Carnivorous Plants Can Live Without Bugs. Here’s How

Adding a Venus Fly Trap to your home may seem like a great idea, but are you willing to feed it bugs? Carnivorous plants, like a Venus Fly Trap, can survive without being fed insects, but it is hard on them. That said, if the conditions are right for them, there are some options that can be used to feed them without the use of bugs.

Carnivorous plants can live without bugs, here’s how: Since they are plants, they can survive through photosynthesis, and they do not require insects to survive. Regular and attentive care is all carnivorous plants require. 

Carnivorous plants, like a Venus FlyTrap or a Pitcher plant have evolved to make up for the lack of nutrients in the soil. For them to be able to survive without the aid of digested insects, some measures do need to be made. Carnivorous plants tend to be in a category all their own, so it will take a little extra help to survive without using what nature intended.

The Right Conditions for a Carnivorous Plant to Survive without Bugs

Due to the way that carnivorous plants have evolved, they are adapted to be able to survive in poor conditions, and so conditions that would be considered poor for most plants is where carnivorous plants thrive.

Whether you plan to feed them bugs or not is a personal choice. Carnivorous plants do best when they are provided with insects on occasion, but they can also survive on the nutrients in their soil and photosynthesis.

That being said, you do need to make sure they have the right conditions, or they will die. Carnivorous plants, due to how they survive, actually are not as hardy in the home as they are in nature. When removed from their natural habitat, they become very fragile and can die rather easily.

How to Deliver Nutrients to Carnivorous Plants

Since most carnivorous plants have evolved in low nutrient areas, you can’t just give them regular plant food to supplement their diet. This will actually burn the roots since their roots are more sensitive than most plants, due to trying to survive in nutrient light soil.

Using composting tea mixed with rainwater will help to give some added nutrients to your carnivorous plant without damaging the roots. Even straight composting tea can be too strong for their roots, so you need to weaken the solution to the color of apple juice. Even with such a weak solution, you need to limit how often you use this, no more than twice a month.

Alternatively, if you do not have access to composting tea, you can use organic fertilizer, but weakened to no stronger than ¼ its original strength. Again, mixing with rainwater is best due to the chemicals in tap water.

Using Artificial Food Sources

If you have an aversion to feeding bugs to your plant but still want it to get all the nutrition it needs, you can feed it specially made carnivorous plant food such as this one. It works similar to a multivitamin for humans, giving your plants the vitamins and nutrients it needs.

You will need to feed the food to your plant, mimicking the process of your plant catching a bug. The plant then digests the food as it would normally do, allowing it to get the nutrients it needs.

How to Water Carnivorous Plants

For the same reason you can’t feed plant food, you also can’t use tap water. The chemicals in tap water that make it safe for us to drink can actually burn the sensitive roots of a carnivorous plant. It is for this reason that it is best to use rainwater or distilled water to water your carnivorous plants.

While tap water may have chemicals in it, well water tends to as well. Even if there are not softeners in the well water, there is a risk of there being some chemicals or bad minerals in a well or underground aquifer that a carnivorous plant cannot handle.

In wintertime, when they are mostly dormant anyways, you can use melted snow to water them. Make sure the snow has fully melted and come up to room temperature before watering as the cold will not help them any and could hurt them. They also require less moisture during the winter, so limit the waterings to provide a less moist environment.

Be careful not to keep them too wet. Even though most carnivorous plants tend to live in swampy or wetland areas, this does not mean that keeping them like that in your home is a good idea. Their soil should be moist to the touch, but not soggy. Their soil being too wet can cause their roots to rot, just like most plants.

How Much Light Do Carnivorous Plants Need?

Since you are working on ensuring you have optimal conditions for your carnivorous plant, their light requirements would be next on the list. If your plant does not have access to direct sunlight, then an artificial growing light is your best bet as far as light for them, since they need 12 to 16 hours of light every day. During the dormant phase you can cut the light back to 8 to 12 hours per day, but direct light is best for them.

The Best Soil Conditions for Carnivorous Plants

While it may be tempting to use regular potting soil with carnivorous plants, this can have the opposite effect of what you are trying to do with them. Regular potting soil can be too dense for their delicate roots for one thing, but that is not the major issue to be concerned about.

Just as you don’t want to use soil from a compost heap, using regular potting soil tends to be too nutrient dense for carnivorous plants. If you need to transplant them from the container you purchased or grew them in, then using the original soil is best, supplementing it with things like peat moss or sphagnum moss.

If you need to remove it entirely from its soil (mold grew in the pot, for example) then you can have the option of using one of the following soils:

  • Live sphagnum moss
  • Dried long fiber sphagnum moss
  • Or a 3 to mix of peat moss and cheap, sharp sand

Make sure to do research on your particular carnivorous plant before replanting as some types of carnivorous plants do have specific requirements.

Humidity for Carnivorous Plants

Humidity is also something that needs to be looked at as well as most carnivorous plants do have a high humidity requirement than most homes typically provide. Since their natural habitat is usually wet, swampy areas, they do have a higher humidity requirement.

This can easily be obtained through the use of a terrarium. This can help increase the local humidity for your plant without risking things like electronics in your home.

Your Plant Might Find Bugs On Its Own

Just because you’re not feeing your plant, does not mean that they aren’t eating. Unless your home is practically a sterile environment, you will probably have some bugs wandering around somewhere. Whether it is the occasional fly looking for a free meal (preferably yours) or the spider looking for a warm hangout during the cold nights, you probably have a couple.

If those bugs happen to wander (or fly) into the wrong area of your home, your plant may still be getting the occasional snack, which is perfectly fine as long as it has the energy needed to digest it.

Don’t Feed Your Carnivorous Plant When it’s Sick

One of the major reasons that some horticulturists familiar with carnivorous plants will stop feeding them is that they are sick or not getting all of their other needs met. Due to the large amount of energy needed to be able to digest an insect, feeding an insect to a sick carnivorous plant could actually kill it rather than help it.

If a carnivorous plant is low on energy, and they do attempt to digest a bug, it has a good chance of killing it since it would have no energy left to even try to photosynthesize. Since plants do not contain intelligence, they will actually die trying to eat, rather than trying to make more energy first.