Looking to buy carnivorous plant seeds? Read this before you get scammed!

I’ve seen this happening a lot recently, and it’s super disappointing. More like downright shitty.

New growers often want to try growing carnivorous plants from seed, which is great! They look online and buy some cheap seeds without a second thought. If the seeds grow at all, they are usually not the plant the seller claimed it to be.

I feel really sad when looking through the #venusflytrap hashtag on Instagram and see an excited post from a new grower captioned with “Look, my Venus flytrap seeds are growing!”,and more often than not, the plant is not a Venus flytrap at all.

It’s an intentional, age-old business model to sell cheap substitutes to people who don’t know any better. And it doesn’t just apply to handbags!

In this post, I’ll be showing you how to spot and avoid the scammy sellers, and where to buy legitimate carnivorous plant seeds! Here are the main clues you should look for when buying seeds.

1. Pictures

Many listing use stock photos of plants. Beware of photos that contain orchids or other non-carnivorous plants, such as these.

$_57 (1)

 

Beware of listings that also show a “mix” of carnivorous plants, advertising a mix of seeds. No carnivorous plants from different genera should have their seeds mixed together, ie: sundews, Sarracenia, and Nepenthes. They all have different requirements and no seller worth their salt would mix the seeds. The seller is simply lying.

In this photo, the colors of the pinguicula (middle left) and sundew (lower right) have been photoshopped. They are not naturally those colors, and the sellers are intentionally being deceptive.

$_57 (2)

 

Seriously? It’s like they’re not even trying with this. (All these photos ARE pulled from actual Ebay auctions!)

$_12

 

You should also have an idea of what the seeds you’re looking for look like. This is an image from an Ebay listing claiming they are Venus flytrap seeds. I am 100% certain they’re not. $_571

The images below are actual Venus flytrap seeds from Flytrapcare.com. You can see how they are shiny, black, rounded at one end and pointy at the other, not uniformly rounded like the photo above. They are also extremely tiny.

Flytrapcare.com
Venus flytrap seeds – Flytrapcare.com
Flytrapcare.com
Venus flytrap seeds – Flytrapcare.com
Drosera capensis seeds
Drosera capensis seeds
Nepenthes seeds. Sarracenia.com
Nepenthes seeds. Sarracenia.com
Sarracenia seeds. CPPhotofinder.com
Sarracenia seeds. CPPhotofinder.com

 

2. Price & amount of seeds

100 seeds for under $1.00 is usually BS and too good to be true. A pack of Venus flytrap seeds is usually between $10 and $15 for 15-30 seeds. Sarracenia seeds are usually sold in 15-30 seeds per pack as well. Most sundew seeds are extremely tiny and estimated in amounts of 50-100 (unless it’s a rare species). Sundew seeds will also be among the cheapest at $2 to $5 per pack.  Drosophyllum and Roridula seeds are among the few often sold in small lots of 5 or 10. Nepenthes seeds are sold in pods, and prices will vary depending on the value of the species.

3. Location

You can bet on seeds from China and Hong Kong being completely fake. Even for a cheap price, it’s simply not worth the risk. Some sellers in the US and UK will also scam you, so read the language carefully in the listing and look for certain red flags.

If you see this photo, do not buy the seeds.
If you see this photo, do not buy the seeds.

4. Language

Here are a few headlines from eBay auctions that would make me steer clear from those listings:

  • Carnivorous Plants Seeds Mega Mix 420+ seeds (Drosera, Nepenthes, Sarracenia) (this seller is advertising a mix of seeds, which is a huge no-no.)
  • 100 pcs catching plant enchantress Carnivorous desk Pot Bonsai seeds (this doesn’t even make sense. Enchantress? Desk? Bonsai? None of those words belong in a carnivorous plant seed listing)
  • 10 X Dionaea Muscipula Giant Clip Venus Flytrap Seeds Bonsai Plants Flower Seeds (Again, the word Bonsai doesn’t belong in there, and I don’t know what the word “Clip” is referring to)

If seeds are being advertised as “fresh”, look for a collection date. If there isn’t one, you should be highly suspicious. If you contact the seller, they should be able to tell you.

 

So where can legit carnivorous plant seeds be bought?

First, I recommend joining the International Carnivorous Plant Society. Though joining, you gain access to their seed bank and support carnivorous plant research and conservation. The North American Sarracenia Conservancy also has a seed bank available to members, though I’m unsure if it’s currently updated.

You can also check in with your local carnivorous plant society! See if they have a seed bank, or if any other members want to trade seeds at meetings. We at the BACPS just started holding informal meetups to swap propagation material! Encourage your local society to do the same!

There are also many online communities where members are happy to give, trade, or sell seeds. Some of the most active are listed below.

Finally, you can also purchase seeds from the many online carnivorous plant retailers. Here is a list organized by country. 

Keep in mind that many temperate plant species are available seasonally. Venus flytrap seeds are just approaching harvest season in the northern hemisphere (June through August) and more will be available for sale in the late summer/early fall months. Sarracenia seeds will be available in the fall to early winter months. Tropical sundew seeds like Drosera capensis are more likely to be available year round. Nepenthes seeds are generally harder to come by, due to needing a male and female plant to cross-pollinate.

I hope this post helps you in your search for carnivorous plant seeds! I try to keep my cool but it’s honestly frustrating to see so many new growers get led astray by these scams. Please do your research and have a healthy amount of skepticism! When in doubt, ask people in the online communities if they have experience or opinions of a particular seller.

Have you ever accidentally bought fake seeds? Is there anything else people should look out for? Leave me a comment with your experience!

Also please share this post so more people are aware of the scams and learn to get their seeds from better sources. Thank you! 😀

26 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    I would add to wait for robs yearly seed list, or adding tons seed list which offers exceptional crosses as opposed to the typical stuff often sold online.

