The Ultimate Guide: Growing (Non-Temperate) Carnivorous Plants from Seed in South Africa

The Ultimate Guide: Growing (Non-Temperate) Carnivorous Plants from Seed in South Africa
Growing Carnivorous Plants

How to grow your own carnivorous plants from seed

Are you ready to embark on the rewarding journey of growing carnivorous plants from scratch? This guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions to help you succeed. With patience and the right conditions, you'll witness your tiny seeds sprout into fascinating bug-munching plants, growing into majestic monsters that will bring you intense joy for many years to come. You'll feel immense pride knowing you nurtured these unique plants yourself, from seed to thriving specimens

Guide Scope: Non-Temperate Carnivorous Plants

This guide is tailored for germinating seeds of non-temperate carnivorous plants—those that thrive in environments without frost or prolonged cold temperatures. It provides best practices and tried-and-tested methods for achieving optimal germination for seeds from the following species:

  • Nepenthes (Tropical Pitcher Plants)
  • Subtropical South African Drosera (Sundews)
  • Genlisea (Corkscrew Plants)
  • Mexican Pinguicula (Butterworts)
  • Utricularia (Bladderworts)

Seeds of non-temperate carnivorous plants do not require any special treatment or stratification, making the germination process relatively straightforward under suitable conditions. Follow the steps outlined in this guide to ensure successful germination and growth of your non-temperate carnivorous plant seeds

Note: Even though Dionaea muscipula (Venus Flytraps) are considered temperate, fresh flytrap seeds will not require any special treatment and can also be germinated using this same guide

Preparing the Growing Substrate

  • Select a Nutrient-Poor Substrate: Ensure your growing substrate is nutrient-poor and free from any additives and fertilisers. The ideal mix should be well-drained, light, and airy
  • Choose the Right Ingredients: The most commonly used ingredients for creating a suitable germination substrate include:
    • Pure sphagnum peat moss
    • Chopped long fiber sphagnum moss (take care when using live sphagnum moss as it may overgrow the seedlings)
    • Horticultural perlite (without additives)
    • Washed silica sand or any other coarse sand without lime, salt, or chemicals
  • Mix and Moisten: Combine the ingredients in equal parts and moisten them thoroughly
  • Sterilise the Mix: Place the moistened mix in a microwave-safe container and microwave on full power for a couple of minutes to kill any spores. Let it cool down completely

Sowing the Seeds

  • Prepare the Container: Choose a plastic container with drainage and ventilation holes, or use a sterilised plant pot with drainage holes. Avoid terracotta pots as they dry out quickly and may leach minerals
  • Add the Substrate: Fill the container with the prepared substrate and level it just below the rim
  • Sow the Seeds: Carefully open the seed envelope and sprinkle the seeds onto the moist substrate surface. Do not bury them as they need light to germinate
  • Mist the Seeds: Use a spray bottle with distilled or reverse osmosis water to mist the surface lightly, ensuring the seeds make good contact with the moist substrate
  • Create a Humid Environment: Place the container in a shallow tray with a little water and cover it with glass or a plastic ziplock bag with holes for ventilation

Maintaining the Growing Environment

  • Light and Temperature: Place the growing chamber in a warm location with strong, indirect light. Seeds typically need temperatures above 15-20°C. A heating pad can help maintain warmth during winter
  • Watering: Maintain a fluctuating water level up to 1 cm in the tray, letting it dry slightly between waterings
  • Ventilation: Remove the glass or open the ziplock bag every couple of days for a few minutes to provide ventilation. Mist the soil surface if necessary to keep the substrate moist but not soggy
  • Supplementary Light: If growing indoors, consider using a desk lamp with a daylight compact fluorescent bulb (6500k) to supplement light - we recommend a day-night cycle of 10 to 12 hours

Germination and Care

  • Be Patient: Growing carnivorous plants from seed can be challenging and may test your patience to the extreme. In optimal conditions, most carnivorous plant seeds germinate within 4 to 8 weeks, but some may take longer
  • Monitor Conditions: The key factors to success are warmth, humidity, very bright light and (most of all) a ton of patience! Change water if discoloured and improve airflow if algae develop on the soil surface
  • Acclimatisation:  Once the seeds germinate, gradually acclimate the seedlings to the outside world by progressively removing the glass or opening the ziplock bag for short periods, until you can eventually leave it completely open

Transplanting Seedlings

  • Handle with Care: After a couple of months, when your seedlings reach approximately 3 to 4 cm in size, they are ready to be handled. You can choose to leave them for bushy growth or gently separate and transplant them into fresh carnivorous plant soil
  • Repotting: Be gentle during repotting as seedlings have fragile roots

Final Tips

  • Label Your Seeds: Remember to label your seeds and record the sowing date. It's also a good idea to take note of the germination date
  • Fresh Seeds: The key to success is using fresh seeds from trusted suppliers:  The fresher the seeds, the better the germination rate
  • Enjoy the Process: Besides watching the boks win the rugby world cup, growing carnivorous plants from seed is second to none when it comes to rewarding experiences!
Wishing you the best of luck. Happy Growing!