What To Feed a Pitcher Plant: A Comprehensive List (Plus Feeding Tips)


Pitcher plants extract key nutrients from the insects they capture. In this article, I will share with you a comprehensive list of food options to keep your Pitcher plant healthy.

Pitcher plants can eat and be fed almost any live or dead insects or spiders, such as ants, gnats, fruit flies, house flies, months, and rolly pollies. Also, pitcher plants can benefit from fertilizer pellets. A single bug once a month is enough to keep a Pitcher plant thriving.

If you are unsure how to feed a pitcher plant or do not know what type of food to employ, keep reading for the complete list and instructions.

Pitcher plants are one of my favorite carnivorous plants due to their spectacular modified leaves. I have grown carnivorous plants for several years and have found great success when feeding pitcher plants. In this guide, I will share with you suitable food options and best practices to keep pitcher plant healthy and thriving.

Pitcher plants, like all other plants, produce their food through photosynthesis. They do not rely on capturing bugs to survive; they only capture insects to extract key nutrients that give them a boost. It is a similar effect to employing fertilizers.

Since pitcher plants grow in areas characterized by low nutrient levels, they need to extract elements from insects. The insects Pitcher plant capture should be considered a fertilizer rather than food.

In many cases, you can let Pitcher plants capture their own insects. They will thrive as long as they capture at least a couple of bugs every month during the growing season.

When Pitcher plants are unable to capture bugs, it is recommended to feed them. Bugs act as a fertilizer as they help boost growth.

Here is a comprehensive list of food options for Pitcher plants; some are insects, others are artificial options:

  • Flies
  • Cricket
  • Mealworms
  • Yellow Jackets
  • Caterpillars
  • Bees
  • Butterfly
  • Bloodworms
  • Fruit flies
  • Gnats
  • Ants
  • Worms
  • Rollie pollies
  • Beetles
  • Spiders
  • Ladybugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Mosquitos
  • Cockroaches
  • Moth
  • Slug
  • Fish food
  • Fertilizer pellets

Pitcher plants are not picky in what they can or cannot eat. They will be happy consuming most insects and spiders. In the wild, Nepenthes and Sarracenia attract a wide range of creatures. On most occasions, they lure flying insects, but crawling insects are also common prey.

Feel free to collect bugs from the garden or a park and feed your plant.

Pitcher plants can consume live or dead bugs. Both options provide nutritional benefits and are available at most pet stores. For example, you can employ insects, such as mealworms, crickets, and bloodworms which are incredibly nutritious.

Personally, I like employing highly nutritious insects with lots of soft tissue, such as crickets or mealworms. But, overall, most bugs provide enough nutrients to encourage growth for your plant.

Can Pitcher Plants eat slugs and caterpillars? Pitcher plants can capture and consume slugs, caterpillars, and other similar insects. However, employing large slugs or caterpillars can be risky. These insects (if big and robust enough) can eat their way out of the pitcher and harm Pitcher plants.

Can Pitcher plants eat cockroaches? Pitcher plan can eat cockroaches without a problem, as average cockroaches fit in medium-sized Pitcher plants. However, Pitcher plants do not provide a pest control solution.

Besides insects, there are also artificial food options such as fish food and fertilizer pellets. You can drop bits of fish food or fertilizer pellets inside the pitchers of your plant one every month. If you decide to employ this option, I recommend doing a trial run. Start by feeding a single pitcher and verify there are no negative effects.

Where To Get Insects for Your Pitcher Plant

If you decide to employ dead bugs that you collected, make sure to inspect the insect before feeding your plant. Avoid any dead bug that is already attracting mold. You want to avoid attracting fungus or bacteria to your plant.

Most pet stores that sell supplies for reptiles and fish offer several food options for Pitcher plants.

