Sprouts of Drosera filiformis var. filiformis "Florida
All Red". Notice the non-carnivorous cotyledon
leaves with the seed still attached.
Growing carnivorous plants from seed can be fun and it can be frustrating.
Start with the beginner species. They tend to grow faster and do well
under a broader range of conditions. The Seed Bank packets of the beginner
species have more seed so you can try different techniques for starting
and growing your plants. Don't plant all the seed in one pot or at one
time. As you get more experience you can move on to the species that require
For the more difficult species, when you start the seed can be
as important as how. Try to learn as much as you can about the
of the species before starting the seeds. Some carnivorous plants
plants are summer-growing, others are winter-growing, many don't
care about seasons as long as it is the right temperature. Some
seeds require a period of damp cold conditions before they will
may require treatment with smoke or hormones. Some species like
growing in sphagnum moss while others prefer a peat and sand mix.
Here are some general principles about growing plants from seed.
- Plants need light. Lots of light. Consider starting
seed under fluorescent lights. Sixteen hours of light a day
is optimal in most circumstances. The top
of the pots should be 15 to 25 cm from the lamps. It helps to
have a piece of glass
between the lights and the plants to cut down on heat transmission.
Make sure there is enough air circulation so the plants don't
get too hot.
- Plants need moisture. The planting medium should be
moist but not sopping wet. You may want to put the pots in plastic
bags, cover them with plastic wrap, or put them in a sealed terrarium. You will know the plants are wet enough if the bags stay fogged up.
Germinating seeds under a T5, two bulb, fluorescent fixture.
- Carnivorous plants are very sensitive to soil nutrients
and salts in water. Carnivorous
plants live in low nutrient environments. They can be killed
by regular planter mix, fertilizer, and water with moderate or
high dissolved solids. Typical soils used for CP are
sphagnum peat, long fibered or live sphagnum moss, coarse silica
and perlite. Make
sure there are no fertilizers added. Water should have
less than 80 PPM of dissolved solids. In most
areas on this planet that means buying or making reverse osmosis,
distilled, or deionized water.
Fungus gnat larvae on a 1 mm grid.
- The seeds of most CP species do best if the seed is not
Just sprinkle on the surface of the planting medium and spray
lightly with purified water.
- Bugs would love to eat your CP sprouts. Keep the seedlings
pots away from the rest of your plants. Fungus gnat larvae love
eating the roots of CP seedlings. Try to use a sterile planting
medium to combat fungus. Consider using sterilized milled or
chopped live sphagnum moss for species that will grow in sphagnum.
Otherwise you can use a peat and sand mix. Keeping the seedlings in sealed plastic bags will help keep the gnats away from your seedlings. They can stay in sealed plastic bags for a long time although by the time they have 4 to 6 leaves they should be large enough to go with your other plants.
- Keep a record what you do and the dates. Put plant labels in the pots and consider keeping a journal about your plants. Most species
require 3 weeks or more for germination. Many can require 6
to 9 months to germinate. This will seem like an
eternity and without the dates to check, it will be.
- Have patience. Seedling carnivorous plants grow VERY slowly. For many species it can take a year to get a plant large enough you can feed a tiny amount of dried bloodworm. Until the plants can be fed they are starving and there is nothing you can do but wait. Even plants you can fertilize very lightly such as Sarracenia and Nepenthes, it still takes years to get a mature plants. This is why we encourage beginners to start with large plants rather than seeds.
Quick links to growing instructions or continue reading...
Dionaea muscipula all
red seedling. This 4 month old plant is 7 mm across. If all goes well,
in 4 years it will be 7 cm across.
Dionaea muscipula, the Venus Fly Trap, is undoubtedly
the most popular carnivorous plant found on this planet. If you
want to grow it from seed, expect to be admiring it with a magnifying
glass for a few years. If you are in a hurry or in junior high
and want to have a mature plant sometime before you are off to
college, look for mature size plants grown in tissue culture at
your better nurseries. Of course "better" nurseries
are the ones that carry carnivorous plants. They may only be available
at certain times of the year.
Dionaea muscipula is one of the easier savages to start from
seed. For instructions on growing them from seed, see the detailed
Many subtropical Drosera species are easy to grow from
seed and to maintain long term in a terrarium. The easiest species
capensis, D. dielsiana, D.
aliciae, and D. intermedia "Cuba". These species should
do fine on a 50:50 peat and sand mix. They germinate best with
a little warmth, 25°C
For the the more difficult subtropicals it may be better to
use a layer of sterilized or live chopped sphagnum moss on top
of the peat/sand mix or just increase the amount of sand in the
top cm of soil. Some species also prefer to be in pure long fibered
sphagnum. Try different growing mediums to see which are best
for your plant under your conditions.
Summer-growing Tropical Drosera and Byblis
Summer-growing tropical Drosera and Byblis are generally
found in areas with very hot temperatures and very high rainfall in
summer. In winter temperatures are warm but there is very little rainfall.
species are perennials that become
dormant during the tropical "winter". Drosera
indica and related species, Drosera
burmannii, and Byblis
liniflora and related species are summer annuals that grow very
quickly, bloom, set seed, and die.
