“Comedy-horror The Little Shop of Horrors recently finished an eight week run at Monte Casino’s Pieter Toerien Theatre. The fantastic set by Greg King not only inspired me to compile a botanical living space, but also to get better acquainted with Audrey II and other carnivorous plants,” says guest blogger Belinda Fourie
Renee Mendelow from Jozi Carnivores spoke to me about the Venus Fly Trap and other carnivorous plants that you can grow at home. The American Trumpet Pitcher, Tropical Pitcher and Sundew have adjusted well to our climate and several variants, such as the Cape Sundew (Drosera Capensis), are endemic to South Africa.
Renee started Jozi Carnivores two years ago when her eleven-year-old daughter expressed great concern over her newly acquired Venus Fly Trap’s well-being. “It just sits around all day waiting for something to happen. It’s lonely and bored,” she said. Renee bought her Fly Trap a friend and ordered more seeds. She’s since become an expert in growing these plants through much sweat and, possibly, a bit of blood.
They can double in size annually and some with trumpets grow up to a metre long, but the Venus Fly Trap is more of a groundcover and highly unlikely to reach the dangerous proportions seen on the stage. Fortunately, they’re also non-toxic and completely harmless to humans and pets, making them a novel gift idea for children.
This is one of the many advantages Renee sees in carnivorous plants. “They’re really educational. It’s a vehicle to teach children about evolution, taking care of plants, and one of the most important concerns, water conservation.”
As these plants grow in swampy, inhospitable areas where the ground is nutrient deficient, they provide their own nutrition and don’t fare well on chlorinated tap water. For this reason Renee bottles rainwater for her plants and encourages her clients to do the same.
They’re also a means of organic insect control. Their diets vary from species to species, but they’re generally fond of flies and mosquitoes, and depending on the area, can consume hundreds of these pesky pests that tend to spoil an alfresco summer lunch.
Finally, and arguably the chief reason for investing in a plant that feeds itself, rids you of flies and can go on living almost indefinitely, is their other-worldly charm and beauty.
“They’re just beautiful, sculptural pieces – a decorative joy. I’d definitely advise decorators and landscapers to make use of them,” says Renee.
Carnivorous plants occur in a range of colours from the palest green to the deepest red with speckled, striped, spotted and mottled patterns. You can plant them in pots as a striking feature in your kitchen and lounge, or plant them to form a feature in the garden with a number of others that have similar watering requirements.
Caring for your Audrey II
As the plants come from a wide range of countries they have different care needs. Renee pairs each plant with its own care card to ensure its happiness.
There are however a few general tips to follow.
- Acquaint yourself with your plant’s light requirements. The majority of them are sun-loving (for example Venus Fly Trap, Sundew and American Trumpet Pitcher), but others (like the Tropical Pitcher) prefer a dappled, shadier spot.
- Water them either from the top or from the bottom, as the care card states.
- Use rainwater where possible, or water purified by reverse osmosis or distillation.
- Don’t treat them with chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
- Normal potting soil is too rich for them, so use a mixture of Canadian peat moss and silica sand in the correct ratio.
- Avoid sticking your finger in the Venus Fly Trap to simulate a prey, as the closing process uses a lot of the plant’s energy.
- If you feed them with flies and insects, make sure their snack is still alive as the wriggling bodies stimulate the digestive processes.
- Allow them to rest in winter so they can regain their energy for the hotter summer months when flies are a real nuisance.
Inviting Audrey II inside
Any one of these beautiful plants will make a prominent display in your lounge. I’ve chosen one of American Trumpet Pitcher varieties.
Now, set the scene with neutral furnishings:
- Resin Rose Curtain Holdbacks, R149, 99, Mr Price Home
- Brass Egg Stool which can double as a side table, R2 795, Weylandts
- Large Regal Rose Planter, R89,99, Mr Price Home
- Mushroom Leo Chair with Ottoman, R6 995, Weylandts
Echo the plant’s deep greens and reds with one of these floral scatter cushions. Select one and repeat it, or create a mix of your favourites:
- Digital Boho Floral Scatter Cushion, R119,99, Mr Price Home
- Linen Border Scatter Cushion, R275, Woolworths
- Floral Print Scatter Cushion, R450, Woolworths
- Jacquard Scatter Cushion, R119,99, Mr Price Home
- Printed Ethnic Floral Scatter Cushion Cover, R69, 99, Mr Price Home
- Deep Red Velvet Touch Scatter Cushion, R225, Woolworths
- Velvet Damask Scatter Cushion, R450, Woolworths
To buy a carnivorous plant, get in touch with Renee or visit her dedicated nursery.