Pitcher Plant Feeding Guide: Food Options, Steps, and Tips


As a newbie pitcher plant owner, I learned how to feed my pitcher plants. After feeding them regularly for several months, I learned what works best and the great benefits that arise from feeding your plant. In this article, I will share a solid strategy to feed your Pitcher plants and keep them thriving.

Feed Pitcher plants by dropping live insects, dead insects, fish food, or diluted fertilizer such as Maxsea inside the pitchers. As a general rule, feeding Pitcher plants once or twice a month can provide substantial benefits. Avoid human food and insects that are too large or can eat their way out of the pitcher.

Now, let’s get into the details on how to feed your plant!

Easy Steps to Feed Pitcher Plants

  1. Obtain the correct food for Pitcher plants: live bugs, dead bugs, fish flakes and fertilizer are common choices.
  2. Get a hold of the food. Live insects might require you to employ tweezers. Fertilizers often need to be diluted beforehand.
  3. Drop a couple of insects, fish flakes, or about 5 drops of diluted Maxsea inside a pitcher.
  4. Consider repeating the process for multiple pitchers, but feeding 1-2 pitchers will provide enough nutrition for the full plant
  5. Observe the pitchers in the next few weeks and repeat the feeding process every 2-4 weeks.

Do you have to feed a Pitcher plant?

In the outdoors, pitcher plants trap enough insects to stay healthy. They lure bugs with sweet nectar and, after trapping them, they extract nutrients from their prey.

Feeding pitcher plants is not a requirement as they produce their own food through photosynthesis. Their predatory nature was developed since they grow in very nutrient-poor environments. The nutrients they extract from the insects they capture provide and extra boosts, just like fertilizer.

Outdoor pitcher plants capture plenty of insects, and they do not usually need to be fed. Indoor pitcher plants do benefit from the occasional meal.

Placing Nepenthes or Sarracenia in windowsills can offer them the chance to capture insects.

How much to feed a Pitcher plant?

You can feed pitcher plants employing 1-2 bugs for each pitcher every 2 to 4 weeks. A couple of insects are more than enough to provide the extra boost in nutrients.

Nepenthes, as well as Sarracenia, capture large amounts of insects when they grow outdoors. Some pitchers can sometimes get close to being full. So, do not be too concerned about the amount of insects pitcher plants can consume.

Pitcher Plant Feeding Tips

Make sure to follow all the tips below when feeding your Pitcher plant; they will help you avoid common mistakes.

  • Avoid spilling fertilizer or fish flakes in the soil: Never drop any of these elements in the ground. Pitcher plants are intolerant to nutrients in the soil. Adding fertilizers or the nutrients from fish flakes to the soil can cause mineral burns in the soil and the leaf, and could kill your plant.
  • Do not leave dead bugs in the soil: If you drop a dead bug in the soil, make sure to pick it up. The insect can take a long time to decompose and might attract mold or fungi.
  • For best results you must feed pitchers that have fluids: Without the digestive enzymes inside the pitchers, your plant won’t be able to absorb the nutrients. Pitchers with fluids are a sign of health.
  • Employ bugs with lots of soft tissue: Some insects provide more nutritional value than others. Mealworms and bloodworms are very soft and contain tons of nutrients. Ant and gnats offer benefits, but they are pretty tiny for most pitcher plants.
  • Do not drop water inside the pitchers: When feeding, be careful not introducing water or any other element inside the pitchers that are not food. Adding water can dilute the digestive enzymes inside the pitchers and prevent your plant from consuming bugs. This article on when to fill pitcher plants with water can explain the process in more detail.
  • Change the food you employ if it attracts mold or causes the leaf to die. Always continue to monitor your plant and check if the food you are employing is working. It is normal for pitcher to wither sporadically, but check for patterns.

What to Feed and Not to Feed Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plants are not picky in terms of what they like to consume. You can employ almost any type of bug and also fish flakes or diluted fertilizer.

In this section, I explain the basics of what food to employ. If you want a detailed guide for beginners, check this article: What To Feed a Pitcher Plant: A Comprehensive List. 

Insects as Food

Gnats, ants, crickets, mealworms, bloodworms, grasshopper, butterflies, moths, beetles, spiders, rolly pollies, mosquitoes, bloodworms, and ladybugs are suitable food options for Pitcher plants.