Most of these species are found in sandy or lateritic soils. They
grow best in a mix of 1:2 peat:sand
or 1:1:1 peat:sand:perlite or 1:2 chopped sphagnum:sand and/or perlite
or similar mix
that is very "light". Drosera burmannii is an exception
and will grow well in just about anything usual for carnivorous
plants. It can become a weed in CP collections.
at or above
25°C (80°F) are generally required for the seed of these species
to germinate and for the plants to grow well. Some
of the species are fire adapted and require "help" to germinate.
The fire adapted species require a Gibberellin A3 treatment of the
seeds to germinate well. Smoke water or smoke treated sphagnum may
substitute for the GA3.
Winter-growing and Tuberous Drosera
Tuberous and pygmy Drosera live in an area of Australia
with a temperature and rainfall profile similar to coastal southern
California except twice the rainfall. Summers are warm and dry while
winters are cool and very rainy. For tuberous Drosera, the tubers
sprout in early fall and begin vigorous growth with the first rains.
By late spring the plants have bloomed and they die back to the underground
tubers. The tubers over-summer in warm barely damp soil. The pygmy
Drosera live is slightly wetter locations and over-summer as dormant
stipule buds. The pygmies produce gemmae in the fall which is the most
convenient way to reproduce and trade around these wonderful and very
cute plants. Drosera
glanduligera is an annual and can
be grown with your tuberous Drosera. It has similar requirements
but doesn't require deep pots.
The tuberous Drosera seed must be planted in mid to late
summer since these species are winter growing. If you have a
cool basement, you can grow them any time.Use a 40:60 mix of
peat and sand and a tall pot with some sphagnum moss in the
bottom. Standard nursery #1 ("gallon") pots work well.
In mild winter areas you may leave the pots outside and let
nature takes its course. In other areas you may start the seeds
in a greenhouse that allows the temperature to get down to a
few degrees above freezing at night. The seeds will germinate
at the warm to cool transition of the seasons. If the seeds
don't germinate the first winter, don't throw out the pot! Let
it dry out during the summer and try again the next fall. Please
see the detailed
instructions for tuberous Drosera for more information.
Pygmy Drosera seed can be started at any time if you start
them indoors. Please
see the detailed instructions
for pygmy Drosera for more information.
Drosera anglica seedlings
Temperate Drosera grow in areas with a distinct winter. To survive
long term these plants require a winter and you should consider growing
them outside year round if you live within their natural range.
Seeds of the temperate Drosera need a "winter" to germinate.
Drosera filiformis, D. anglica, D. intermedia,
and D. rotundifolia require a few weeks of damp cold stratification.
You can put pots planted with the seeds in the refrigerator for 2 to
4 weeks or you can be put the pots outside in the early spring and allow
the seeds to sprout naturally. A 50:50 mix of peat and sand usually
works well although D. rotundifolia is commonly found growing
naturally in live sphagnum. According to Adrian Slack in his book
Carnivorous Plants, D. filiformis appreciates a tall pot, D.
anglica and D. rotundifolia like short pots, while D.
intermedia can be grown as an aquatic during the summer.
Alpine and Temperate Pinguicula
Alpine and cold temperate Pinguicula like Pinguicula alpina,
P. vulgaris, P. macroceras, and P. grandiflora are
native to areas with cold, distinct winters. Seeds of these plants need
to experience a winter before they will germinate. Warm temperate Pinguicula
like P. lusitanica (an annual), P. pumila, and P. lutea
do not require stratification and will germinate without stratification.
Seeds of alpine and cold temperate Pinguicula need a damp cold stratification
at temperatures from -10°C to 5°C (14°F to 40°F)
for 8 weeks before they will germinate. If you plan on keeping the plants
in a terrarium during their summer and in the refrigerator during their
winter, you may start the seeds at any time. For plants to be kept outside
in cold temperate locations, it is best to plant the seeds outside in
late fall. Warm temperate seeds may be started at any time indoors or
during the spring outside. A good soil mix for these Pinguicula is two
parts peat, one part silica sand, one part perlite and one part vermiculite.
Please see detailed instructions on alpine,
cold temperate, and warm
Seeds of Mexican Pinguicula such as Pinguicula moranensis,
P. moctezumae, and P. agnata need temperatures
between 22°C and 25°C (70°F to 80°F) to
germinate. They can be started indoors anytime and out doors
in the spring or summer. To prepare a pot to start your seeds,
fill it most of the way with one part each of peat, sand, and
perlite and cover that with a thin layer of the mix
sifted to remove the large pieces. Use dolomitic or limestone
sand if you have it. Place the seed on the surface of the medium
and don't bury it. The soil should be damp but not sopping wet.
You may want to put the pot in a plastic bag. Seeds germinate
in 4 to 8 weeks. Please see the detailed
for more information.
Two year old Sarracenia rubra ssp. alabamensis seedling in 55mm wide pot.
