Sandra SimpsonGrow your own Little Shop of Horrors!

Fun, educational, even pretty. Are we talking about flesh-eating plants? Kiwi enthusiast Elizabeth Bailey reckons that once you’ve grown one carnivorous plant successfully you’ll be hooked – if not consumed – by this group of specialised plants.

Carnivorous Plant Venus flytrap Photo Chemical Heritage Foundation

Carnivorous Plant Venus flytrap Photo Chemical Heritage Foundation

 

“People buy a Venus flytrap for a child and because the plants are inside at garden centres they keep them inside but the plants die and they never bother with a carnivorous plant again. It’s such a shame.”

Elizabeth, who gardens in Tauranga, started growing carnivorous plants about 10 years ago when she was working in a garden centre and saw one in a bargain bin.

“I took it home and got it going again. Cor Schipper in Rotorua grows his own, including some of his own hybrids, and I used to swap some of my orchids for his plants.”

The only requirements most have are full sun and standing in water, preferably rainwater – they don’t need to be fed as they catch their own nourishment. Most also don’t mind the cold, although Nepenthes which come from the tropics, prefer winter cover.

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

 

Sarracenia are attractive tube-like plants native to the swamps of the eastern United States and these form the bulk of Elizabeth’s collection.

“Sarracenias will die back in winter so cut them back hard. Some will put up winter growth, which is like a strappy leaf and not carnivorous. These strappy leaves die back at the end of winter and as the new pitchers appear the plants come into flower. And the flowers are really lovely.”

 

Sarracenia flower

Sarracenia flower

 

Different plants catch their insects in different ways:

Pinguicula

Pinguicula

 

Sarracenia produce nectar around their mouths to attract insects while the hoods misdirect the insects into the tubes lined with downward-facing hairs that make it impossible to climb out. The bottom of the tube contains digestive acid.

Pinguicula (butterwort) have leaves coated with a sticky substance to trap insects. The leaf rolls up to digest the prey.

Nepenthes produce nectaras an attractant. They hold water in the pitcher to drown their prey, as well as digestive acids.

Drosera (sundew) have shimmering droplets of water on fine ‘tentacles’ to attract insects. When one is caught in the glue other tentacles move to secure it. On some types the leaves roll up around the prey.

Drosera

Drosera

 

New Zealand has native carnivorous plants – seven sundews (about half of the family are native to Australia) and two Utricularia (bladderworts), which suck in insects that touch trigger hairs on the ‘bladders’.

Not quite The Little Shop of Horrors, but just as much fun!

 

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Sandra Simpson

About Sandra Simpson

Sandra Simpson is a long-time journalist who in 2008 was asked to write a weekly garden feature for her local daily newspaper in Tauranga, New Zealand. Since then she’s visited beautiful gardens, met great people and attended several shows. In 2012 she started her own blog, Sandra’s Garden to share more of the people, places and events that make her corner of the world so bountiful.

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