I love Utricularia because they literally make my head explode every time I think about them. And by literally, I mean figuratively.
They have the most complex trapping mechanism out of all carnivorous plants, possibly the most complex structure in the plant kingdom. But you can’t see them! They’re super tiny and under the soil! You can’t watch the carnivory in action unless you look up videos online.
So they hide their carnivorous parts, then grow tiny, amazing flowers for us to enjoy. It’s almost like a compensation for not having flashy, obvious carnivory. What an interesting balance! Seriously, I’m like this over here:
If you can appreciate the subtleties of Utricularia, you’ll find that many species are also ridiculously easy to grow and make excellent beginner plants! Read the care tips below to get a head start on raising your own Utrics!
Quick note: These instructions mainly apply to terrestrial Utricularia, which are the most numerous and most widely available in cultivation. If you find aquatic, temperate, or epiphytic Utrics, you’ll want to do more reading.
Resources on the internet are a bit sparse for the less common Utricularia, so I recommend picking up Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Natch Greyes. The section on bladderworts is very in-depth and detailed!
And now onto the care details!
Water: Many Utricularia enjoy very wet, almost semi-aquatic conditions. Don’t let them dry out and occasionally allow the water to rise above the soil level. For some species, this helps induce flowering too!
Like all carnivorous plants, use low mineral or mineral-free water, such as distilled water, rain water, or purified water by reverse osmosis.
Planters: Utricularia are not picky and can grow in a variety of containers, even cups with no drainage holes! I prefer containers with no drainage because they make it easier to raise the water above the soil level. They don’t have extensive root systems, so planters can be deep or shallow.
Love terrariums? Utrics make great terrarium plants too! Read this post for more details!
You can repot them at any time of year. Simply separate a clump of leaves when the pot becomes crowded and put it in fresh media.
Soil: Long-fibered sphagnum moss is perfect for Utricularia. Species like U. calycifida prefer it. I’ve also used 2 parts organic peat moss to 1 part perlite. Most importantly, the soil must be inert and free of minerals, fertilizers, or any other additives.
Light: I’ve found that many Utricularia grow happiest in partial, indirect sun. A sunny windowsill or indoor light works perfectly. Some direct sunlight is good, but I never do more than 4-6 hours of direct sun.
Dormancy: Many Utricularia in cultivation don’t require dormancy, though some may grow more slowly in the winter due to cooler temperatures. Utricularia generally shouldn’t experience freezing temperatures. Keep their temperatures between 50 – 86 F.
Food: Because of their highly complex, yet totally hidden bladder structures, Utricularia are unfortunately impossible to hand-feed like other carnivores. They eat microscopic critters in the soil, such as nematodes and water fleas.
However, you can boost Utricularia growth with foliar feeding. Maxsea 16-16-16 is a gentle plant fertilizer that many carnivorous plant enthusiasts use. Mix ½ teaspoon with a gallon of distilled water and spray your plants once every two weeks.
To summarize: Very moist soil and some direct sunlight, but not a huge amount, and moderate temperatures. That’s really it! If Utricularia blow your mind like they do mine, consider them an excellent carnivorous plant for beginners. They’re also generally one of the most affordable carnivorous plants on the market, due to small size and being easy to propagate!
Periodically, I will have a few different Utricularia available in the shop. Make sure you sign up for emails to be the first to know when plants are available! More plants will be in the store later this week! Sign up for email alerts below!