Collecting insects for your plant is not always an easy and time permitting task. I prefer to buy feed at the pet store and opt for options that can be stored for long periods, such as freeze-dried mealworms. Here are some other options:

  • Freeze-dried mealworms
  • Freeze-dried bloodworms
  • Freeze-dried crickets
  • Wingless flies
  • Live crickets

The first three options are widely available and perfect for people that do not like handling live insects. When employing freeze-dried insects, I recommend rehydrating the bug before feeding your plant. Soak the bug in distilled water for 5-10 minutes. Then, remove from the water, dry off excess water with a towel, and feed your plant.

What You Should Never Feed Pitcher Plants

Make sure to avoid all the items in this list as food for Pitcher plants:

  • Hamburger
  • Chicken
  • Sausage
  • Salami
  • Raw meat
  • Candy
  • Fruit
  • Steak
  • Hotdog
  • Cheese
  • Any animal that is not an insect or a spider, such as:
    • Frogs
    • Mice
    • Birds
    • Fish

Even though you might have the temptation to feed your Pitcher plant human food, please, avoid doing so at all costs.

As a general rule, never feed human food to Pitcher plants. The digestive enzymes Pitcher plants produce are not strong enough to break up human food. Human food inside pitchers can rot and attract fungus, bacteria, and other pests.

Nepenthes and Sarracenia are carnivorous plants. They are equipped to consume insects, but they can also break up flesh. However, you should avoid feeding your plant any animal besides insects and spiders.

Can pitcher plants eat mice? Pitcher plants can consume mice and other small animals such as birds or frogs. In the wild, on rare occasions, they do consume prey other than insects. However, it would help if you did not attempt feeding your Pitcher plant mice as the animal might end up rotting inside the plant and creating a health hazard.

Larger animals won’t necessarily provide more nutrition than insects. For that reason, I always recommend a bug diet.

How to Feed Pitcher Plants

Feeding pitcher plants is an uncomplicated process. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Select the appropriate food option, preferably some type of insect
  2. If you selected a dehydrated insect, such as a freeze-dried mealworm, you must rehydrate the insect. Add a few drops of distilled water to the insect and let it rest for several minutes until the insect absorbs most of the water. Then, clean off any excess water.
  3. Grab the food with tweezers
  4. Drop the food inside the pitcher
  5. You can repeat the process multiple times and feed all the pitchers.
  6. Monitor the pitcher of your Nepenthes of Sarracenia for a few weeks.
  7. Repeat the process once or twice a month during the growing season.

When employing a new type of insect, I suggest monitoring the plant. Make sure most of the insect gets digested in the pitcher (at least the soft tissue). Also, keep an eye for leaf eaters, such as caterpillars, which might try to eat your plant.

Not everyone enjoys handling insects. Some of us do not feel comfortable with tasks that involved bugs. So, if that is not your cup of tea, you can let your plant capture its own bugs and skip the process altogether.

Do you need to feed Pitcher plants?

In the outdoors or a windowsill, Pitcher plants can capture their own bugs. They are effective bug catchers as they lure prey with sweet nectar.

When Pitcher plants capture their own bugs, there is no need to feed them manually. Still, you can do so safely without any issues. There is no harm in feeding your plant even if it already captured some insects.

Pitcher Plant Feeding Tips

Feeding Pitcher plants is not a complex process. However, making some small adjustments can ensure the feeding is successful.

  • Do not drop bugs or fertilizer in the soil: It is safe to feed pitcher plants and fertilize them if you are familiar with fertilizer concentration ratios. However, you must not drop any matter in the soil. Pitcher plants are sensitive to any type of minerals that can build up in the ground.
  • 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.

Pitcher Plant Care Information

Care ConsiderationRecommendation
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, 6500K is a suitable light temperature.
Watering:Only employ pure water sources such as distilled water, rainwater, or reverse osmosis water.
Water consistently 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 standard 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.
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.
You can employ mealworms, bloodworms, crickets, flies, fish flakes, or other small insects.
Do not feed human food.
Fertilizers:Avoid fertilizing unless you have researched the detailed process. Maxsea fertilizer is a common choice.
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.
Best indoor Pitcher plant varieties:Tropical Pitcher plants can grow in indoor growing.

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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