You can employ live or dead bugs to feed your pitcher plant safely. The list above is not comprehensive; any insect is suitable. As a personal recommendation, I try to avoid large live caterpillars that can eat your plant’s leaves.

You can collect insects from your home or the park, but you can also buy feed. Most pet stores, including Petsmart and Petco, sell dried-up mealworms, bloodworms, crickets, and live insects. They are usually available in the reptile aisle.

Also, you can buy freeze-dried insects online. A whole container is usually less than $15 and will last you ages. Here are two links to some feed I have used; both are incredibly nutritious:

Fish Flakes as Food

Feeding fish flakes to Pitcher plants can provide the same benefits as insects. They are highly nutritious, and they last a long time. A single bottle can last you for months or even years!

Here are some links to some suitable fish food you can buy online.

Employing Fertilizer

Never fertilize the soil of Pitcher plants, instead consider feeding your plant with a few fertilizer drops. A safe fertilizer for Pitcher plants is Maxsea.

Before using Maxsea, you need to dilute 1/4 of a teaspoon (Maxsea) in 1 gallon of distilled water. Then, you can use a few drops of this mixture to feed your plant.

This same dilution can be employed for other carnivorous plants. Here is a link to the Maxsea fertilizer if you are interested in such an option.

Never Employ Human Food for Pitcher Plants

Avoid any of the following as food for your Pitcher plant.

  • Hamburger
  • Chicken
  • Sausage
  • Salami
  • Raw meat
  • Candy
  • Fruit
  • Steak
  • Hotdog
  • Cheese
  • Any animal that is not an insect or a spider

Can Pitcher plants eat human food? Human food is not appropriate for Pitcher plants or any other carnivorous plants. Pitcher plants won’t be able to consume such complex food. Instead, after an unsuccessful digestion attempt, the pitcher will wither and die.

Can Pitcher plants eat animals other than insects? Pitcher plants can digest meat from tiny animals such as rodents, birds, or frogs in the wild. However, this behavior is not very common; their diet almost always relies on insects.

Never attempt to feed your pitcher plant any animal other than insects or spiders. Larger animals will rot inside the trap and can cause unpleasant odors, mold, and rotting.

Pitcher Plant Care Information

Besides feeding your plants, make sure to provide optimal care by going over this list:

Lighting: This consideration is one of the most critical ones. Expose your plant to more than 10 hours of natural or artificial light. LED or fluorescent lights are suitable for indoor locations; 6500 K is a proper light temperature.

Watering: Only employ pure water sources such as distilled water, rainwater, or reverse osmosis water. Always water from the top and keep the soil humid at all times. Avoid the tray method for Nepenthes. Since watering your plant correctly is critical, this guide explains the process in great detail.

Soil: Do not employ traditional potting media such as MiracleGro, cactus soil, or succulent soil. Instead, use nutrient-free carnivorous plant soil. Carnivorous plant soil can be composed of many elements, such as peat moss or sphagnum moss and perlite or silica sand. The ratios are not critical, but a 3 to 1 ratio of moss and perlite is a suitable mixture. You can purchase carnivorous plant soil online for an affordable price (here is the one I use)

Humidity: Pitcher plants thrive in humid environments. A humidity level of over > 50% is optimal. Still, most plants can adapt to lower humidities and might benefit from a humidifier.

Trimming: It is not required to prune Pitcher plants, but you can remove dead leaves to promote growth.

Feeding: Outdoor Pitcher plants capture bugs on their own. Indoor Pitcher plants need to be fed at least once a month to supplement their diet.

Fertilizers: Avoid fertilizing unless you have researched the detailed process.

Repotting: Repotting is not critical, but yearly repotting can promote growth.

Dormancy: Some pitcher plant varieties require a yearly dormancy. Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants do not require dormancy.

Make sure to research your specific species of pitcher plants as care considerations may vary.

For more information on growing pitcher plants, make sure to download the complete care sheet here: Ultimate Pitcher Plant Care Guide.

Nelly

My name is Nelly, and I am the owner of Venus Flytrap World. Growing carnivorous plants is a unique and rewarding experience. A few years ago, I started growing Venus flytraps and experimenting with other carnivorous plant species. I have done tons of research to perfect my setup and care practices. In this site, I share everything I have learned.

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