Carnivorous Plants for Beginners: The Fat & Purple Guys!

Sarracenia PurpureaIf you successfully grew Cape Sundews since my last post, or are just looking for a bit more of challenge, our next edition of carnivorous plants for beginners is going over the purple pitcher plant, or Sarracenia Purpurea. But my favorite way to refer to them is the fat and purple guys!

These guys are the most commercially sold carnivorous plants, second only to the Venus flytrap, and for good reason! Their appearance is eye catching, unusual, and exotic, generally more so than their tall, slim counterparts. Just look at those veins and the shape of that hood!

Location: Almost everywhere!

Purpureas are the cold-hardiest of the American pitcher plants and have the widest natural range. They thrive in Canada, the Great Lakes region, the Eastern Seaboard, and all the way down to the swampy Southeastern United States. In the 1980s, these plants were introduced to peat bogs in Ireland, where it has also thrived! Can’t keep a good plant down.

Cold weather? Little sunlight? No problem!Sarracenia purpurea

These plants are definitely temperate, not tropical (read the difference here). In most climates, they are not considered an indoor plant and will fare best outside. They also require a cool, winter dormancy. If you live in an area that snows in the winter, this plant should have no problem staying outside all year round. Though I still recommend keeping it safe from the elements on a porch or covered patio.

Purpureas also do well in a variety of light conditions, from full sun to dappled shade. If you can’t give it full sun, or live in a climate with lots of overcast days, don’t fret! Due to their short, stubby anatomy, they are often growing in the shadows of tall grass and taller species of Sarracenia in the wild. I like planting mine in the center of a large pot and planting the taller pitcher plants around the perimeter.

You can often tell how much sunlight a pitcher receives due to its coloring. Generally speaking, the darker, redder (purpler?) the plant, the more sunlight it gets. A greener plant usually means it receives less light. It’s fun to watch the color change! However, there are some varieties that stay green even in full sunlight.

Sarracenia PurpureaSadly, not the best bug catchers. 

Almost any other carnivorous plant will feed on insects better than these guys, unfortunately! Purpureas are one of the more ornamental carnivores, which is a nice way to say pretty but useless! You can carefully fill the pitchers halfway with distilled water, which will help drown insects that slip inside. If you live in a rainy climate, the pitchers will fill up with rainwater as they do in the wild. Of course, you can always hand-feed the little guys. My post on Venus fly trap food works equally well for pitcher plants. Just a reminder, feeding is optional, not necessary.

This is where it gets a little complicated…

S. Purpurea has two different subspecies, noted as ssp. From these two subspecies come a variety of forms and cultivars.

The first is Sarracenia purpurea ssp. Sarracenia Purpureapurpurea (abbreviated as S. pp) I know it sounds redundant, but the distinction is significant to scientists and serious growers. This subspecies is also known as the Northern Pitcher Plant, and is the cold-hardiest of the two subspecies, found in Canada and Northeastern regions of the United States.

The second subspecies is Sarracenia pupurea ssp. venosa (S. pv). This one is more tolerant of hotter, humid temperatures and is native to the bogs and marshes of the Southeastern United States. This one is the most commonly found in cultivation, although the plants aren’t always labeled correctly.

If you are just looking to buy your first plant, don’t worry about this! It’s not a big deal if you don’t know which subspecies your plant is. It will amaze you how tough and adaptable these little guys are. Whatever conditions you’re able to provide, S. Purpurea will certainly learn to adapt.

Just some final tips!

  • Nutrient-poor soil. 50/50 peat moss and perlite with no fertilizers will do just fine
  • Use non-porous pots like plastic, or glazed ceramic. Foam pots make good insulation too!
  • Keep them moist, but not soggy. Do not let the soil dry out
  • Rain water, distilled or reverse osmosis water only!
  • Less sunlight is okay, but try to give at least 2-4 hours of direct sunlight per day
  • Have fun!

If you feel ready, click here to buy a Sarracenia Purpurea from a well-trusted, highly rated grower! I’ve bought several plants from this seller and am highly satisfied. The second photo in this article is one of my plants from him. 🙂

If you’re not quite ready or want to try something even easier, check out Carnivorous Plants for Beginners: Unkillable Sundews!

As always, leave a comment with any further questions if you have ’em!


  1. Andrew says:

    Dont forget the roseas, or S. purpurea subsp. venosa var. Burkii 🙂 . and purpurea subsp. venosa var. montana. Great blog, i enjoy reading it.

    • Maria says:

      Hey Andrew, thanks for mentioning those! I don’t have any personal experience with S. rosea, or S pv var. Montana and I want to make sure I write about stuff accurately. If I ever get to care for those subspecies, I’ll be sure to write a post about their main differences between them and the other Purps.

      And I’m glad you enjoy the blog! Thanks again for subscribing to the newsletter too!

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