We all know animals eat plants, but it goes the other way, too. Carnivorous plants may be rare, but they do exist, and they can be quite beautiful. Usually found in wet environments like swamps and bogs where soils lack nutrients, most of them aren’t interested in anything more than insects.
Replicating these conditions is usually reserved for the expert gardener, especially if trying them indoors. If you think you have that special touch, here are ten bug-eating plants and how to love them.
Sarracenia Pitcher Plants
The Sarracenia genus of pitcher plants includes around eight different species native to North America. They attract flies, wasps, ants, and even moths with their enticing scents and bright colors ranging from reddish purple to neon green.
They catch their prey with elongated “pitchers” that point upward with round, open mouths at the top. Poison-lined nectar and waxy insides trick insects who are lured inside, only to slip down into hairy traps filled with digestive enzymes.
They need full sun and swampy conditions, so most species won’t do well inside. Boggy, temperate climates are where they thrive, and they need a cold season to lay dormant.
Cobra Lily (California Pitcher Plant)
This plant is related to other pitcher plants in the Sarraceniaceae family, but is in the Darlingtonia genus, not Sarracenia. It got its name because its head looks like - you got it, a cobra.
They trap prey like other pitcher plants and have similar purplish-yellow coloring. Native to Oregon and Northern California, they grow well in gravelly bogs with cold water and full sun, but are considered a rare species.
If you can mimic these conditions on your property, you can try growing them, but most will do better left in natural bogs and landscapes.
Monkey Cups are a species of tropical pitcher plants in the Nepenthes genus, which is the only genus in the family Nepenthaceae.
Native to Southeast Asia and Australia, their similar pitcher mouths catch and digest trapped insects, but unlike North American counterparts, they hang down from trees or pots like a trumpet extending from a vine.
Some species can be grown indoors, as long as enough light, proper moisture, and humidity is achieved, as well as an insect or two a week.
One of the completely aquatic plants on this list, the Floating Bladderwort glides over the water’s surface on round, buoyant, star-shaped stalks with a singular stem that rises up into the air and produces tiny, yellow flowers. Pretty neat!
It feeds on miniature crustaceans and insects that pass by its sensitive trigger hairs, which open up tiny trap-door bladders where creatures are digested for nutrients. They range from a mere two inches to two feet in size.
Best to leave these little guys to their native habitats like North Carolinian bogs, as they can border on invasive, and have no place being grown as a hobby.
These beauties are a joy to look at, boasting the classic purple and green hues that other carnivorous plants have and a variety of wild, sunburst rosettes and radial fiddleheads.
In the Drosera genus, they are one of the largest groups of bug-eating plants with around 200 species, and can be found in places like South Africa and Australia. They trap prey with sticky tentacles and glistening dew that gives them their name.
Many sundews are gnat-eaters and can be grown in pots or in outdoor gardens that have alkaline soil, full sun, and lots of moisture and humidity.
Catapulting Flypaper Trap
A type of sundew in the Drosera genus, this plant has the unique ability to catapult its prey with snapping tentacles. Only a couple of inches long, this tiny plant has massive strength, and uses this slinging technique to quickly trap larger insects who may have otherwise been able to wiggle away, sending them to a sticky center.
This type of sundew is not recommended for gardeners, and its incredibly rapid movement is best observed in time-lapse videos.
Red Cape Sundew
This species of Drosera is recommended for plant-lovers, especially beginners. Beloved for its spindly but brilliant red leaves, it traps its prey like other sundews and will flower if fed enough.
Native to the Cape region of South Africa, this carnivore is not as picky about soil medium, humidity, or water, and will forego a dormant period if given subtropical conditions (brought inside during cold months).
The more sunlight it receives, the more its vibrant shade of red will come out. It should be kept moist, but is more tolerant of a dry out period than its other bug-eating comrades.
Venus Fly Trap
Another sundew known for its dramatic catching of un-suspecting insects through a hair-lined trap head, the Venus Fly Trap is probably the most popular bug-eating plant on the list, and moderately easy to grow indoors.
If you want to try your hand at caring for this popular carnivore, they’ll need indoor conditions like many other tropical indoor plants you may have: bright, indirect light, consistent watering with good drainage, and some humidity.
Pinch off spent trap heads after they have gone black, allow for a dormancy period during the winter months, and make sure they are eating enough!
Unlike the other carnivorous plants, Butterwort is a genus of passive trappers, meaning they don’t have to move at all. Some species look like echeveria succulents, but with glandular hairs and a sticky resin-like substance on their leaves.
Once a bug lands on them, the plant digests the bug on the spot, using it for its nitrogen. These carnivores boast pretty little blooms that range in color. They like alkaline, boggy soil, but can be grown in pots, as long as they are kept moist at all times.
Their prey of choice is gnats, which makes them enticing for gardeners to grow, since gnats are a common nuisance for indoor plants.
Another aquatic plant and the only one in its genus, Aldrovanda, the waterwheel floats rootless like the Bladderwort, and catches its prey through flytrap heads along its star-shaped, radial “whorls.” In summer, white flowers open, but only for a few hours.
Found in still, warm, clean, shallow waters, this plant is on the endangered species list after once spreading out across Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Hobbyists have created an invasive species problem by growing it in American ponds, so while it could be responsibly grown indoors, it would need a very specific aquatic environment with other plants to minimize the nutrients in the water.
The beauty and distinct qualities of carnivorous plants make them appealing to gardeners, however, the majority of them need such specific environments that growing them indoors or outside on your property is either impossible, irresponsible, or downright difficult.
For the few varieties that show some promise, remember to use distilled water or rainwater, as bug-eating plants have evolved to prefer depleted soils and are sensitive to added minerals and salt.
Otherwise, some of them are just fine with subtropical indoor conditions, and would be an exciting addition to your indoor plant collection.