The 8 Most Popular Carnivorous Plants

Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 07:22 pm

Carnivorous plants are a stroke of evolutionary genius for the home windowsill. Around the world, carnivores do not only colonize tropical regions. In Greenland, New Zealand and even in the highest mountains of Brazil, these fascinating survival artists can be found in places where other plants are at a loss. Even in European latitudes you can meet the ingenious trappers. This selection introduces you to the most popular species and their ingenious trapping mechanisms.

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula)

From the genus of sundews comes one of the most popular carnivorous plants for the windowsill. Even Charles Darwin declared the Venus flytrap the most wonderful plant in the world. This carnivorous species delights with bright red hinged traps composed of two halves of leaves. Along the edges of the leaves are small bristles that trigger the folding mechanism when a prey animal is within reach. An enticing scent of nectar emanates from the insides of the red leaves to attract insects and other invertebrates. Within milliseconds, the trap snaps shut and the bristles interlock so that there is no escape. A single leaf can perform this trapping process up to five times.

The 8 Most Popular Carnivorous Plants

Moreover, the popularity of Venus flytraps is based on a magnificent flower. In early spring, white flowers on long stems rise high above the trap leaves. These are composed of small green sepals and five large petals, which do not overlap each other.

Height of growth: 10 cm (up to 50 cm during the flowering period).
Flowering time: April to June

Pitcher plant (Nepenthes alata)

Representative of the spectacular genus of pitcher plants, we would like to present Nepenthes alata ‘Ventrata’, one of the most popular species and its most beautiful hybrids. This tropical climbing plant forms pitcher-shaped traps up to 50 cm long from some of its leaves, with a fixed lid. In it there is an acidic digestive secretion that gives off a sweetish scent. The inner walls of a pitcher are very smooth. If a careless insect lands on the rim of the pitcher, it slips inexorably into the liquid and is digested within 2 days.

Euphoria for pitcher plants is based primarily on the aesthetics of their traps. Nevertheless, the carnivores provide floral moments of happiness when they present their decorative flower panicles. In the course of the summer growing season, shoots 15 to 50 cm long sprout with reddish inflorescences.

  • Height of growth: depending on the climbing aid 100 to 250 cm
  • Flowering time: during the summer

Tip: Carnivorous plants do not tolerate lime. Therefore, always water your carnivores with collected rainwater, well water or well-stagnant tap water.

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Sundew (Drosera).

The second largest genus of carnivorous plants gives us three hardy carnivores that you can cultivate in your garden. Drosera rotundifolia, Drosera intermedia and Drosera anglica are completely hardy. Although the plants differ in some details, they largely coincide in striking characteristics. After a successful capture, their sticky traps move gently back and forth, glistening in the sunlight. The spectacle results from moving tentacles located on the leaves. At their tips the carnivore
the carnivore secretes a sticky, sugary secretion, which attracts prey. The movements successively strengthen the hold, while digestive enzymes slowly decompose the victim to extract the nutrients.

European frost-resistant sundew species prefer to thrive in bog beds or along garden ponds. Subtropical and tropical Drosera set the scene on the windowsill or in terrariums because their temperature minimum is around 20 degrees Celsius. During the summer, they trump with five-petaled, white or pink flowers that unfurl at a safe distance from the sticky trap leaves.

  • Height of growth: 10 cm (up to 30 cm during flowering)
  • Flowering time: depending on species and variety between April and August
  • Red hose plant, trumpet leaf (Sarracenia purpurea)

The Red Hose Plant Sarracenia purpurea

has emerged as the star of this small carnivore genus. Unlike its exotic congeners, the carnivorous Sarracenia purpurea is reliably hardy, so it thrives equally well indoors or out. In acidic, wet soil, the red trumpet leaf shows its best side. Moreover, the carnivorous species makes itself useful as a natural and powerful insect trap on the windowsill.

Its beauty and effectiveness is based on purple tubes that thrive horizontally and are thus always near the ground. The upper part of the trap tube is strongly curved and wide open with a collar of nectar. A digestive secretion is added to the collected rainwater to rapidly decompose attracted prey.

The nodding, reddish to pink flowers are at a sufficient distance from the hose traps so as not to endanger pollinating bees. A single flower remains open for about 14 days. Since new buds continually unfold on adult tubular plants throughout the summer, this carnivorous species provides decorative accents along marshy pond banks, in bog beds, on the balcony or windowsill for a long time.

