Should you start with seeds or adult plants? See the pros, cons and my middle finger!

It’s an age-old questions: should you start plants from seeds or buy adult plants? Both have perks and draw backs, especially in the carnivorous plant  world! You can grow herbs and vegetables from seed and be harvesting them in the same year, but carnivores don’t really work that way. Read on to find which method is best for you!

Bailey's face tea cup as a Venus flytrap planter.

Pros of buying adult plants

  • Instant gratification! You want to admire a beautiful plant every time you look out the window? Boom, there it is! No waiting for seedlings to mature, someone did the work for you.
  • Adaptability. A decently healthy adult plant will adapt to new growing conditions fairly quickly. Even if it’s stressed or weakened slightly from shipping or just adjusting, it will bounce back if given favorable conditions.
  • Generally, caring for any plant is simple if you’ve done your research and provide what it needs. It’s like following a recipe. There may be a lot of ingredients, but do your best to include them all correctly and it’ll turn out alright. I usually recommend adult plants to new growers for this reason. 

Carnivorous plants often enjoy the outdoors all year round!

Cons of buying adult plants

  • Adult plants are more expensive than seeds, but this is kind of a given. You’re buying a plant that definitely exists rather than plants that have the potential to exist.
  • Honestly, there are very few cons. Most plants sold commercially are established and mature because of how convenient they are.

Pros of growing from seed

  • Seeds are way cheaper than buying adult plants. They’re more of a time investment, but if your can for your seedlings all the way through adulthood, you can have dozens of plants for next to nothing.
  • Being a proud parent! Truly the best thing about growing from seed is seeing those little sprouts for the first time!  Watching your seedlings grow up from “birth” is a great feeling that never goes away, no matter how many seedlings you’ve raised. That sense of pride and satisfaction is simply awesome.
  • The possibility of creating something new and never seen before. This is especially for those who enjoy a god-like power trip! Learn the basics of hand-pollination and you can make hybrids and crosses that have never been done before. This can lead to making plants with completely unique traits have never been seen before! Imagine registering your own unique cultivar! I dream about this day. Don’t lie, you know you have too!
sarracenia-seed-germination (1 of 1)
Sarracenia seed germinating. This plant could be the next ‘Adrian Slack’!

Cons of seed-growing

  • The waiting. Oh god, the waiting! It can be months before you see any sign of germination and of course, you have to keep watering it with no sign of germination in sight because what if it finally sprouts tomorrow? Or next week? You can drive yourself crazy just waiting to see any sign of life. Especially if you have to stratify the seeds too! That add another 4-5 weeks of torturous waiting. And then the wait is anywhere from 4-7 years for most plants to mature. Yay!

I think this video I posted on Instagram sums up the feeling pretty succinctly.

  • The set-up involved. Most adult plants, to a certain degree, can adapt to new conditions pretty easily. Seeds cannot adapt. Most have to be humid and warm at all times. You have to maintain these conditions or they will almost certainly die. Oh, but you can’t allow for any mold or algae or that will kill them too! Imagine watering and maintaining a small patch of dirt every day for two months and seeing nothing change. That’s what caring for carnivorous plant seeds is like.
  • Seeds are a much bigger gamble. Buying adult plants is more of a “what you see is what you get” experience. Not so with seeds. There is always a chance of seeds being not viable or fresh, but you can’t tell unless you sow them and see if anything happens. You will almost never get 100% germination. And unless you’re careful, there’s a good chance of someone scamming you. Read my post on spotting scammers and making sure you get legit seeds.
Young Venus flytrap seedlings grown in a space bucket.
Venus flytrap seedlings

For the reasons stated above, I generally recommended starting seeds to growers that have some experience with adult plants first. Growing from seed is like the next level up in the carnivorous plant hobby. Do it if you want more of challenge and a test in patience!

That being said, some Drosera species are ridiculously easy to start from seed. Below are some suggestions:

Drosera spatulata, spoonleaf sundew, uncurling a little red flower stalk.
Drosera spatulata unfurling a flower stalk, which will produce many seeds!

All of the above Drosera have seeds that germinate fairly quickly and easily. You can become overrun with baby Drosera if you take too much care of them!

Thanks for reading! I hope this post was helpful to you. Do you have a preference of starting from seed or adult plants? Let me know in a comment!

2 comments

  1. Rob says:

    Brilliant. Just brilliant! This breakdown is SO on point…
    And I feel you on the waiting. OH GAWD the waiting is just unbearable at times. But yeah, it is kinda fun to look back on the blog or instagram or whatever and see how far the plants have come from seed. I agree, the waiting and all that comes with growing from seed is a bit intense but it makes it just that much more rewarding!

    • Maria says:

      Thanks, Rob! I agree seeing the plant grow is super rewarding, and fun to watch the progress amongst all the waiting!

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