SECRET #1: Know thy plant.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but one that first-time growers overlook. There are many types of carnivorous plants occurring on every continent in world, except Antarctica.
If you were to go on a world-wide expedition looking for as many types of carnivorous plants you can possibly find, you will discover carnivorous plants growing in Japan, China, Australia, India, South Africa, Spain, France, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and United States.
If you were to explore United States alone, you will find carnivorous plants in nearly all of 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska.
So, first secret in keeping your carnivorous plants alive, healthy and beautiful is to know what type of carnivorous plant you have. With thousands of species of carnivorous plants in world, each type requires their own care.
Hopefully, your plant came with a tag that identifies its species. If not, visit Sarracenia Northwest for a list of carnivorous plants that are commonly grown in cultivation.
SECRET #2: Brighten their days with full sun.
Once you know what type of carnivorous plants you have, just duplicate their natural surroundings. This means giving your plants type of sun exposure and water they might experience in wild.
Lets start with sun. It often surprises many people to find out that vast majority of carnivorous plants enjoy full sun. You see, carnivorous plants grow in bogs, which are open fields of wetlands.
Most people confuse bogs with marshes. Marshes typically are closer to ocean and contain slightly salted water. Marshes are also overgrown with trees, making them shady.
Bogs, on other hand, contain fresh water, usually bubbling up from an underground spring, and can be found on mountaintops and other places far away from ocean. If you see a bog in nature, you will notice that there are no trees in it. So, all plants growing in a bog are exposed to full sun.
This is true for Venus Flytraps, North American Pitcher Plants and nearly all Sundews. As a result, these plants do best growing in 6-8 hours of direct sunlight during their growing season. Four hours of direct sunlight are definitely absolute minimum. Anything less than that will cause your plants to struggle for survival.
The only types of carnivorous plants that are not exposed to full sun in wild are Asian Pitcher Plants, Butterworts and some species of Sundews. These plants prefer bright indirect light.
Now you know what types of carnivorous plants you have, give it proper sunlight. With US native plants, grow them outside during growing season (spring through fall). With Asian Pitcher Plants and Butterworts, grow them in a window that receives bright indirect light.
If you do not have enough natural light, use 20-40W fluorescent light tubes or fluorescent compact bulbs that are equivalent to 100W. Keep light source about 8 inches above plant, and keep it on for 12-14 hours per day.
Avoid using incandescent bulbs because it produces too much heat and wrong type of light.
Secret #3: Soak their feet.
After giving your carnivorous plants right amount of light (full sun, partial sun or indirect light), now you need to make sure it gets right amount of water.
Nearly all carnivorous plants grow in bogs, which are constantly wet. So, if you want to duplicate what they experience out in nature, you need to provide constantly wet soil.
Some people prefer to simply water their plants every day. Personally, I find this to be a real drag, especially when I have so many other things to do, like watch a good DVD or scratch my dog’s belly.
The easiest way to make sure soil is constantly wet is to keep your plant in a bit of standing water. Use a tray, bowl, saucer or any container that holds water. Fill container with water and place your plant right in. Allow water to go half way up pot. Just make sure you do not drown crown or base of plant. Remember, they are bog plants, not water plants (big difference!).
But, before your plants start soaking their little feet, make water is relatively pure. It does not need to be blessed by a Tibetan monk, but it should at least have low levels of minerals (less than 100 parts per million). Check with your local aquarium supply store for water hardness kits.
You can use distilled water or rainwater, but this is feasible only if you have only a few carnivorous plants. If you are like me, you might have several thousand.
In that case, local tap water will do just fine. If water has a lot of naturally occurring minerals or additives to make water soft, consider hooking your hose up to a reverse-osmosis unit. Check your local hardware store for this type of filter.
Avoid using simple charcoal-filtration units. Although they are great in removing chlorine and other not-so-tasty chemicals, they are inadequate in removing minerals.
One more thing: some carnivorous plants prefer not to have their feet dunked in water. This is true with Asian Pitcher Plants. They prefer to have moist soil rather than wet soil. With these plants, water them once or twice weekly.