Height of growth: 10 to 20 cm
Flowering time: May/June to August/September

Dwarf Pitcher (Cephalotus follicularis)

Among enthusiasts with a soft spot for rarities from the realm of carnivorous plants, the dwarf pitcher is very popular. Only in Southwest Australia is the distribution area of the small beauty, which usually remains at a growth height of 10 cm. In seasonal change, non-carnivorous leaves are formed in winter, whose task is photosynthesis. From summer to fall, small pitcher traps with lids and conspicuously toothed edges thrive to lure insects to their doom. The sunnier the location, the more intensely the pitcher-shaped traps turn an intense red to black.

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In contrast to the striking pitfall traps, the tiny flowers appear rather inconspicuous. At the time of the beginning of summer in Australia sprout flower stalks with numerous star-shaped flowers in a panicle arrangement. The large safety distance of up to 60 cm that a dwarf pitcher develops between pitcher traps and flowers is striking.

  • Height of growth: 5 to 10 cm (at flowering time up to 60 cm)
  • Flowering time: January to February

Tip: In normal, nutrient-rich potting soil, carnivorous plants have little chance of survival. As a substrate, special carnivore soil is the best choice, as its composition is adapted to the special needs of the plants, such as an extra acidic pH of 3 to 4.

Swamp Pitcher (Heliamphora)

Together with the dwarf pitcher, a swamp pitcher forms the dream team among carnivores for the windowsill. Unlike dwarf pitchers, swamp pitchers forgo a large lid to create a reservoir of rainwater in their trap tube. Trapped insects drown in the liquid before bacteria are released to digest the prey. The funnel-shaped pitfall traps achieve species-typical heights between 10 and 50 cm, so there is a suitable marsh pitcher species to discover for every design preference. The greenish and reddish marbled coloring of the leaves is beautiful to look at. A zip-shaped lid rudiment at the upper end of the trap design is bright red in color and exudes a special attractant.

Compared to the extravagant growth form of its leaf funnels, the flowers on the marsh pitcher thrive inconspicuously. The white to reddish flowers only form when the plant finds a location with 80 to 85 percent humidity and experiences a temperature drop overnight to 8 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Height of growth: depending on the species 10 to 50 cm
Flowering time: June to September

Water trap (Aldrovanda vesiculosa)

Are you looking for an aquatic plant that also catches insects? Then the sundew family offers you just the right carnivore species in the form of a water trap. The herbaceous freshwater plant is equipped with folding traps in mini format, as we know them from Venus flytraps. With these traps, the water trap prefers to snatch water fleas to cover its nutritional needs. Fine hairs and bristles inside and along the edges ensure that the prey cannot escape. Along the up to 30 cm long shoot axes, the 2 to 3 mm small trap leaves are arranged in small whorls. Air-filled cavities provide the necessary buoyancy.

A water trap presents its white flowers on short stems for only a few hours. However, as experience shows, this carnivore species can rarely be motivated to bloom outside its habitats.

  • Growth length: 10 to 30 cm
  • Flowering time: usually omitted

Butterwort (Pinguicula)

Among the 85 species within the genus of butterworts, there are 4 species that you can encounter in the wild in European-speaking countries. Mostly, the water weeds thrive in the warm regions of Central America, so they are often cultivated as decorative houseplants. Explicitly tropical butterwort species enjoy high esteem due to their beautiful flowers, which are perched high above the evergreen, sticky leaf rosettes. The leaves release the fragrant attractant secretion via glands. The carnivorous plants primarily target mosquitoes, flies and other insects. Once the prey has attached itself to the leaf, there is no escape.

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Since all carnivores are strictly careful not to harm their pollinators, the distance between the trap petals and inflorescences is up to 60 cm. The spectrum of decorative flower colors ranges from white to pale pink and dark red to purple and yellow.

  • Height of growth: 15 to 20 cm (much higher during the flowering period)
  • Flowering time: May to September

Water hose (Utricularia)

Behind its inconspicuous exterior hides a carnivore of superlatives. The more than 200 water hose species are represented around the globe. Utricularia species thrive both swimming in water and terrestrially on land. Their trap bladders are among the most sophisticated traps that carnivorous plants have developed. The tiny bladders are 0.2 to 6 mm in size and are under tension. When potential prey comes into contact with the sensing bristles, it is sucked in a split second by creating negative pressure within the bladder. This reflex is considered the fastest movement in the entire plant kingdom. Under water, the process is accompanied by a soft popping sound.

A water hose always blooms above the water, respectively, above the substrate. Its spurred flowers form racemose stands in a variety of shades. Small species produce flowers of a few millimeters, whereas majestic carnivores unfold magnificent flowers up to 7 cm in diameter, reminiscent of orchids.
Height of growth: 30 to 130 cm
Flowering time: in summer or almost all year round


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts. Jones James

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