  2. Amber says:

    I began my carnivourous plant joirney March 2015, and After my first buy of a venus flytrap i was looking to grow from seed and actually have that packet in your picture from china. Thats when i joined the flytrapcare forum community and they were so helpful. After my second fake seed order there was a person on the forum who actually gave me a few. After that Matt and Leah harvested and i was able to get more then. I cannot believe how many scammers there are out there. I have recently seen others being scammed as well and its terrible. Your website is great, thank you for this!.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Amber, thank you so much for your nice comment! It’s really a shame how many scammers there are. But for every scammer, there’s a fantastic, generous community willing to help out! Flytrapcare is one of my favorites! 🙂 I’m glad you found this helpful! Happy New Year!

  3. Mars says:

    Thanks for the info! Now I know I just bought shit from china… We’ll see what grows out of this, if anything will…

  4. Melissa says:

    Wow, thanks for this article! What led me here was “The Enchantress” on EBay. Lol! I was looking at carnivorous plants and seeds when I came across an auction for seeds for that so-called plant, and it led me to dig a bit because it looked so odd. I’m in Florida and I grow orchids, cactus, hoyas, and ferns, and am now getting interested in carnivorous plants.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Melissa! I’m glad you were able to find my post in time! Good on you for trusting your instinct.

      • Lena says:

        Same here. You helped me not become a victim of a scam. So THANK YOU!!!! And yes that picture of the enchantress got me thinking it was too Little Shop of Horror- like. Is that a real plant at all? Photoshopped? What does it really look like if it does? Tyvm again 😀

  5. Tong C.K. HO says:

    Thank you for the article. I have taken up with carnivorous plants bought grown. Have been toying with the idea of growing from seeds. Now I will be less inclined to rush into buying seeds online (especially from China). Thanks again.

    • Maria says:

      You’re welcome, Tong! If you’ve bought plants successfully online, many nurseries that sell plants also sell legitimate seeds. 🙂

      • Tong C.K. HO says:

        I am from Malaysia. My first NEPHENTES was a birthday gift last year (2015) bought from stall at the market. I will try to take pictures of my carnivorous plants and get some help identifying these. Thanks! 🙂

  6. jill giffin says:

    I wish I had seen your article first! I have those very seeds planted waiting to germinate right now. I am broken hearted to say the least. Flytraps, ‘enchantress’, and what were suppose to be ‘nepenthes with a photo of cephalotus- they weren’t even close to authentic looking seeds. I’m a senior on a limited budget so rather than buy a plant I would start seeds. There HAS to be a way thru ebay or amazon or wherever they post them to get them banned. They must be racking in a killing on us novices. Has anyone tried? I’d like to know how! Thank you for your article.

    • Maria says:

      I’m sorry to hear that, Jill. 🙁 As far as I know, you can only report them to eBay and leave negative feedback. Because they’re overseas and make thousands of small transactions daily, I’m not sure which laws apply.

  7. Donna says:

    Hi,
    I bought some of those enchantress seeds from hk!! £1.98p i bought 2 packs 100 in each! No planting instructions just leave in water till they burst out the shell! Out of 200 ten have started to grow!! A rubber like stalk with 2 oval shaped leaves!! Has anybody grew these and what are they looking like?
    I also bought the same seeds from china this time a pack of 50 ! These seeds are different although the same enchantress plant in the photo!

    • Maria says:

      Hi Donna, sorry to hear you got scammed. It’ll be hard to tell what it really is until the plant is older. I’ve seen different plants but I’m sure they just use whatever seeds are cheap.

  8. L Gibson says:

    gwayne_gibson
    I bought some epiphyllum cactus seeds from aliexpress and planted them right away. The seedlings came out fast—they did sprout BUT they are not epiphyllum cactus. They look totally different from what the epiphyllum seedlings are supposed to look like but the seeds I bought from Aliexpress look very similar to the real one. I contacted the seller asking her what was going on and I have pictures to prove it. she played dumb. At first, she gave me her email address and said ok . After I sent her those fake seedling pictures and what really seedling pictures, she never answered my email. So I gave her a bad review. The 1st picture shows what the real epi seedlings look like and the 2nd one is from the seeds I bought from Aliexpress, they all came out something else. No money back of course. It is not all about money, I spent time and passion on it. Just waste your time and money on this website.

  9. Chris Cashmore says:

    Well don’t I feel like a heel… I ordered some VFT seeds from China, you know, the blue Bonsai venus fly trap carnivorous seeds, 500 for $5. well.. $1 and change with $4 shipping, then a couple of days later, I found your site, and thought.. Hmmm not blue anywhere, but I can live with green ones even if the pic was photo shopped to attract buyers… Not looking so good now. So they arrived last week and are tiny, shiny, black, but just kind of oval not rounded and pointed. I planted 32 of them and after 6 days have about 10 plants already, but they have 2 elongated leaves, and I thought, hmm good sign, but now they are about 3/4″ tall and skinny with still only 2 leaves, so I think they are not VFT seedlings as they don’t look like any pictures I have found to date. I will report them and whatever I can do through ebay (probably not much) but you never know.
    Ahh well.. guess I’ll buy some real ones one day, and start again.
    I intend to let them grow and at least find out what they actually are, maybe some rare valuable species.. LMAO… Ill let you know when/if I find out.

  10. Mia Myers says:

    Thank you for telling it like it is! I sell heirloom vegetable seeds and the photo shopped pics of blue strawberries and rainbow roses make me furious. New gardeners have enough to struggle with without starting with bogus seeds!

    Thailand and Malaysia have ethical sellers, but if it comes from China or Hong Kong, I assume it’s fraudulent. Stick with American vendors and Priority Mail!

    Thanks again for saying this out loud.

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