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Growing carnivorous plants outside

by Timber Press on October 13, 2016

in Design, Gardening


With the wit and wisdom of one of the UK’s biggest garden celebrities, Carnivorous Plants helps home gardeners being these carnivorous, trendy oddities out of greenhouses and windowsills and into the year-round garden.


Golden rule number one: Full sun

The bogland habitat is too poor to sustain larger plants, creating an open environment with low-lying vegetation and little except occasional grasses to afford any shade. Plants there have evolved and adapted to tolerate high light levels, and this must be replicated in cultivation. Plants grown in insufficient light are usually pale green and insipid, bereft of the colours which make them so interesting from an aesthetic point of view, whereas those in good light are bright and vivid. To succeed, a good six hours of direct sunlight is required to maintain healthy growth and colouration. Don’t be frightened of overdoing it—in short, you can’t. Keep an eye out for sudden extreme increases in temperature and light levels early in the season, though, because developing leaves can occasionally scorch in such periods. If this happens, just remove the damaged leaves and the plant will resume growth.


Golden rule number two: Keep plants wet

I say rainwater, but this can be widened to include other options, so don’t panic if you live in a flat and have no capacity to collect it. Water is an important component, though, and one which will kill your plants if you don’t get it correct. People constantly ask me at flower shows why their Venus flytrap died, and the answer is invariably because they used tap water. What’s the problem? The chlorine level is a consideration, but this will dissipate if water is left to stand for twenty-four hours. The main issue is the hardness of tap water, which is essentially the level of dissolved minerals it contains. In Britain and the United States, our drinking water is generally considered to be hard. Some areas are fortunate to have soft water, but even in those areas I would shy away from using it.


Golden rule number three: Cold dormancy

Temperate regions of the world witness distinct seasons, generally with hot summers and cold winters. Plants have to adopt a growth pattern to suit their environment. Trees are the most obvious example of this adaptation, with many species in growth during the summer months, then losing their leaves for the winter when growth ceases. Plants from these regions, most notably sarracenias, some droseras, dionaeas, and darlingtonias, require similar treatment in cultivation if they are to survive in the long term. In autumn, they will die back and lose their leaves in readiness for winter. Sarracenias die back from the top of the pitcher gradually down to the base; the speed at which this is done varies greatly between species.

Nigel Hewitt-Cooper‘s fascination with plants that trap animals began at a young age, and his botanical journey of over 30 years has taken him from growing his first Venus fly trap at the age of seven to winning seven gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show. He started his nursery, Hewitt-Cooper Carnivorous Plants, in 1997. He is also the National Plant Collection holder for the genus Drosera, the sundews.


Click the image below for a look inside this book.


“Carnivorous plants aren’t mere novelties; they have ‘grace and elegance.’—the beginning of a garden trend.” —The New York Times Book Review

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