Incredible carnivores with roots Predator plant month

February’s topic: Predator plant month
Theme: Incredible carnivores with roots!  
Industry expert: Renee Mendelow
Garden centre: Jozi Carnivores based in Midrand, Gauteng: www.jozicarnivores.co.za  

If you have yet to explore the extraordinary world of predator plants, Jozi Carnivores has your next epic gardening adventure sorted! Located on a beautiful farm with horses and trees, this specialised Garden Centre is well worth the outing and offers fascination for the whole family to engage in. With thousands of exotic carnivorous beauties to choose from, our industry expert, Renee, has provided some invaluable information and advice on how to become the ultimate predator plant parent. Come dig in, if you dare!

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1. Please tell us how your carnivore plant journey began and what made you fall in love with this most unusual species?  

I discovered carnivorous plants at a time when I had three children in primary school. We were going to so many children’s birthday parties and spending so much money on gifts that were mostly about packaging and plastic. It made me feel sad. Around that time, I spotted a little Venus flytrap in a nursery and bought it for my daughter who shared my love of nature. She adored her Venus flytrap but a day or two later she emerged looking sad and worried. “It’s my Venus flytrap” she declared, “It’s bored and lonely and just sits around all day waiting for something to happen”. We clearly had a problem on our hands, so we decided to find a friend for the lonely plant. 

We trawled the nurseries but found none. We then searched the internet and found a carnivorous grower in Cape Town. I was then exposed to the incredible world of carnivorous plants and discovered the fascinating variety available. I realised quickly that predator plants serve as an excellent educational, organic gift for children that also taught positive values such as caring for a living thing. Just like that - Jozi Carnivores was born!

Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening
Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

2. For our wary green fingers out there, what insights could you share about these plants that would perhaps entice the home gardener to home a few? 

Carnivorous plants are special because they are always up to something. They are the quintessential action plant - either hunting, catching, trapping, or digesting.  As a result, they appeal to people of all ages, all on different phases of their gardening journey. Carnivorous plants possess a strange, other-worldly beauty and are a standout feature in the home and garden. They are also just totally fascinating! Over hundreds of thousands of years, they have developed a range of diverse trapping mechanisms that have turned them into skilled hunters and excellent natural pest controllers in any space where they’re planted.

While carnivorous plants are definitely plants, people tend to think of them as pets, often naming them and going to great lengths to care for them, including hunting for bugs and harvesting rainwater. This teaches positive values to children as they embrace the responsibility of taking care of a living thing and developing a love of nature. Carnivorous plants are very educational and teach us about evolution, conservation, nature, and science.

There are excellent educational resources for children on the internet and lots of great advice for adult plant parents. Carnivorous plants make a great hobby for gardeners of all ages and skill levels. They also make unusual, intriguing gifts for anyone special. With the right care, carnivorous plants can grow indefinitely and reproduce and multiply, providing their owners with hours of fun as they get to experience the “Little 5” in their own home.

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Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

3. Are carnivorous plants only for certain regions or can any gardener in SA grow them? 

Carnivorous plants grow on every continent except for Antarctica so they do well in sunny South Africa. Carnivorous plants are found in extreme conditions throughout the world, ranging from the blistering Australian outback to growing under the snow in European countries. Most people don’t know that South Africa is an important biodiversity centre for carnivorous plants of the sundew variety.

To successfully grow carnivorous plants, you need to understand their particular needs and respond to the changing external conditions. If the weather is particularly hot, increase the amount of water, give your plant a misting, and move it to a slightly cooler position. If you anticipate extreme frost or hail, move your ‘pets’ indoors or to a more protected position.

Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening
Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

4. For our novice gardeners and kids, which plant would you recommend and what are some of the key care points to take note of for successful growing?

The Venus flytrap is the most popular and well-loved of all carnivorous plants. The dramatic snapping action of its trap is a thing to behold.
The trumpet pitcher plant, sundew and tropical pitcher plant are equally fascinating and easy to grow.

These special varieties allow their owners to experience the diversity of the carnivorous plant kingdom and their different trapping mechanisms.

Each species of our predator plants come in a different colour-coded pot. 

Orange – Venus flytrap

Purple –Tropical pitcher plant

Yellow – Sundew 

Red – Trumpet pitcher plant

This encourages gardeners to purchase across the species and learn much more about these incredible plants and their various trapping methods.

Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening
Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

5. For our experienced gardeners who are up for a challenge, should they dare experiment with bog gardens and which plants would you recommend? 

You do not need to be an experienced gardener to grow a sustainable carnivorous bog garden.
The most important thing is to ensure that the plants you place in your carnivorous bog garden all have similar sun and watering requirements.

Venus flytraps, sundews and trumpet pitcher plants all enjoy lots of direct sun and they need to be watered from the bottom as they are bog plants. They are the perfect plants to grow together in a bog garden.

By contrast, tropical pitcher plants are found in shady rainforests where the sunlight is more dappled and diffuse. They also have a weak root system and need to be top watered with lots of drainage. As a result, they cannot grow in the same bog garden as the other carnivorous plants.

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Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

6. Are there some plants that work better in containers vs in the ground?
Please explain their preference differences to our readers and which factors they should consider when thinking of where to place their new plants.

All carnivorous plants naturally grow outdoors in conditions where the soil is nutrient-deficient and there is access to lots of insects. They do, however, do very well indoors provided they have sufficient sunlight and are watered in the correct way.

Most carnivorous plants grow well in containers, provided pots have adequate drainage and are made of a material that does not adversely impact the PH and quality of the soil.

Plastic, glass and glazed ceramic pots are all good options. Metal pots and unglazed ceramics can negatively impact the soil and the plant.

Regardless of whether you keep your plant in a container or plant it in the ground, it is vitally important that you use the correct potting medium comprising a blend of sphagnum peat and perlite. Normal soil is too rich and will kill your plant quickly.

If you want to home your predators outdoors, line the bed first with plastic before adding your ‘poor soil’ medium. As you can see, planting carnivores in containers is easier as it allows you to control the environment better.

Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening
Predator plant, Life is a garden, plant predator month, carnivorous plants, exotic, indigenous plants, greenery, colours, pitcher plants, Venus flytrap, flytrap, gardening, February, Gardening

Jozi Carnivores have a lovely website you can explore from anywhere in the country as well. They also offer ‘build a bog’ workshops and educational school programmes for an authentic outdoor experience. Get in touch with them and begin your next hobby (and likely obsession) with these truly marvellous species. Remember to visit the Life is a Garden website where you can access all our GCA Garden Centres in SA: https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/category/garden-centres/

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