While there are possibly thousands of types of carnivorous plants in existence, most fall into two basic categories. Knowing these categories will help you choose the right carnivorous plant for you, and give it a long, happy life in your care!
The two basic categories are: temperate and tropical. There are exceptions to this, of course, but we’ll stick with the basics for now. Almost all carnivorous plants are perennial, which means they will live for several years (if not indefinitely!). There are very few carnivores that are truly annual, which live for only one year.
Temperate plants NEED winter!
Temperate carnivorous plants generally live in areas with warm summers and cool winters. Their growth period is over the spring and summer months. In the winter, they will go
dormant and most of their foliage will die back. Growth will be very slow, if at all. When spring arrives, they begin the growing process again. It’s very important to know that these plants need a dormancy for their long term survival. Skipping dormancy will cause plants to become weak and sickly after a couple of years. Only very young seedlings can skip their first dormancy period to establish a strong initial growth. This should only be done by experienced growers! Temperate plants can often be grown outside in many areas of the US, Canada, Europe, and the UK.
Examples of temperate plants include: Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, Cobra plants, and some types of sundews.
Tropical plants don’t know what winter is!
Tropical carnivorous plants are native to tropical regions of the world and do not require a dormancy period. They often need high humidity and temperatures that are neither too hot or cold. Within the tropical types of carnivorous plants, there are often highland and lowland varieties. Highland varieties are from higher elevations, meaning they are tolerant of cooler temperatures. Lowland varieties require year-round consistent temperatures, and will likely die if they get too cold. If you don’t live in a tropical region, many tropical carnivores will make fine house plants. Others are fairly picky, and will need their light and humidity levels regulated with a terrarium type of environment. If you live in an area where temperatures drop below 45 F (7 C), you will need a heated greenhouse to keep tropical plants outdoors.
Examples of tropical plants include: Asian pitcher plants, Sun pitchers, West Australian pitcher plant, some types of buttworts, and some types of sundews.
Which carnivorous plant is right for me?
Before deciding on what types of carnivorous plants you want, think about the climate where you live and where you want to keep your plants. If you live in the United States, find out your Hardiness Zone. Temperate plants will thrive outdoors in Zone 8 or above. I know this leaves out A LOT of regions across the country, but don’t fret! You can certainly grow outdoors in Minnesota, you will just need to do a bit of extra work to make your plants dormant without killing them.
For greater detail about different types of carnivorous plants and what growing conditions they need, I highly recommend the book The Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato. This is a must-have resource for any carnivorous plant enthusiast. It is extremely well organized, easy to read while still being scientific, and is filled with gorgeous pictures and illustrations. Peter is one of the world’s leading authorities on these plants and his nursery houses the largest carnivorous plant collection in the United States.