Sarracenia and Darlingtonia
Sarracenia seeds needs a damp cold stratification for 4 weeks before
they will germinate. If you plan on keeping the plants in a terrarium
for an extended period (up to 2 years), you may start the seeds at any
time. For plants to be kept outside it is best to start the seed in
the fall if you plan to keep the seedlings under lights the first winter
or plant in late winter if they will be put outside in late spring.
If you live in an area where Sarracenia or Darlingtonia grow naturally,
consider starting the seed in pots outside during the winter.
Darlingtonia should be grown in pure sphagnum moss.
Sow the seed on the surface of chopped sphagnum moss. Live sphagnum
works best but needs to be trimmed back regularly. Don't bury
the seed. Place seed about 5 mm apart. Put the pot in a plastic
bag and store in a refrigerator, garage, or other location that
stays between a few to 10 degrees above freezing for 4 weeks.
Seeds may also be put in a plastic bag with a few strands of
finely chopped damp sphagnum moss and placed in a refrigerator
for 4 weeks. Sarracenia may be started the same way as Darlingtonia but
may actually do better if started in pots with 50% or more sphagnum
peat. They appreciate the extra nutrients in peat.
After stratification, move the pots to a bright, warm location.
Leave the pots in the plastic bags until the seedlings have a few pitchers.
For more information and opinions check out Meadowview
Biological Research Station.
Cephalotus follicularis seedling.
The Seed Bank has had these seeds but don't hold your breath until
the next time.
Cephalotus follicularis is very easy to grow from seed if you
can get it. Following the instructions in Peter D'Amato's book
The Savage Garden works very well. Stratify fresh seeds
in the refrigerator for 8 weeks. You can plant the seeds before stratification
and put the whole pot in the refrigerator or you can put the seeds
in a small plastic bag with finely chopped damp sphagnum moss. Use
a planting mix of 1 part peat to 2 parts sand and/or
perlite. As an alternative, start the seeds in finely chopped sphagnum
and transplant to their regular mix after the plants are a few months
can take two months to germinate. The
5 mm high pitchers at right are on a one year old plant. You can get
a mature plant in two to three years. Please see the detailed
instructions for more information.
Nepenthes seeds need to be started on chopped sphagnum moss in
very damp but not wet conditions. Chopped live sphagnum works
best but you have to trim it to keep it from overgrowing the plants.
Sprinkle the seed on the surface of the sphagnum and put the pot
in a plastic bag or other sealed container under bright light.
Temperatures above 25°C (80°F) are usually required for seed to
germinate. Germination may take 6 weeks or longer. When the seed
germinates, give the seedlings some air circulation to help combat
any mold that may spontaneously generate. Please see the detailed
instructions on Nepenthes for more information.
Currently there are over 220 named species of Utricularia. Representatives
of the genus can be found from tundra and alpine locations to seasonal
lakes in deserts to hot steamy swamps and cold fog forests. The species
commonly found in cultivation fall into two groups: the terrestrial
species from bogs and shallow water and the epiphytic species from fog
forests and wet, mossy hillsides.
The terrestrial Utricularia can be grown like subtropical Drosera.
Scatter seed on the surface of a mix consisting of 50:50 peat:sand.
Sit the pot in water in a plastic zip-lock bag. The bags should go under
florescent lights but be careful not to have them too close or you could
cook the seedlings. After the seeds germinate, remove the pots from
the plastic bags and put the pot in a terrarium.
For epiphytic Utricularia, the easiest way to start the seed is to
follow the same procedure as terrestrials but use a pot with 40:60 long
fibered sphagnum:perlite topped with finely chopped sphagnum.
Please see detailed instructions on terrestrial
and epiphytic Utricularia.
Drosophyllum lusitanicum, commonly known as the dewy pine,
is a popular plant among collectors since it is the sole representative
of its genus. It is also significantly different from other carnivorous
plants in that it inhabits drier climates. Unfortunately, this
plant also has a bad reputation as being difficult to grow and maintain. The
main problem is that cultivation methods used for other bog-dwelling
carnivorous plants are lethal for Drosophyllum. Read
Ibicella and Proboscidea
These plants are not carnivorous but they are so nasty everyone wants them to be carnivorous. The popular name Devil's Claw understates
the features of Ibicella lutea and Proboscidea louisianica.
They could equally be called Devil's Breath or Devil's Snot. You don't
want to grow these plants if you have small children or pets that blunder
into your garden plants.
Ibicella and Proboscidea plants
get big and can be grown like regular garden plants. If you live in an area that has hot summers, expect the
plants to be at least a meter across. They have a rather unpleasant
smell—something like rotting gym socks. The smell won't put you
off lunch but it does serve as a warning to remind you to keep away.
And keep away is something you may want to do. The leaves and stems
are covered with a resinous slime that you can't easily wash off. It
gets on your clothes. It gets on your hands and arms. It gets on your
garden tools. It won't come off. And then there are the seed pods.
Those suckers are evil. They are very sharp. They are designed to snag
onto animal feet and hold on until the poor beast dies and serves as
fertilizer for the next generation of Devil's Claw. If you still want
to grow these plants, read more...