Carnivorous Plants in the Bog Garden

Did you know that a well-designed bog garden filled with carnivorous plants can be an attractive and interesting addition to your landscape? In spite of their reputation for being difficult to care for, many types of carnivorous plants are easy to grow; and the majority will thrive in an artificial bog garden. In fact, these plants are native to wetland environments, or bogs, where they remain continually moist but not waterlogged. This is a must in order for carnivorous plants to survive. Carnivorous plants also prefer low-nutrient soil and either rainwater or that which has been distilled. Water that is high in minerals and salts are deadly to carnivorous plants. These plants do not require any fertilizer; they obtain nourishment by feeding on the insects which fall victim to their traps. Many carnivorous plants not only provide striking foliage but interesting flowers as well. Although some species may be native to your particular area, you should not attempt to collect them from the wild; some are considered endangered and are protected. Carnivorous plants can easily be obtained through reputable nurseries and greenhouses as well as most garden centers.

There are numerous species of carnivorous plants that are commonly grown. Among these include Venus flytraps, pitcher plants, butterworts, sundews, and bladderworts. Most carnivorous plants require plenty of light with temperatures around 60�º-90�º F (tropical varieties up to 100�º F). Some species also require dormancy periods throughout winter months. During this time, any dead plant material should be cut to prevent contamination from fungus. Temperatures near freezing should not affect the plants; however, tropical species require temperatures dropping no less than 40�º F. When selecting carnivorous plants for the bog garden, it is often better to check resource books beforehand to ensure the ones you choose will thrive within your area.

Venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) are probably the most commonly grown of carnivorous species. These plants are native to wetland areas of North Carolina and grow from bulbs. Venus flytraps attract insects with secretions found in their ‘traps’ which close tightly once an insect enters. These plants enjoy full sun and warm temperatures. They also go dormant for about three months. Venus flytraps are easy to grow in a bog garden as long as all of their needs are met.

There are numerous types of pitcher plants (Sarracenia) that are suitable to bog gardens. The most common of these is the North American pitcher plant which is native to the bogs and wetland forests of southeastern U.S. This interesting plant produces tall pitchers throughout the growing season and has eye-catching flowers. Insects are attracted to the secretions found beneath the pitcher hood, where they plummet inside the slick vessel and are digested by the plant. These and many other pitcher plants are easy to grow and most require about three months of dormancy. The Australian pitcher plant can be more challenging to grow but just as rewarding. This Australian native is compact with two types of leaves; one type growing in clusters within the center of the plant and the other being the short pitcher, reaching only about 2 inches in height. Variations in light affect both the growth habits and color of this plant. Low light results in large, green pitchers; bright light produces smaller, dark red pitchers. The Australian pitcher plant doesn’t require any dormancy period.

Nepenthes are tropical pitcher plants and native to those types of areas. These plants come in two groups, lowlander and highlander, and are fairly easy to grow. Like the Australian pitcher plant, they do not require any dormancy. Nepenthes lure and trap insects by color and odor to the pitcher’s slippery edge. The cobra lily (Darlingtonia) is closely related to the North American pitcher plant and is native to the mountainous regions of northern California and Oregon. This unique carnivorous plant is quite hardy but requires cooler growing conditions; otherwise, it will die. Because of its cooler environment, the cobra lily remains dormant for about four to six months. However, the snake-like leaves with forked ends, which catch unsuspecting insects, and tall pitchers housing beautiful red blooms make this plant a lovely addition in a bog garden. Native to mountains of South America, the sun pitcher (Heliamphora) has a spoon of nectar on top that allows the plant to continually remain baited for insects. Sun pitchers have umbrella-shaped flowers. Although they do not go dormant, growth will significantly slow during winter months. As these plants are quite brittle, they should be handled with great care.

Butterworts (Pinguicula) are carnivorous plants native to southern regions of the U.S. and very easy to grow in filtered light. Insects are attracted to violet blooms throughout spring and summer; however, they become trapped when coming into contact with the oily glue-like leaves. Plants go dormant during winter. Sundews (Drosera) make ideal carnivorous plants for beginners. These plants form flat rosettes and capture prey with sticky drops. Sundew species vary with dormancy requirements, but most prefer cool and dry conditions. The bladderwort (Utricularia) is an aquatic species of carnivorous plant. The plant is an easy grower but must remain constantly wet. Its ordinary-looking foliage is set off by stunning flowers and subterranean traps. Bladderworts benefit from having peat tea occasionally added to the water. Simply boil peat moss with rainwater (or distilled water) for five minutes.

Most climates are suitable for growing carnivorous plants in a bog garden. Creating an artificial bog garden is both fun and easy. Bogs can be designed in a variety of shapes and sizes based on individual landscape needs and personal preferences. Location is important; therefore, choose an area with plenty of sunlight. Do not select areas prone to flooding; bogs are wet but don’t contain standing water. If possible, choose a sloped site so water can slowly ooze out. Rubber sheeting and pond liners are available in most garden centers and allow design options to fit nearly any form you choose. The depth of the bog should be approximately 12-18 inches. Dig a hole to accommodate your design and line the bottom with sand. Place the pond liner or rubber sheet in the dug out area and cover with additional sand. Once the liner is in place, add soil using an equal mixture of peat moss and silica sand, making sure it is thoroughly wet. For sites without slopes, you may want to cut slits for drainage in the sides of the liner just beneath the soil level. For additional interest and to allow variations in growing conditions for different carnivorous species, create sporadic moisture levels with the soil.

Add your selected plants, placing them according to specific growth patterns. For instance, many types of pitcher plants are tall; therefore, they look best in the center or back edge of the bog garden while the smaller varieties are well suited towards the front. Grouping plants together is another attractive option. For example, pair up a cluster of sundews with a group of butterworts. Deeper areas of the bog can be used to house aquatic species, such as bladderworts, or you could incorporate non-carnivorous bog plants instead to create further impact. Don’t be afraid to experiment; use your imagination. Bog plants like sweet flag, golden club, corkscrew rush, orchids, lilies, sedges, swamp sunflowers and wild azaleas along with stones or rocks create a natural-looking appearance. Many wildflowers and grasses are right at home in bog environments as well. Top off the bog garden with a layer of sphagnum moss.

If you live in a site where an artificial bog is not an option, such as an apartment complex, you can still create a bog garden using containers. Wide and shallow containers work well with low-growing plants while deep-rooted varieties will require larger ones. Place about a half inch of charcoal in the bottom of the container and fill approximately two-thirds full with wet potting mix containing equal amounts of peat moss, sand, and sphagnum moss. Arrange plants with the largest in the center and fill around them with soil. Add a layer of sphagnum moss on top and water deeply everyday.

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