained by keeping the germination tray covered with plastic. The growing medium should be moist, but not wet. They also need high levels of bright light, but not direct sunlight. Sixteen hours daily under fluorescent lights is ideal. Do not cover seeds with growing medium.

Time Frame

In general, seeds that ripen in spring may be sown right away. Seeds that ripen in fall need a time of cool dormancy that may be achieved by a process called stratification. You can either sow seeds in pots and leave them outside, or put them in a refrigerator for four to six weeks. Don't expect germination to take place immediately, however. Some seeds may wait a year or two to sprout. Difficult species may need fire or hormone treatments to break dormancy.

Warnings

Carnivorous plants need an environment that is low in nutrients and salts. Do not fertilize or use hard, mineral-laden water. Distilled or reverse osmosis water is best for watering. Tiny seedlings are vulnerable to pests and diseases. Use a sterile medium for sowing seeds and protect from insects. Be prepared to care for your tiny seedlings for several years before they are even a few inches tall. They grow very slowly.

Aftercare

Once seedlings have four to six leaves they should be big enough to place with your other plants. Continue to keep the soil moist. You can fertilize Sarracenia seedlings very lightly, but avoid giving nutrients to most carnivorous plants.

Keywords: carnivorous plant seeds, growing carnivorous plants, carnivorous plant propagation

About this Author

Over the past 30 years, Mara Grey has sold plants in nurseries, designed gardens and volunteered as a Master Gardener. She is the author of "The Lazy Gardener" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Flower Gardening" and has a Bachelor of Science in botany.