These plants may sound a little dangerous
but they have a charm all their own!

Carnivorous Plants
For In and Around Your Water Garden

by Doug Darnowski
Indiana University Southeast, 4201 Grant Line Road, New Albany IN 47150, USA

Click images to enlarge

Carnivorous plants make a great addition to any water garden, either as contrasting aquatic species to complement Nymphaea and Nelumbo, or as marginal plants to create sparkle, which many of them add with glue-covered leaves. Discover various exciting genera with detailed suggestions on which species to use and how to use them. 
Sundews (Drosera species) are little gems with sticky leaves that catch their prey like flypaper catches flies. A range of species exist, but some of the best for water gardens are the North American and European species, since many species from Australia require a dry period which might be too tricky for a busy water gardener to supply. Among the best for water gardens is Drosera intermedia, which often grows in the wettest part of a bog, with its roots in several inches of water. Drosera capillaris also grows well in these conditions. 

Drosera rotundifolia growing in the wild on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Waterwheel Plant (Aldrovanda vesiculosa) is the aquatic cousin of the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea musicipula). The Venus Flytrap is too fussy about excess water for many water gardeners, but the Waterwheel Plant is quite happy in the water garden. It hails from everywhere but the Americas and Antarctica, occurring in very limited locations. Both green and bright red forms exist. Its aquatic snap-traps eat all sorts of small crustaceans. Botanically it is a first cousin of Butterworts.

Pinguicula lutea
Butterworts (Pinguicula species) work like the sundews, with sticky leaves, but their flowers are generally much more decorative, resembling those of snapdragons. Not all species are suitable for water gardens due to fussiness about soils and moisture, but some of the best species are native to the US Gulf Coast, like Pinguicula planifolia, with violet blossoms, and P. lutea, with its screaming yellow blooms. 

Bladderworts (Utricularia species) exist in both aquatic and terrestrial forms. Many of these perform nicely in a water garden, including Utricularia livida, from South Africa, which produces light violet flowers 11 out of 12 months of the year. Floating species native to the US and Europe include yellow-flowered U. gibba and U. striata.

Pitcherplants (Sarracenia, Heliamphora, Darlingtonia, Cephalotus, and Nepenthes species) fit into three different families. The most dramatic for water gardens, and perhaps the best adapted for constant moisture and consistently warm temperatures, are the members of Sarracenia, native to the US and Canada. The cobra lily, Darlingtonia californica, flourishes if grown with its roots cool. A small floating island in the water garden makes an ideal habitat for this species.

Rainbow Plants (Byblis species) are native to Australia. The perennial Byblis gigantea is inappropriate for most water gardens because it requires an annual dry period. However, the tropical species of Byblis from northern Australia thrive in wet spots at the edges of a water garden. These plants work like Sundews and Butterworts, but come from yet another family, and produce lovely flowers -- all some variation on violet or mauve. The sun shining through their droplets of glue creates the rainbow that gives them their name.

If you are interested in carnivorous plants, you can find more information from various sources, including those listed at the end of this article. Depending on where you live, many of the species noted above may be hardy in your water garden. Be sure to buy only greenhouse-grown plants, not wild-collected ones, both because many carnivorous plants are threatened in the wild and because the greenhouse-grown plants generally are stronger, healthier, and better adapted to a garden setting.
The Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato
Carnivorous Plants of the US and Canada by Donald Schnell
Contact the author, a botanist who works on carnivorous plants, for further suggestions.

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